sotonDH Small Grants: Medieval Palaeography and the Digital World – Post 1

sotonDH Small Grants: Medieval Palaeography and the Digital World – Post 1 by Jacopo Mazzeo

I am a second year PhD student in Musicology. My main subject is Medieval Palaeography which is a discipline that studies ancient musical notations. I usually work with high quality digital images: these are basically pictures taken from medieval manuscripts where I find music that I have to decode and sometimes translate into modern notation. To write in modern musical notation I make use, obviously, of music writing software. Once I have understood what I have found on the page I usually record any kind of data on an excel database. This is the main body of my final work. The database will tell me which kind of findings matches previous studies and which ones not.

In addition to this, as part of my PhD I collaborate with a big AHRC funded project named CPI (Cantum Pulcriorem Invenire) about a specific medieval musical genre called Conductus, which is considered the first entirely anew composed polyphony. That means the composer has made up any single part of the music, while previously at least a little portion of it was taken from earlier music. Some of the outcomes of the project are actually digital features: a web database and the recording of four CDs.

Social networking is also quite important. On Facebook the group ‘Ars Antiqua’ is an irreplaceable tool for people really involved in my field. For instance, when I really need something, as images of a rare manuscript, the first thing I do is to post my request on the group’s wall, so everyone can see my request and the answer as well, and take advantage of it.

Although I already face every day some digital tools, at the end of my first year (between last December and January 2013) I decided I had to learn more about the digital world. Actually I usually face very basic digital tools and I never get the chance to improve my knowledge in this area. The main question I wanted to answer to was: how can those tools give me any help to manage and communicate my research?

The answer came from a workshop held at the CRASSH (Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities) last February in Cambridge.

The workshop was titled ‘Event Management’, organised by Dr Jenna Ng and Jim Barrett.

The workshop was focusing on the use of social media as effective and inexpensive tools for event management. In particular most part of it aimed to manage real time events mainly through Twitter and Second Life in professional contexts related to culture, arts and the humanities.

This particular feature did interest me as my research team is going to hold a conference due next September titled ‘Cantum pulcriorem invenire: Music in Western Europe, 1150-1350’. The conference is going to be quite a standard one and no particular digital tools will be used, but it might be a good chance to think about any possible use of social media and digital tools to improve the reception of such an event by the attendees and the audience in general.