Musical Sources: Past and Future

An International Conference Celebrating 70 Years of RISM, 7–9 October 2022


Friday, October 7

RISM Lecture

Lucero Enríquez (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México), Drew Edward Davies (Northwestern University), Analía Cherñavsky (Universidade Federal de Integracāo Latino-Americana)
From Data, Understanding the Past, Orienting the Future

Understanding a peripheral cathedral within a globalized empire requires an empirical look from the perspective of the periphery, so as not to preconceive the periphery as a duplication of the center. This is especially true when the object is the ritual music of a culture that legitimized itself through that very ritual, a ritual imposed by blood and fire onto a totally alien culture resulting in its decimation. It is a discussion about conquest, not simply colonization, and something more complex than “transplantation.” How are we to interpret and understand the products of this cultural phenomenon, specifically liturgical music, across multiple centuries of history?

As the leaders of the Seminario de Música en la Nueva España y el México Independiente, we have embraced such reasoning to shape our long-term research at Mexico City Cathedral, which has included cataloguing its music archive in printed and electronic formats. As we discovered it was necessary to rethink certain concepts, structures, and guidelines to accommodate the repertoires present, we developed, for example, the concept of the Collection of Collections (“Cocol”) and reanimated the idea of the Factitious Collection, so that we were able to express, in a clearer and more complete way, what the documents were showing us. This open way of interpreting has defined our values and oriented our epistemological decisions, which try to avoid rehashing older discourses that constructed and circulated myths about the New Spanish past.

As concrete examples of how we have translated our values into electronic and printed catalog entries, we will examine several case studies from our current work on Mass Ordinaries, including Mexican arrangements of music printed in Augsburg around 1830, and a complex case of two manuscript anthologies of bass lines compiled for the use of organists, the first in the 1830s and the second in 1895 that, along with loose vocal parts, concordances in choir books, and extemporization in performance, show a living repertoire that was and is neither complete nor incomplete in documentary form. In sum, our periphery-centric values of treating original sources and local arrangements on par have complicated the cataloging process, but have enhanced our historical knowledge and understanding of the data.

Saturday, October 8

Fragmenta, Codices, Libri

Fiona Baldwin (University College Dublin)
How Medieval Trash Became Musical Treasure: Virtual Encounters with Notated Liturgical Fragments in Marsh’s Library, Dublin

Erik Kwakkle observed that the “early history of the Bible as a book could not be written if we were to throw out fragment evidence”. Scholars such as Leo Treitler have reflected on the problematic musicological tendency to classify certain sources as ‘central’ and others as ‘peripheral’. Yet fragments of notated chant manuscripts have received scant attention by comparison to their more complete counterparts. The evidentiary value of disiecta membra musicae is not to be underestimated, however. As well as bearing witness to humanity’s ability to create, destroy, recycle and — in the case of biblioclasts, such as Otto Ege — to profit, these parchment scraps can often yield critical testimony about regional devotional observances, prescribed liturgical rituals, and musical, cultural and intellectual practices.

Dublin’s Marsh’s Library (IRL-Dm) is home to a collection of miscellaneous fragments taken from bindings during the tenure of Newport B. White (Librarian, 1931-57) and kept, as a collection, in a wooden box in the Y room. This paper introduces some of the liturgico-musical fragments that form part of this collection and, more specifically, presents the findings of a comparative palaeographic/repertorial study of fragment 176 carried out during the pandemic, using digital image archives and online databases. Notational and palaeographic evidence suggests that this fragment comes from a late twelfth-century antiphoner of insular origin, and as such, it bears important witness to a liturgical tradition from a transitional, post-Conquest period before the pervasive influence of Use of Sarum, a field impacted by a paucity of representational sources.

Anne-Zoé Rillon-Marne (Université catholique de l’Ouest, Angers)
A New Look at an Old Book: Investigating the Making of I-Fl MS Pluteus 29.1

The Medici antiphonary I-Fl MS Pluteus 29.1 is recognised as one of the most important and voluminous sources for our understanding of medieval music at a crucial moment in its history: that of the 13th century polyphonic repertoire (organum, motetus, and conductus) as it developed in the north of France, and in particular at the Notre Dame cathedral of Paris. Several seminal studies have already examined the antiphonary’s codicological, liturgical or paleographical aspects. Its repertoire has been scrutinised and identified as the descendant of the Magnus liber organi mentioned by Anonymous IV in his widely discussed treatise. Hypotheses have been formulated about the context of elaboration and its supposed commissioners. Little information, however, has been gathered to help us understand the antiphonary’s manufacture as a music book, as a material object. How did the craftsmen work? What traces of the copyist’s tasks and skills may still be observed?

