The Internet of Musical Events: Digital Scholarship, Community, and the Archiving of Performances (InterMusE)

Lead Research Organisation: University of York
Department Name: Music

Abstract

Live musical events play a vital role in community life across the world, yet their very 'liveness' means they leave little trace on the historical record. Even where a recording has survived in some form, sources can be tantalisingly incomplete, confusingly inconsistent, and often scattered between different archives and collections. InterMusE brings together digitised forms of the various source-types that document a live musical event and links them, enabling them to 'speak' to each other despite their apparently incompatible formats. Using machine learning, natural language processing, optical character recognition (OCR), and other forms of artificial intelligence, data will be harvested from concert programmes (some hand-annotated), memoirs and correspondence, posters, tickets, brochures and other ephemera, recordings, newspaper advertisements and reviews, administrative records, entries in biographical dictionaries, and oral history interviews and audience reminiscences. With the development of new tools and techniques, the richness of the resulting data will afford unprecedented opportunities to sort, manipulate, interrogate, and visualise information about musical events, allowing new patterns, insights, and trajectories of change to emerge across time.
What is transformative about InterMusE is its deeply collaborative methodology, based on principles of co-design and experimenting with democratic approaches to digitisation, enabling research to be developed by and with members of the public in environments that are relatively poorly equipped and under-resourced. Not only does this value live performances happening outside of capital cities and major conurbations, but it also confirms the importance of amateur, local, and community focused events on which so much regional cultural life depends. The project brings together a team of scholars from the digital humanities, musicology, performance history, computer science and human-computer interaction, librarianship, archival theory and practice, and the heritage and cultural industries to develop new community-engaged methods, tools, and techniques enabling deep collaboration by digital means among and between a wide variety of stakeholders, including citizen researchers, professional and amateur musicians, fans, aficionados, and newcomers to live musical events.
The project is built on a transatlantic collaboration between two major cultural institutions and two research-led HEIs with a strong civic mission - the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) and the Borthwick Institute for Archives (University of York). Partners also include three amateur-led concert societies with shared origins in the 'British Music Society' established in 1918 by critic and composer Arthur Eaglefield Hull - Hull helped to set up 'chapters' in towns and cities across the UK, to restore musical-cultural exchange between British and overseas musicians after the twin catastrophes of the Great War and Spanish Flu, and to educate new audiences in the latest music. Now, in 2020, three of those chapters have either just celebrated or are about to celebrate their centenary seasons and have amassed substantial archives - the Huddersfield Music Society (society owned), British Music Society of York (held at the Borthwick), and Belfast Music Society (at the Linen Hall Library, also a partner). The Krannert Center, a major professional, multi-constituency venue housing five major performance spaces, has just celebrated its half century. Bringing musical archives and organisations together, into dialogue and collaboration with their own communities, InterMusE will form a dynamic digital archive, enabling new ways of working with data and capturing individual memories around key events as a means of helping cultural institutions to understand their own histories and reflect on their identities and traditions as they plan with confidence for the future.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description Our YIAF-funded impact project, 'Music, Identity, Sociality, and Community: Digital Archiving for Music Venues for Post-COVID Recovery', aimed to assess the need for DIY digital-archiving resources in grassroots music venues in the UK and put measures in place to equip community venues with the knowledge and techniques to safeguard their memories. Given the closure of many venues as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, we saw a need to address the threat posed to related ephemera that were rendered at risk of being lost or damaged, such as photographs, posters, press cuttings, artwork, administrative records, programmes, and physical media. The project was designed to develop impact from the AHRC-funded Internet of Musical Events: Digital Scholarship, Community and the Archiving of Performance (InterMuse - PI Cowgill, PDRA Armstrong). We worked in collaboration with staff at the Computational Foundry at Swansea University (Co-I Dix and partners in the InterMuse project) who had received funding from a similar scheme to carry out a closely related project. The majority of the funding provided by YIAF was used to pay staff to carry out the proposed work (Armstrong). We began by setting up the Our Place website (https://ourplace.whereweare.org/) and running a public questionnaire that was shared widely across community music organisations and initiatives in the UK, receiving 26 responses (see the summary of our findings). Having gauged interest in and gathered requirements for the proposed resources from our respondents, we produced a series of "how to guides" focussing on designing, planning and populating a digital archive. In addition to the questionnaire results and resources, we also created the Music Memories Database, a list of existing community-led digital music archives and preservation initiatives for musical performances and venues that can be added to by members of the public. The DIY archiving resources will be disseminated nationally by our partner at the Music Venues Alliance and also by Creative Lives (formerly Voluntary Arts), and those who use them will be encouraged to add their archives to the Music Memories Database, meaning that the outputs will have a life beyond the project. In order to monitor the ongoing impact of the project, we would like to set up analytics to gather website visitor data, run focus groups with the organisations that have made use of our resources, and possibly run a second questionnaire to gather feedback on the how-to guides. Throughout the course of the project, we identified several prospective collaborators, including the Joseph Rowntree Theatre (Haxby Road, York), Vauxhall Tavern London, The Black Swan (York), and the York Music Stories project at York St John University. As part of the UK CRF-funded project 'StreetLife: Using York's Historic High Streets as Heritage Catalysts for Community Renewal', we have been exploring further collaborations along these lines with York Music Venues Network, taking an historical case study - the Willow on Coney Street, York - as demonstration of how these approaches can work in practice to stimulate community memory, sociability, and new creative work.
First Year Of Impact 2022
Sector Creative Economy,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal

