Tuesday, May 1, 2018 at 5 p.m.
The Heyman Center for the Humanities at Columbia University
Second Floor Common Room
Please join us for a talk by Prof. Michael Scott Cuthbert (MIT) on “Distant Listening/Digital Musicology: music21 and Compositional Similarity in the Late Middle Ages,” followed by a roundtable discussion featuring Prof. Dennis Tenen (Columbia University) and Prof. Eric Bianchi (Fordham University).
Further information can also be found here:
Distant Listening/Digital Musicology:
music21 and Compositional Similarity in the late Middle Ages
Digital humanities approaches, including Franco Moretti’s influential concept of “distant reading,” have transformed areas of textual scholarship in recent decades, but such ideas have had less of an impact on musicology. There were two reasons for this lack of uptake in music: first, a general dearth of tools for examining hundreds or thousands of musical scores. Second, there were few examples of such approaches’ success in answering difficult questions in music history, necessary to reward the investment of time and energy in the skills in programming to access these techniques. In this talk, Cuthbert argues that both hurdles have finally been overcome by demonstrating approaches to “distant listening” to musical scores with the music21 toolkit, developed at M.I.T., and its application to finding previously unknown webs of influence, citation, quotation, perhaps even plagiarism, among a repertory of 3,000 musical scores drawn from European sources from 1300–1430, including the identification of over 30 fragmentary musical works previously considered too small or illegible for study.
Michael Scott Cuthbert is a scholar of fourteenth-century music and computational approaches to musicology. He is the creator of the widely used music21 software toolkit for musicology and author of the forthcoming, Ars mutandi: Italian sacred music in the age of plague and schism. A winner of the Rome Prize and fellowships at Villa I Tatti and the Radcliffe Institute, Cuthbert is Associate Professor of Music and Faculty Director of Digital Humanities at M.I.T.
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