This paper seeks to retrace the paths of the scribes’ and notators’ labour: their methods, how the pages were laid out, and the procedures involved in designing and crafting them. This careful analysis of the most pragmatic aspects of the craftsmen’s book-making offers surprising results, bringing to light different scenarios of material production that have hitherto gone unnoticed. Such insights help us understand the manufacturing skills characteristic of an emergent category of urban music-book makers, whose practices depart from the monastic habits that had been long cultivated in the scriptoria. One may see I-Fl MS Pluteus. 29.1 as the tip of the iceberg in so far as it intimates the existence of an entire new expertise in book production in 13th-century Paris, one that grew along the streets and in the workshops of the cathedral area.

Nicolò Ferrari (University of Manchester)
Complex Codices: Describing the Syntax of Late Medieval and Early Modern Music Manuscripts

The organisation of medieval and early modern codices has long challenged the understanding of codicologists in understanding their structure as non-unitary objects. One of the most significant new trends in contemporary codicology is the study of the complex structure of these manuscripts, on which several contributions have appeared in the past decades. Different terminologies and concepts have been put forward to describe these manuscripts with varying degree of success. The codex is now understood as an entity with its own grammar: the morphology deals with the constituting elements of a manuscript, and the syntax considers the relationship between these elements in order to understand the book as a whole.

While these are matters amply debated in cataloguing manuscripts, they have been substantially ignored by musicologists, notwithstanding the peculiarities of the structure of medieval and early modern music manuscripts. In this paper I will examine the organisation of complex music manuscripts, discussing the concepts of codicological unit, modularity, and blocks as applied in particular to manuscripts transmitting polyphonic music compiled in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. I will show how these manuscripts offer a unique set of problems when it comes to the description of their complex structure. Finally, I will discuss the challenges and the implications related to applying thess concepts when cataloguing and describing music manuscripts, with examples from the codices of the Fondo Cappella Sistina of the Vatican Library.

Giorgio Peloso Zantaforni (University of Padua / Hochschule für Musik und Tanz Köln)
Music in the Libri Amicorum Between the 16th and 17th Centuries: An Investigation of an Important Source to be Rediscovered

The paper intends to investigate the liber amicorum between the 16th and 17th centuries. The liber is presented as a pocket diary that accompanied a student, traveller or pilgrim, and in which guests, usually friends or important people with whom the owner had come into contact, dedicated inscriptions. Such dedications could contain textual quotations, drawings, family coats of arms, riddles and even music. From a musical point of view, the Stammbuch has only been studied in recent years. It has proved to be an important means not only to supplement the biographies of known musicians or to get to know those of unknown composers, but also to reconstruct the travels, movements and networks of relationships that were created around musical practice and knowledge, and to shed light on the educational strategies of university students between the 16th and 17th centuries. Thanks to RISM, much of the music in these sources has been recorded and catalogued, others not yet. With the present paper, I would like to take a closer look at the document type liber amicorum, so important for the history of music and musical thought, and try to take stock of the state of studies concerning it from a musical point of view and of the prospects for an investigation involving its detailed and, hopefully, complete cataloguing.

Special Challenges

Luigi Collarile (Schola Cantorum Basiliensis FHNW / Bern University of the Arts)
Lost Music Books by the Venetian Publisher Giacomo Vincenti (1554–1619): New Data, New Perspectives

Music books of the early modern era have suffered significant losses. Most of the editions preserved today are transmitted in only a few copies, often incomplete. Furthermore, no copies are preserved at all for an unknown number of early modern music prints. The aim of this paper is to present recently collected data regarding the book production of the Venetian music publisher Giacomo Vincenti (1554–1619) in order to discuss some strategies for investigating the complex phenomena concerning the loss of early modern music books.

Anne Piéjus (IReMus – Institut de recherche en musicologie / Bibliothèque nationale de France)
Scattered Music Sources in the Literature of the Modern Period: What Prospects for Integration into RISM?