 
Description 10 February 2022: 'Digital Thinking', invited talk at University of Durham by Alan Dix 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact An invited presentation to the research community leading to Q&A discussion
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description 17 November 2021: contribution on InterMusE project to NCACE (National Centre for Academic and Cultural Exchange) session, University of York, by Rachel Cowgill 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Cowgill was one of three speakers illustrating some of the relevant KE work being done at York through the InterMusE project and its spinoff digital tools listed on OurPlace
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description 17 September 2021: Belfast Music Society, introductory and planning meeting, by Alan Dix, Rachel Cowgill, Charlotte Armstrong 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Introduction for Belfast Music Society members to the project, leading to discussion of key issues and approaches, resources available, ways of working with Linen Hall Library, Covid restrictions, volunteers, and so on.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description 22 September 2021: 'Designing User Interactions with AI: Servant, Master, or Symbiosis', invited talk for the AI Summit, London, by Alan Dix 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited talk to mainly industrial audience, with musicology used as an example of AI designed for human interaction.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description 24 February 2021: 'Democratising Digitisation: Empowering culture fro the community up', Short Paper presentation at Cultural Heritage and Social Impact: Digital Technologies for Social Inclusion with Participation Workshop organised by EU project, by Alan Dix for whole team 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Mainly academic audience. Leading to book chapter for inclusion in collection of essays.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://culture-labs.eu/cultural-heritage-and-social-impact-digital-technologies-for-social-inclusio...
 
Description 24 May 2021: 'Democratising Digitisation: making history with community music societies in digitally enabled collaboration', panel contribution for Open Humanities in Practice online event, Humanities Research Centre, University of York, by Rachel Cowgill 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Sparked questions and discussion about IPR and open data.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://wiki.york.ac.uk/pages/viewpage.action?pageId=233997240
 
Description 27 January 2022: 'Only Connect! Building a Collaborative Digital Archive of Musical Events', invited Doctoral Research Seminar, Royal College of Music, by Rachel Cowgill and Charlotte Armstrong 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Abstract (talk prepared and delivered by Cowgill and Armstrong):

Musical performance is an ephemeral art (meaning 'of the moment') which leaves little trace on the historical record. Our cultural presentation of performances as 'events', however, means that data about historical performances can be drawn from a wide range of sources, such as programmes, posters, tickets, press advertisements and reviews. Such sources have survived only patchily at best, because they relate to a particular occasion - they are often discarded 'after the event', and where they are found in archives and libraries they are rarely catalogued in detail and made accessible (the RCM, of course, is an important exception). We refer to these materials as 'performance ephemera'.

Only recently have ephemera begun to be used by musicologists as a valuable source of systematically presented information. They come into their own when combined with other sources, such as recordings, editions, photographs, film, biographical accounts, and so on; but they are often scattered between archives and the wide variety of formats mean it is difficult to bring sources together to round-out our understanding of a particular performance or event. This is where the building of digital archives and development of new techniques to link and contextualise the data they can provide comes into its own.

Our session explores recent developments in digital musicology along these lines, focusing in particular on our current project exploring the collaborative digital archiving and linkage of musical sources and data relating to historical performance.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
 
Description 28 July 2021: long paper, 'Towards a Foundation for Collaborative Digital Archiving with Local Concert-Giving Organisations', 8th International Conference on Digital Libraries for Musicology, presented by Charlotte Armstrong 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentation of the paper published in the Conference Proceedings - see Publications.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description 4 June 2021: Project launch online, by whole team (recordings available) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Introduction to the project and presentations by each member of the research team, leading to discussion and invitations to participate.

Structure detailed here: https://intermuse.datatodata.org/resources/intermuse-launch/
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
URL https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLruq4_Gi8kNeey7U2dwj3eKPpHMD5vdlQ