Music blog

25 July 2012

Unlocking historical musical resources

Sixteenth-century musicians
As part of the Electronic Corpus of Lute Music project, 'ECOLM III: Opening historical music resources to the world's online researchers', funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council, we shall be holding a free one-day workshop at the British Library on Friday, 7th September 2012, 10.30-17.30, in the Foyle Suite, Centre for Conservation.

The ECOLM project, a partnership between Goldsmiths, University of London, the British Library and the UK Lute Society, aims to transform digital images from 300 of the British Library's 16th-century music books in the Early Music Online resource ( into encodings which can be viewed on-screen or printed out in a variety of formats including modern score notation, listened to, transposed, analysed, searched and compared with other music.

To do this, it uses the latest techniques in optical music recognition adapted to the demands of 16th-century music printing. While most of the repertory in Early Music Online is vocal music such as masses, motets, chansons and madrigals, about 10% of the collection is printed in tablature for various instruments, mainly the lute, but also for keyboard and the diminutive renaissance guitar; this specialised and arcane notation demands a somewhat different, instrument-oriented approach for automatic recognition.

In this workshop you can learn more about the British Library's holdings of early printed music and their historical background, about the optical music recognition methods and the challenges presented by this material, about the musical repertory and how ECOLM could enable a deeper understanding of the musical relationships and influences within it, about the all-important online involvement of non-professional musicians in the process of correcting errors, as well as the potential impact of the approach on musicology and the early music scene in general.

Update, 5 Sept: This is the full programme for the workshop:

10:30  Doors open for coffee

11:00  Welcome (Richard Chesser, British Library & Tim Crawford, Goldsmiths)

11:15  Historical background to the Early Music Online (EMO) collections (Sandra Tuppen, British Library)

11:45  'Für die Jugend und anfahende dieser Kunst': the repertory of German printed tablatures (Stephen Rose, Royal Holloway)

12:15  What is Digital Musicology and what can be expected from it? (Frans Wiering, Utrecht)

12:45  Lunch break

14:00  The Electronic Corpus of Lute Music (ECOLM) and EMO (Tim Crawford & David Lewis, Goldsmiths)

14:30  Recognition of EMO vocal music with Aruspix (Laurent Pugin, Swiss RISM Office)

15:00  Automatic polyphonic transcription of lute tablature: A  machine learning approach (Reinier de Valk, City University)

15:30  Tea

16:00  Optical recognition of lute tablature (Christoph Dalitz)

16:30  The online lute community, amateur & professional (Chris Goodwin & John Robinson, UK Lute Society)

17:00  Discussion

17:30  Close

The workshop is free, but booking is essential. Please email Sandra Tuppen if you would like to attend, at

The workshop will be followed at 20:00 by a special evening concert, 'La Fleur des Chansons', at King's Place, London N1 9AG, conveniently close to the British Library, to be given by the Brabant Ensemble with a distinguished group of instrumentalists and showcasing musical highlights from the repertory under discussion at the workshop. Tickets for the concert can be purchased from the King's Place Box Office.


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