The scattered musical sources included in published books are numerous in the modern period. Following Madeleine de Scudéry’s Clélie, a long gallant novel that includes an engraved air, many publishers included music in their books as a sort of wink to the readers who could, like the characters, sing the airs.

The Mercure galant (Paris, 1672-1710), the most important cultural newspaper of the Ancien Régime, took up and extended this multimedia device by publishing prints and notated music. The boundary established by RISM between music periodicals and periodicals with music has so far largely overlooked this type of source.

However, the 643 airs and 498 prints published in this periodical have been the subject of an extensive digital project by the CNRS, which includes an inventory, complete digitisation, publication of the scores in facsimile and in modern editions, and above all a detailed indexing designed in accordance with the FAIR standards of data, which notably guarantee their interoperability. The publishing platform, which will also include recordings and a contributory interface, will become available in autumn 2022 as open source. I will show how indexing, modelling and digital architecture open up perspectives for facilitated integration into RISM and how taking into account the textual context of the music may facilitate the cataloging of music pieces published in Early Modern cultural newspapers and open perspectives for further research.

Emilio Ros-Fábregas (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Institución Milá y Fontanals de Investigación en Humanidades)
The Digital Platform Books of Hispanic Polyphony IMF-CSIC and RISM: Perspectives on Collaboration

Books of Hispanic Polyphony IMF-CSIC (BHP, is an open access digital platform to serve as a comprehensive research tool concerning manuscript and printed polyphonic books in Spain and books with Hispanic polyphony elsewhere. In addition to incorporating data and inventories of polyphonic sources (15th-19th centuries), often as a result of new research, BHP includes also information about composers (and related people), institutions, documents (such as old inventories), and bibliography. BHP adds links to other platforms, such as Digital Image Archive of Medieval Music (DIAMM), Printed Sacred Music Database (RISM, Switzerland) and Portuguese Early Music Database (PEM), among others. In the future, BHP will include editions of selected polyphonic works, and thus we are exploring codification of music notation in MEI and **kern. All entries are signed by the collaborator(s) responsible for the entries. BHP has adopted some RISM criteria, such as source sigla, uniform titles of printed books and printers’ names, but it uses, for instance, the list of liturgical feasts in Cantus: A Database for Latin Ecclesiastical Chant. The purpose of this presentation is to explore ways in which the collaboration between BHP and RISM can be strengthened, also taking into account the feedback from the attendees of this conference. During the next four years, BHP will benefit from a R+D Project “Hispanic polyphonic practices (16th-19th centuries) in digital perspective: music sources, survivals, women” (Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation), and thus collaboration between BHP and RISM will be of interest for this project.

Stephen Rose (Royal Holloway, University of London)
Musical Heritage in Local Archives: RISM and the Challenges of Decentralised Vernacular Repertories

The 54 county record offices of England hold the archives of local councils and other local institutions (such as parish churches), plus collections on permanent loan from individuals. Most of the record offices have substantial quantities of music dispersed among their holdings, including pre-1850 music manuscripts and printed editions. As yet this musical heritage is relatively little known to scholars or even the archivists themselves. The archives rarely have specialist staff with musical expertise, and their cataloguing standards preclude the level of detail that would be expected in the cataloguing of music or rare books. RISM UK has catalogued a small proportion of music manuscripts in county record offices, but large quantities of music (including almost all the holdings of printed music) remain uncatalogued by RISM.

This paper explores the challenges and opportunities arising in a proposed project (led by Royal Holloway, University of London) for RISM cataloguing of notated music between c.1500 and c.1850 in England’s county record offices. Many of the music manuscripts contain popular genres (parish psalmody, country dances etc.) circulating on the fluid boundary between oral and literate cultures. This repertory challenges many of the concepts integral to RISM cataloguing, such as authorship and the identity of the musical work. Even the task of making incipits is complicated by the high degree of textual variation and scribal inaccuracy. Yet cataloguing this repertory will provide an unequalled opportunity to understand it as a corpus, and to map how unique local compositions circulated alongside arrangements of Handel and Mozart. The proposed project will expand the scope of RISM to the music of historical popular cultures, while reaffirming how RISM can connect the music collections dispersed among decentralised archives.

