Arts, Humanities, and Complex Networks

Linked Sources. A Network Approach to the Repertory of Sixteenth-Century Polyphony

by Marnix van Berchum

Abstract

Scattered over the many libraries and archives of Europe, lie the remnants of past musical cultures. Musical manuscripts and prints provide us with glimpses of the repertories that were circulated, collected and performed. From its beginnings in the 19th century musicology has been involved with the study of these musical repertories. Sources have been studied from codicological viewpoints, the compositions these sources contain from stylistic angles. My current research approaches the repertory of sixteenth‐century music from the perspective of network theory. Musical compositions are regarded as cultural artifacts  contextualized within the transmission of music and broader socio‐ economic conditions of a defined historical period. This approach exploits the characteristics of musical sources and their content as networked entities, providing a more formalized view of the term ‘repertory’. In the proposed paper I will introduce the above described research project. I will talk about the problems of approaching a distinct historical period — in this case from the history of music — from the viewpoint of network theory. What are the characteristics of such a network? How did the network evolve over time? What musicological question can be answered? My choice for the sixteenth century will be explained, including the characteristics of the transmission of music from this period and the consequences they have on viewing a musical repertory as a type of formal network. The above will be illustrated by a case study on one of the most famous sets of musical manuscripts from the early decades of the sixteenth century. These manuscripts were produced by the scriptorium of Petrus Alamire and were mainly created for the Habsburg-Burgundian court. This case study will demonstrate that ‘repertory’ is not merely a collection of compositions in a specific place or time, but a strong interconnected network of compositions, composers and dedicatees.

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