Friday, September 26, 2014

Lost Voices

a project directed by Richard Freedman and Philippe Vendrix

The Lost Voices Project centers on 16 sets of part-books published by Nicolas Du Chemin (Duchemin) in Paris in the years between 1549 and 1568, offering facsimiles and modern editions of almost 400 chansons by such composers as Clément Janequin, Claude Goudimel, Etienne Du Tertre, and many others. The site, digitalduchemin.org, is freely available to anyone interested in Renaissance music—anyone, indeed, curious about the humanities in the digital domain.


Lost Voices is a companion resource extending part I of the project (2010–13): Les Livres de Chansons Nouvelles de Nicolas Du Chemin (1549–1568), hosted by the Centre d’Études Supérieures de la Renaissance in Tours, France. (The scans were also uploaded by CESR to IMSLP.)





This new avenue focuses particularly on the question of the lost partbooks: the contratenor and bassus voices for volumes 12–16. Some of the pieces found in these books survive in other music prints from subsequent decades, but about 80 of the 120 pieces in these last five books are unica, and so the contratenor and bassus parts are likely to remain the “lost voices” that need to be supplied. Richard Freedman treats these matters in “The Renaissance Chanson Goes Digital: DigitalDuchemin.org,” forthcoming in Early Music 42 (2014).


Costeley: Helas ma soeur m’amye j’en mourrois (XIIe Livre, 1557)
with alternative reconstructions of CT and B by Apgar and Freedman
DC 1208

In short:

  • You can read the complete poem of each piece (with rhyme diagram), scroll through the piece, or listen to the music in high-quality sampled versions (lute in mean-tone tuning). Help menus explain how to use the many features of the site.

  • The Lost Voices Project also opens these chansons to some novel modes of collaborative inquiry. It presents a large database of analytic observations about the music (with some 11,000 entries).

  • You can search, sort, and save your queries. With a free individual account you can collect “favorite” pieces, take private notes on them, and participate in live public discussions about them. (The “help” menus explain how to request an account, or how to reset your password if you already have one).

  • Meanwhile the research teams have created new kinds of dynamic digital editions using the open-source Music Encoding Initiative standard. Here you can view variants and emendations (with critical reports for each piece), as well as display any phrase or analytic segment instantly in any modern internet browser: no special software is needed. (The PDF versions are “engraved” and look very professional in terms of layout and spacing. The various dynamic editions are done on the fly in the browser itself, which is what allows them to be so dynamic; they will not look perfect in terms of layout and spacing.) The underlying critical editions (in the MEI system) are in a permanent (and cross-platform) encoding. Think of this as the “acid free paper” of the digital age.

  • You can also take part in the collaborative exploration of the “lost voices”:   reconstructions of the contratenor and bassus parts of dozens of pieces from the last five volumes of the corpus. You can compare different solutions (just as you can compare variant readings for the complete works). If you like, you can also contact the researchers to submit a reconstruction of your own.

Lost Voices is supported by National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), the Centre d'Études Supérieures de la Renaissance (CESR) at the Université François Rabelais, Tours, and Haverford College.

But wait, there's more: A new project on the Renaissance Imitation Mass, drawing on these systems, has attracted major funding from the Mellon Foundation and the Maison Fondation des Sciences de l'Homme. It will run for the next three years, and involve more collaborative work by French and North American scholars. Stay tuned.

Richard Freedman is John C. Whitehead Professor of Music at Haverford College in Pennsylvania Haverford, PA 19041. He is author of Music in the Renaissance in the W. W. Norton series Western Music in Context (2012). Webpage HERE.

Philippe Vendrix directs the CESR in Tours. He holds degrees from the Universities of Liège, Arizona, and Tours. Webpage HERE.

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