Boris Voigt, Daniel Tiemeyer, Ulrike Roesler, Severin Kolb (Musikwissenschaftliches Seminar der Universität Heidelberg)
The Concept of “Work” in Franz Liszt’s Compositional Practice: Reflections from the Perspective of a Source-Based Catalogue

Considering the musical sources of Liszt’s compositions, the limitations of a traditional approach focused on his “works” are clearly noticeable. Where is the watershed in between “original” and “arrangement”, which is the last valid version of a composition? How to categorize a certain state of work, how to justify the ascription of sketch, compositional manuscript, copy, corrected copy? These issues have to be dealt with and solved before attempting to insert the source material into a complex database that aims to record all musical sources of the composer Franz Liszt. Instead of a concrete “work” with a clearly determined “Urtext”, it is more a “compositional-poetic idea” that stood in the focus of Liszt’s artistic attention and he followed many different strategies to bring this very idea into a certain shape. Re-composing, re-designing, arranging and re-conceptualizing were constant and natural tasks in Liszt’s compositional practice. Therefore, in the case of Liszt, a pre-defined and rather rigid definition of composition as text “work term” is rather cumbersome, if not unproductive. On top of this it is obvious that Liszt’s composition of music was not only separated in many different steps but also distributed between many protagonists. His pupils not only served as secretaries and copyists – especially the ever-busy Joachim Raff – but also participated in a more or less active way in the creation of the manifestation of the compositional idea, or the particular “work”. What consequences come out of this constellation of a new approach to the concept “work”, what strategies will and should the LisztQWV project apply when dealing with the intricate plethora of the diverse source material that came to us? And, finally, what could be the relevance of the data collection of these sources for RISM in particular? These are the questions that will be addressed with this paper.

Beyond Europe

Sven Gronemeyer (Max Weber Stiftung, Bonn / La Trobe University, Melbourne), Zeynep Helvacı & Ralf Martin Jäger (both University of Münster)
New Perspectives: The Indexing and Cataloging of Non-European Music Manuscript Sources Using the Example of 19th-Century Ottoman Music Manuscripts

When the DFG edition project “Corpus Musicae Ottomanicae” (CMO) began its work in 2015, the greatest challenge was not the critical edition per se, but the indexing of the manuscripts in a source catalog. The reason was that the criteria for describing works used in existing cataloging projects proved to be largely unsuitable for a historical art music culture that represents an intersection of Arabic, Jewish, Greek, Armenian, and Turkish musics. Not only did the paradigms “composer” and “work” have to be redefined for this cultural context, but the category “source” also had to be reconsidered due to the manuscript situation.

In a discursive collaboration of the CMO subprojects Music Edition, Text Edition, Digital Humanities, and Source Indexing, a source catalog based on MEI 4 was created, which can be considered exemplary for the indexing of Near Eastern music manuscripts and provides a big set of metadata. The mapping and provision of CMO data for RISM is being planned and will test the extension of the international source catalog for non-European music cultural contexts as a model.

This paper will briefly introduce the musicographic sources and then discuss the particular challenges that the CMO source catalog has overcome. Finally, the dataset metastructure based on MEI will be presented and the planned interconnection with RISM will be outlined in terms of technology and content.

Ali Tüfekçi & Güneş Çetinkaya Şerik (both Istanbul Technical University Turkish Music State Conservatory)
Digitization of the Cultural Heritage of Turkish Music

The project has been prepared and carried out together by the Istanbul Technical University (ITU) and the Turkish Music State Conservatory (TMSC), also in collaboration with the Istanbul Development Agency (IDA).

The Library, Archive and Documentation Center of TMSC, which is one of the richest libraries in terms of Turkish music resources, has been collecting such sources since 1975 and in the meantime transformed itself into a Turkish music memory institution.

The aim of the project is to catalogue and digitize approximately 40,000 Turkish music sources preserved in the Center. Thus, the cultural heritage of Turkish music will be protected and transferred to future generations.

Creating a digital library of Turkish music will serve the researchers working in an online environment. Establishing a reference center will allow for scientific research at the national and international level. Gathering the disappearing sources of Turkish music under a single roof and strengthening the representation of Turkish music culture to reach large masses are among the objectives of the project. Amid the sources which consist mostly of music manuscripts and printed editions, there are also many different types of materials to be catalogued and digitized such as concert invitations, photographs, posters, cassette booklets, archival documents, correspondences, ephemera, and instruments, which are also considered as musicological data. In the Center, many different types of materials that may belong to a library, an archive, a museum, or an art gallery are under one roof. Cataloging and classification processes are gaining in importance to facilitate researchers’ access to these unorthodox types of music resources.

