Case studies

Since MusRes aims at applying cutting-edge technology and digital tools to historical and musicological investigations, five manuscripts have been identified as ideal 'case studies' for the application of the protocols developed for the digital recovery of original content, and digital editing:

  • Assisi, Biblioteca del Sacro Convento, MS 432bis;
  • Assisi, Biblioteca del Sacro Convento, MS 574;
  • Mantua, Biblioteca Comunale Teresiana, MS 266;
  • Mantua, Biblioteca Comunale Teresiana, MS 287;
  • Vercelli, Biblioteca Capitolare, CCVIII.

Visible traces of text and notation revealed that these palimpsests are important witnesses of the spreading of music writing and transmission of chant in the 10th–11th c., yet their musical content remains largely unidentified. A pilot collaboration with DIAMM digitised the manuscripts in late 2019 using photographic techniques described above. MusRes will provide the first ever advanced digital examination and edition of these music palimpsests by applying techniques developed. High-definition images will be crucial also for the detailed study of ink and pen traits.

The manuscripts preserve the earliest surviving traces of musical notation from two of the most complex and culturally rich areas of the early Middle Ages: the wider area north of Rome, and the north of Italy. Their study and edition will entail:

  • a comprehensive analysis of the physical features of the manuscripts, focusing specifically on the relationships between the layout of the textual content and the visual cues devised by medieval scribes to inscribe, organise, and transmit a communal repertory of chants (e.g. rubrics, initials, use of ink colours);
  • a thorough study of the musical content and graphic shapes of the musical signs in comparison with other contemporary notational families, classifying notable peculiarities of the music script, and analysing in particular how the construction and designing of signs reflected the nuances of vocal performance; later use (and users) of the original manuscripts before being repurposed as writing material will also be investigated by observing and interpreting possible marginal annotations, additions, and corrections;
  • the identification of a possible institution/place of origin of the original chant manuscripts based on dating of the text script, type of musical notation, and particular melodic and textual variants, as well as the historical contextualisation of the later reuse, in order to account in full for the complexities of the material objects;
  • an image apparatus documenting the digital reconstruction process, including a description of digital capture and editing protocols applied to the five palimpsests.

MusRes – Home