Methodology


In this project we shall use a data representation scheme called NEUMES ("Neumed and Ekphonetic Universal Manuscript Encoding Standard" -- see http://purl.oclc.org/SCRIBE/NEUMES/) and other software licensed from Louis Barton.

The NEUMES standard has been developed over several years by Louis Barton in consultation with several eminent medieval musicologists. NEUMES is the only existing data representation that allows chant melodies to be searched or compared regardless of neume notational type, and yet allows a view of the chant to be reconstructed in its original style of notation. [See L. Barton, "The NEUMES Project: Digital Transcription of Medieval Chant Manuscripts," Proceedings of the Second International Conference on WEB Delivering of Music, (IEEE Computer Society, 2002); and L. Barton, "Computer Encoding of Neumed Manuscripts: Proposal for a Unified Data Representation," Computing in Musicology, (Stanford University, forthcoming).]

The fundamental concept underlying NEUMES is that unambiguous, Unicode-compatible characters are used to encode the "prima facie semantic content" of manuscripts. Simply put, only what actually appears on the face of a manuscript is encoded as data and, of that, only what is meaningful to the chant or its text. Descriptive information about a manuscript and the transcription process, links to online photographs, etc., are recorded in the NeumesXML markup that encapsulates a NEUMES transcription. The NeumesXML Schema includes a formal grammar that defines NEUMES.

This "lossless" encoding strategy is crucial as a matter of scientific objectivity. (The word "lossless" implies that all observed information is recorded -- a kind of semiotic 'photograph'.) Scientifically-made transcriptions will have permanent value. They can be used by future generations of musicologists -- and perhaps researchers in other fields -- for making discoveries in ways that are impossible to anticipate today. Symbolic transcriptions are useful for many purposes that are not satisfied by photographs, such as automated search for melodies. An exciting prospect will be in analysing artefacts by mathematical methods in ways that are currently infeasible.

The most important results of the project will be presented to the international musicological community in journal articles and at specialist conferences. The software developed will be publicly available over the Internet via interactive Web pages or by downloading. Documentation about the project, user's guides, and similar materials will also be made available on the project's Web site.


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