Wantana Tancharoenpol (Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok)
Thai Musical Sources in the Berlin Staatsbibliothek

Due to the nature of oral transmission of Thai traditional music, its sources remain scarce even within the country. Musical notation may have appeared, but they are mostly recorded by foreigners who had paid a visit and had encountered the music during their sojourns. In 1850, however, Prussia dispatched its most pristine steam corvette Kap Arcona along with three other ships, led by the diplomat Friedrich Albert Graf zu Eulenburg, with the intention to establish diplomatic relationships with major political powers along the Baltic Sea to the China Sea. Thus, the official relationship between Thailand and Prussia began in the mid-nineteenth century. Inevitably, music dominated the cultural exchange during this period, and Western art music influenced the practice of the Thai music tradition, especially the manner of source collections.

This study thus brings Thai musical sources in the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin into focus, from the period of the Prussian expedition to East Asia to Carl Stumpf’s and Erich von Hornbostel’s ethnomusicology collections. It explores the nineteenth century Prussian methodology of music notation, collection and research into Thai traditional music, especially the handling of the tonal and tuning system that is its unique characteristic. According to the research of Suphot Manalapanacharoen (2022), numerous sources of Thai music are currently preserved in the Berlin State Library, such as Hornbostel’s Formanalysen an siamesischen Orchesterstücken and Stumpf’s Tonsystem und Musik der Siameseen, which are not available in Thailand.

Edgar Alejandro Calderón Alcántar (National Conservatory of Music, Mexico / Faculty of Fine Arts of Michoacán University of San Nicolás de Hidalgo, Mexico)
The Ancient Conformation of an Eighteenth-century New Spain Music Archive: A Methodological Perspective of Musical Documentation

The Colegio de Santa Rosa’s music archive is one of the most important documentary treasures of New Spain’s musical heritage. Today this collection is kept in the Conservatorio de las Rosas in Morelia, Michoacán, Mexico, and its RISM siglum is MEX-MOcr.

After cataloging a selection of poetic-musical sources through an interdisciplinary perspective, based on the RISM guidelines, this paper proposes an analytical review of the ancient shelfmarks of musical manuscripts to show a possible organization and physical conformation of the musical archive, in relation to the genres and musical forms used according to the most important festivities or liturgical functions for the women’s college.

New Source Types

Inja Stanović (City, University of London), Eva Moreda Rodríguez (University of Glasgow)
Early Recordings have RISM: Redefining Early Recordings as Sources for Performance Practice and History

It is interesting to note that RISM, despite hosting an incredible array of musicological research sources, do not include early recordings in their extensive catalogue. This may be due to the technological requirements of hosting such recordings, or copyright restrictions on their use. More likely, however, it is simply because early recordings – by which we mean anything from wax cylinders in the 1890s up until the invention of magnetic tape in 1945 – are not yet a staple of the musicological research diet; even though they attract the attention of scholars in multiple music disciplines (including those in musicology, ethnomusicology, performance, composition and technology) the use of such recordings is patchy, and there are but a few standardised methods for engaging in sonic forms of research evidence.

This paper summarises a range of emergent research methods that involve early recordings, as discovered during an AHRC-funded research network Redefining Early Recordings as Sources for Performance Practice and History (2021-2023). The network’s primary mandate was to discuss, evaluate, and quantify contemporary methods for early recordings research, and to make those methods accessible to a wider academic and public audience. The findings do not merely highlight some of the central approaches to early recordings as a research source, but signal their increasing popularity and importance within contemporary musical research more broadly. Now that we have reached such a point, the authors argue, it is time to include sonic forms of evidence alongside their text-based counterparts, and celebrate the era in which musicological sources are enriched by sound.

Francesco Finocchiaro (“L. Campiani” Conservatory, Mantua)
The Musical Documents of the Silent Film Era

The notion of ‘musical source’ raises considerable problems for research into silent film music. On a merely historical level, it should be remembered that most of the music for the films of that era, like many of the films they accompanied, no longer exist. Handwritten scores with the orchestration intended by their authors are rare; in cases where piano scores have been preserved, these were often produced in a different context and for different purposes.

