RISM at the EarlyMuse meeting in Wrocław

Thursday, June 20, 2024

EarlyMuse is a Europe-wide scientific network that aims to strengthen the place of early music research in Europe. It forms part of the program for European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST Action) meant to fund not research per se, but rather scientific collaborations such as conferences, training schools, and the like. EarlyMuse’s most recent meeting took place on 22–24 May 2024 at the University of Wrocław, involving three of the (altogether five) official working groups, among them the one dedicated to musical sources.

Since at earlier EarlyMuse meetings there was unanimous agreement about RISM’s remaining a crucial tool for any student of early music, the organizers – in particular Grzegorz Joachimiak, leader of the “Sources” working group and host of the entire Wrocław event – kindly invited several representatives of the larger RISM community, including Balázs Mikusi (RISM Editorial Center), Sonia Rzepka (head of the RISM Coordinating Committee), Steffen Voss (RISM Germany and also member of the Coordinating Committee), and Rodolfo Zitellini (RISM Digital Center). The presence of such a strong RISM contingent inspired fruitful discussions regarding both the role RISM have long played in the field of early music and its perspectives for further development, while also allowing for in-depth feedback from diverse members of the working group, most of whom regularly rely on RISM in their own work.

As is usual at EarlyMuse meetings, the program offered a selection of short presentations on diverse source-related topics meant both to highlight issues of special relevance and to somewhat channel the ensuing discussion. Some of the fields touched upon inevitably reached beyond RISM’s current focus and coverage, like Natalia Syrotynska’s survey of the desiderata for a deeper understanding of the Ukrainian monodic repertoire, Hana Studeničová’s discussion of a wide variety of sources related to Renaissance music in Slovakia, or Patryk Frankowski’s emphatic call for a more systematic description and study of surviving musical instruments. (This ‘source type’ is all too often neglected by musicologists, hence it was a real treat also to have on the program a guided tour of St. Elisabeth Church’s magnificent organ, the scrupulous restoration of which was completed a mere two years ago.)

Besides, several presenters addressed RISM more directly by emphasizing the need for a systematic cataloging of historical inventories in Muscat (Sonia Rzepka), investigating the chances for a virtual reconstruction of musical collections dispersed in different libraries (Marek Bebak), or calling attention to old photographs and microfilms as potentially unique sources for documents no longer available in their original form (Grzegorz Joachimiak). Still other talks highlighted the importance of connecting RISM with other databases, whether in the context of Tartini studies (Agnese Pavanello and Cristina Scuderi) or Hispanic polyphony (Emilio Ros-Fábregas).

Having established personal contact with the EarlyMuse community on several levels, we at RISM hope very much to stay in touch and will eagerly follow the further discussions until the fall of 2026, when the COST Action will officially end. Furthermore, it is of course hoped that the vast international network formed in these years will indeed become a hub out of which further projects could be born, for the benefit of all members of the international early music community.

Image: The recently restored organ of the St. Elisabeth Church in Wrocław (Poland), Photo credit: Balázs Mikusi

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