Session 15 (Free Papers): Digital reconstructions and editions

Tuesday, 6 July 2021, 11.00-13.00, Room 217 | Chair: Richard Freedman (Haverford College)

Reconsidering the Carver Choirbook | James Cook (University of Edinburgh)

The Carver Choirbook is an important staging post in the history of Scottish Music. Alongside W1, written some 300 years earlier, it stands as a rare monument of large-scale polyphonic sacred music in Scotland, representing some of the best- known works of the international repertoire and several more-local works composed by its main scribe. The current scholarly consensus considers the manuscript to have been produced for the Chapel Royal of James IV, of which Carver (alias Arnott) was believed to have been a member. More recent research, reported at the MedRen in Edinburgh, demonstrates that this was not the case and that the Robert Arnott who was a Canon of the Chapel Royal cannot be the same man as the composer and scribe of the choirbook.

This paper aims to report interim findings from a new facsimile edition of the choirbook, reconsidering the potential circumstances of its creation and intended function. It will also report on the process of digital reconstruction of new music, initially found by Isobel Woods on some of the manuscript’s stuck together folios, which can now be largely recovered.

Guatemalan Cathedral Choirbook 1: From manuscript to digital images to digital scores | Martha E. Thomae (McGill University)

Guatemala City’s Cathedral choirbook collection (GuatC) consists of six manuscripts copied in Guatemala during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The collection includes mostly sixteenth-century polyphonic music by Spanish composers, some of whom were active in the Viceroyalty of New Spain. There are also pieces by local composers and by other European composers such as Lassus and Palestrina. While partial inventories and a general overview of the repertoire exist, access to the contents of these sources is difficult. Poor digital images made from microfilm include only books 1–3, with some folios cropped or missing. Guatemalan musicologists Dieter Lehnhoff and Omar Morales Abril have begun to preserve and disseminate these colonial sources by transcribing them into modern notation and performing their music, but these efforts cover only a small fraction of the music in the choirbooks. It is our goal to increase access to the music of this collection and to understand the role of music in the liturgy of colonial Guatemala. To achieve this, we use digitization and music-encoding technologies, including optical music recognition, automatic voice-alignment, and editorial correction software. In this paper, we will focus on the book of masses GuatC 1, describing the step-by-step methodology and technologies used. Our encoding process increases accessibility through modern transcriptions and audio playback. It also enables scholars to automatically compare concordant sources of encoded music, providing lists of variants, enabling future scholars to evaluate the transmission of music from Europe to Latin America.

The All-Night Vigil in early Russian demestvenny polyphony. GB-Lbl Add. MS 30063 | Elena Chernova (University of Heidelberg)

The purpose of my presentation is to introduce a project of critical edition of Russian neumatic polyphony. This publication is the culmination of the work on deciphering neumatic scores of the most festive type of early Russian polyphony—four-part demestvenny singing (or demestvo). The object of the present study is the demestvenny All-Night Vigil recorded in a unique source—a ceremonial illuminated codex belonging to the 17th-century Choir of the Tsar’s and Patriarchal Singing Clerics, which is now kept in the British Library.

Four-part demestvenny singing stands as the pinnacle of the development of Old- Russian ecclesiastical chant. It is a type of melismatic polyphony with a predominantly dissonant texture, which for three centuries represented the liturgical practice of the leading professional choirs in the realm and whose purpose was to embellish the most significant worship services and moments thereof. Demestvo is not subject to the Octoechos system and is not based on the principle of Cantus firmus. Its structural organization is based on the principle of centonization, transferred to a polyphonic texture and developed into complex combinations of pre-existing formulas. By the middle of the 17th century, practically the entire liturgical cycle of Russian Orthodox Church hymns had already been composed in demestvenny style. Nonetheless, from the beginning to the end of its existence, demestvo remained an elite art, not only due to the complexity of the musical textures and the recording in staffless neumatic notation, but also because of the highly ceremonial status of this type of singing. The publication of this project is taking place in open access at Heidelberg University Publishing.