In contrast, a large repertoire of mood music pieces has come down to us from the silent film era, exemplifying an editorial process characteristic of the field of cinematic music. These collections consist of original pieces that had not been assigned to any one specific film, but were designed to either match a standardized narrative situation (e.g. Storm, Chase, Night Vision, Dangerous Situation) or to provide them with a common emotional aura (e.g. Desperation, Mystery, Anguish, Dramatic Climax). Each piece of music was accompanied by a more or less detailed description, referring to the context in which it could be used in the film.

Music materials of such varied nature, which could occupy completely different moments in the compositional process, raise notable problems of interpretation when they are considered as valid documental sources for an audio-visual reconstruction. The musical source then comes into relation or, more often, collides, with a source of a different kind: the film print. These two documents each have a different ontological value. In Umberto Eco’s words: the film print can be regarded as a ‘closed text’ which is reproduced mechanically and almost identically at every projection; on the other hand, the music of a silent film is an ‘open text’ which is renewed at each live performance. Moreover, their authors enjoy different statuses: the filmmaker signs the cinematic text for all intents and purposes, whereas the composer supervises a complementary component not of the cinematic text but of the screening at the film venue.

Valentina Bertolani (University of Birmingham / Carleton University)
Bespoke Objects and Instruments as Crucial Material Sources for 20th- and 21st-Century Music

Musical philology textbooks (e.g.: Sallis 2015) as well as musical archiving textbooks (e.g.: Smiraglia and Beak 2017; Lisius and Griscom 2012) have long expanded the concept of music sources from paper-based manuscripts to include formats such as digital patches and audio recordings. In this paper, I would like to focus on bespoke and custom-made instruments and objects created by composers, such as Gayle Young’s instruments, Daphne Oram’s Oramics, Mario Bertoncini’s Aeolian Harps, Hugh Davies’s objects, Henry Bertoia’s sound sculptures, among many other examples. These objects should be understood as another crucially important musical source for the philological, historical and analytical study of music from the 20th century onward, and that should be included in our understanding of musical sources. Often stored either in museums of music technologies or more rarely in music archives, these bespoke musical instruments, differently from commercially available musical instruments, are necessary to study the output of these composers as much as their sketches and manuscripts as well as in combination with them. During my presentation I will discuss the kind of compositional and creative knowledge embedded in these unique instruments that make them akin to musical manuscripts and how they are essential sources to be studied along with more traditional musical sources. Furthermore, using the case of Mario Bertoncini’s objects hosted by the Fondazione Isabella Scelsi in Rome (already mapped by RISM for their musical manuscripts) I will discuss strategies to include these new sources in RISM.

Bibliography: Lisius, Peter H. and Richard Griscom, eds. 2012. Directions in music cataloging. Middleton, WI: A-R Editions.

Sallis, Friedeman. 2015. Music Sketches. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Smiraglia, Richard P. and Jihee Beak.2017. Describing music materials: A manual for resource description of printed and recorded music and music videos. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Sunday, October 9

Historical Perspectives

Paul Allen Sommerfeld (Library of Congress)
Report from the Water Closet: Richard S. Hill and RISM’s Foundational History at the Library of Congress (US-Wc)

Seventy years after its establishment, the Répertoire International des Sources Musicales is an essential resource in music research. But the “revision of Eitner” was not always so inevitable. Coordination between multiple international associations and individual actors—all with their own ideas, goals, and schemes—required an unprecedented level of collaboration that quickly surpassed the scope of Eitner’s original publication.

This paper uses Richard S. Hill’s extensive correspondence with Friedrich Blume, Vladimir Fédorov, François Lesure, and many other foundational players in RISM’s early history to demonstrate the crucial role that Hill occupied in shaping RISM into a reality. Drawing on both Hill’s collection and the Library of Congress Music Division’s records, my research centers on the dynamic, warm, and at times cantankerous relationships between Hill and his European counterparts. In so doing, I bring a human dimension to a complex, bureaucratic effort. Hill’s correspondence illustrates his practicality and project management skills, which helped steer RISM forward and ensured the United States’ participation. His work proved vital in securing financial support for the international project’s precarious early years. His correspondence likewise illustrates the exhaustive efforts he took to make RISM a truly international endeavor rather than a solely European/Western one. By revisiting the personal relationships between Hill, Blume, Fédorov, Lesure, and others, we understand the necessity of their differing perspectives—they charted RISM’s present path and continue to guide us into the future. Indeed, I close by connecting Hill’s efforts to the LC’s long-term initiative to report thousands of previously unreported items.

Andrea Hartmann & Steffen Voss (both RISM Deutschland e.V.)
The Early Years of the Two RISM Working Groups in Germany

The goal of RISM’s work was and is to compile an “umfassenden Katalog der Quellen aller auf der Erde vorhandenen Musik “ (F. Blume). The methods and tools for creating such a catalog have changed over time in response to research inquiries in musicology and performance practice. The focus of the paper is to reflect on the early history of RISM in Germany.

A working group was founded in 1953 in West Germany, followed in 1955 by a working group in East Germany. The two working groups, which were united in 1991 to form the RISM Working Group Germany, have always had a close relationship with each other and with the Secrétariat Central in Paris, later the Zentralredaktion in Frankfurt am Main. In the early years, the German working groups and their founding members charted the course for many developments, especially regarding working methods.

Our aim is to trace the timeline of these two branches up to the 1991 unification from two points of view, with Andrea Hartmann relating the Eastern perspective and Steffen Voss the Western one. The paper also addresses the current status of RISM Deutschland’s work, particularly the distribution of the collections, as well as some statistics and plans for the future.

Armin Brinzing (Bibliotheca Mozartiana, International Mozarteum Foundation)
RISM Past and Future: Some Thoughts from the Viewpoint of Collaborators and Libraries

I worked for the German RISM group for several years and I am now responsible for a library with very valuable holdings in Austria. Therefore, I have a quite broad experience of working with RISM. As RISM is today an important tool for libraries, as well as for musicological research, we need to think about making our collaboration fit for the future. In my paper I want to share some thoughts that might be valuable for the further development of the RISM project. These include: organizing the collaboration between RISM and the libraries, documenting the RISM work, implementing ongoing research into the RISM database and vice versa, and ideas for future projects.

Sara Taglietti (Ufficio Ricerca Fondi Musicali, Milan)
“RISM Resources: What Exists and Where it is Kept”: The State of the Art in Italy Among OPACs, Card and Printed Catalogues, and New Discoveries

Ever since the creation of a single, national card catalogue of manuscript and printed music by the Ufficio Ricerca Fondi Musicali in Milan, Italy has been at the forefront of making an inventory of the musical heritage of libraries and archives in public, private, and ecclesiastical institutions. Considering the enormous cultural wealth produced and preserved for centuries, it was necessary to enhance and make the resources available at a unified level, also with a view to a global census; hence the start of a close collaboration with RISM that continues to this day.

Looking at the path taken in these decades, it seems appropriate to take stock of the state of the art, starting with a reflection on “RISM resources: what exists and where it is kept”.

Where are we in the valorisation of Italian music collections? What exists, but is missing from online access?

An initial overview concerns manuscript sources, in relation to what is already accessible from the RISM and SBN catalogues, and continues to works of regional working groups, and the retrieval of paper catalogues. The picture sends us back to a fragmented, incomplete, and surprising reality, forcing us to reflect on how much is still to achieve.

This gives us the starting point to build a new nationwide strategic plan for an awareness campaign on cataloguing activities, and an increasingly concrete adherence of cultural institutions toward digital transformation for open access to the musical heritage.

The Digital Turn

Thomas Schmidt (University of Manchester)
The Changed Role of Catalogues of Music Sources in the Digital Age

‘What do we need sources catalogues for if everything is now digitised and accessible online anyway’? We have all heard this question before, or ones like it. Granted, we are still a long way away from everything being digitised anyway, but the question how source catalogues are being rethought in the 21st century is nevertheless a valid one, whether these catalogues are themselves in digital format or still published in hardcopy.

My paper will present case studies (from the 15th to the 19th centuries) and observations on how the digital world has impacted and continues to impact both global resources such as RISM and specialist catalogues of specific collections or composers. One of the most obvious areas where comprehensive databases are increasingly stealing a march on specialist catalogues are inventories: providing easy search capabilities for concordant transmissions, incipits, potentially links to digital editions or source images. On the flipside of this move towards large repositories of digitally searchable metadata is the legitimate tendency for specialist catalogues to become ever more in-depth scholarly studies in the history of music transmission, focusing on aspects of materiality, dating, scribes and publishers, provenance and history.

Both types of cataloguing will remain crucial tools for scholarly research, and for the preservation of knowledge, alongside photographic or digital surrogates. If the last few years have taught us anything it is that we cannot take easy travel and access to libraries for granted, and indeed that originals are as prone to damage or loss through neglect or disaster as they ever have been.

Marcin Konik (The Fryderyk Chopin Institute, Warsaw)
Integration of Digital Tools for Music Data

Digitizing and publishing an online collection of music can be a very tricky task, especially when it comes to both prints and manuscripts. It is a common practice to host files of scanned music with a proper set of metadata. In such cases you can browse and search music only by metadata, but not by its actual content. At the Chopin Institute we integrated different tools that allow not only for safe archiving of the digitized material, but also for searching music by melody, rhythm and other musical elements. We integrated our repository with the RISM database for metadata consistency and linking to other sources. For version control of our files we use the Fedora Repository System as well as GitHub. We use Verovio and the Verovio Humdrum Viewer to render scores dynamically and to visualize the outcome of queries. Using the HumdrumToolkit and HumdrumExtras set of programs, which are powerful tools for analyzing music, enabled us to create a web-based apparatus for musicologists and researchers. In the Chopin Library we established a workflow for researchers, editors and students who work on music sources. Thanks to this methodology we were able to create more than 6,000 digital scores based on more than 24,000 digitized scores, and create more than 30,000 metadata records in the RISM database. Our system is designed for teams and individual researchers that want to focus on their work on music sources, whether it is editorial work or computer-assisted analysis.

Sandra Tuppen (The British Library / RISM (UK) Trust)
Using RISM Metadata to Track Posthumously Published Single-Composer Prints Before 1650

In 2014/5, the British Library and Royal Holloway, University of London piloted the large-scale analysis of RISM metadata and other bibliographic music data in the project “A Big Data History of Music”. In the present paper I follow the same methodology and introduce a new case study in using RISM metadata in computationally assisted musicological research – this time to explore the phenomenon of posthumously published music in the period 1500-1650.

Posthumously published editions of certain 16th-century composers, among them Josquin and Palestrina, have been studied individually as part of an assessment of their legacy. However, the availability of the RISM metadata in digital form now allows us to gain a broader understanding of the posthumous transmission of music in print in the years before 1650. Focusing on single-composer prints, I will demonstrate that a substantial number of composers had an “afterlife” in printed works of this type, which - in some cases - extended decades after their death. Despite music printers’ overall preference for the new, at least 1 in 15 single-composer prints issued before 1650 was a posthumous edition, according to the data in RISM A/I. Publishers did not simply re-issue a small number of composers’ most popular works: nearly 150 composers featured posthumously in one or more single-composer prints before 1650. The RISM metadata also allows us to track the spread of particular composers’ works from city to city across time, and provides a starting point for a deeper exploration of lesser-known composers’ works and of early canon formation.

Frans Wiering & Mirjam Visscher (both Utrecht University)
Mining the RISM Data for Music-Historical Insight

RISM was created with a clear purpose in mind: to make an inventory of all surviving musical sources to make them findable for research. Typical interactions with the RISM materials (as enabled by the RISM Catalog) follow from this source study perspective: selection (e.g. a composer’s works); identification (e.g. sources of a work); and localisation (e.g. whom to order a microfilm from). What information is recorded from the sources, and how, is determined first of all by the requirements for those interactions.

A huge, well-curated and rich dataset such as the RISM data also invites other kinds of use (Keil and Ward 2019). Methods developed for big data analysis might lend themselves to discovering hist­orical patterns that confirm or challenge musicological insights. But is the data equally suited to a rather different set of basic operations such as classification, counting, sorting, comparison and linking?

We will report our initial exploration of the RISM data, starting from two technical choices: the MARCXML format and the Python programming language. Specifically, we will discuss:

  • how to handle the size and structure of the data
  • consistency, completeness and accuracy of the data
  • how to gain some insight in topics such as:
    • structure, genre and distribution of modal cycles
    • performance history of operas
    • use of irregular metres through Europe

We will conclude with a critical discussion of our experiences and some recommendations for data creation and curation, as well as for researchers mining for meaningful patterns in the data.


Series A/I; series B, volume VIII, parts 1 and 2; series C
Series B (except for volume VIII, parts 1 and 2)
Series A/II CD-ROM (1995-2008)
Series A/II subscription database (2002-2006)
Series A/II subscription database (2006-present)
Congress report (2010)