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INTRODUCTION TO SAGGI MUSICALI ITALIANI AND ITS USE

 

Saggi musicali italiani (SMI) is an evolving archive of texts of Italian music theory and aesthetics. Following the model of the Thesaurus Musicarum Latinarum (TML), SMI makes its texts available in electronic form, allowing them to be browsed, and searched. Saggi musicali italiani focuses first and foremost on major treatises but also includes articles from journals and reviews when a distinct portion discusses a significant theoretical or aesthetic issue of general interest. SMI will eventually contain all printed materials from the Renaissance to the present.

The development of the TFM is being undertaken at Indiana University, where the Jacobs School of Music Center for the History of Music Theory and Literature (CHMTL) provides editorial and technical support, server space, and website hosting.

The SMI Text and Graphic Files

For most treatises the SMI provides both text and graphic files. As for the verbal text, treatises are transcribed using the 256 ASCII character set, and orthography follows exactly that of the source even if a word is obviously misspelled. Three exceptions apply: (1) abbreviations are expanded; (2) apostrophes are always followed by a space as, for instance, in "l' amore" or "quest' aura," unless they replace the elided vowel of the second word, as in "se 'l creda"; and (3) all Italian acute accents are normalized as graves. Italian authors and printers handled this accent inconsistently, and normalization facilitates the process of electronically searching the texts. Of the diacriticals in Italian, only the grave accent figures among the basic ASCII character set (ASCII 32-126).

Writings on music include abundant figures and musical notation for which no ASCII equivalents exist. Musical notation included within sentences is entered as codes in the text file, while full musical examples or figures are scanned and saved in GIF format and keyed to locations within the text files themselves. If the example includes text, this is given in the ASCII file within brackets (e.g., [Asioli, Il maestro di composizione, 2-3; text: CLAVICEMBALO, CONTRABASSO TEDESCO, CONTRABASSO FRANCESE, CONTRABASSO ITALIANO, FAGOTTO, VIOLONCELLO, TROMBONE, BASSO CANTANTE, TIMPANI, BARITONO CANTANTE, Suoni gravi, Suoni bassi, Suoni medj, accordatura in quarta, idem: accordatura in quinta, Voci di petto, Voci centrali e migliori, ECCETERA]), thereby enabling the search engine to locate and display text strings that appear within figures as well as those within the treatise proper.

Simple musical examples, that is, monophonic excerpts or illustrations without essential explanatory symbols, are encoded according to Barry S. Brook's "The Simplified 'Plaine and Easie Code System' for Notating Music: A Proposal for International Adoption," Fontes Artis Musicae 12 (1965): 156-60. (A description of this system is also available in Barry, S. Brook, "The Plaine and Easie Code," in Musicology and the Computer. Musicology 1966-2000: A Practical Progam [Three Symposia], edited by Barry S. Brook [New York: The City University of New York Press, 1970], 53-56.) This useful system of encoding music was designed mainly for indexing purposes and thus pays very little attention to the issue of spaces that may separate the various parameters. In our context of electronic searches, however, spacing is a crucial matter. A search for '4CDEC/CDEC/EF2G (the incipit of "Frère Jacques") would be successful only if the melody had been encoded without any spaces and not as, for example, '4CDEC / CDEC / EF2G. We thus clarify Brook's system to the effect that any spaces and all optional codes will be omitted. If a monophonic example includes text, as is usually the case in vocal excerpts, the text is entered following the codes, separated by a semicolon and a space. Codes and text together appear in brackets and are always preceded by a carriage return (ASCII 13). If a source, for example, quoted the first four measures of the vocal line of the Duke's "La donna è mobile" from Verdi's Rigoletto, the musical example would be encoded as follows (please consult Brook's article for full explanation of the codes): [(#FCGDA,3/8)'8#D#D#D/6.#F3E4#C/8#C#C#C/6.E3#D4B/; La donna e` mobile qual piuma al vento, con brio]

Bracketed information following the codes will provide the fn and ft for the graphics file (see below), which in examples with text allows the user to examine the text underlay.

Brook's code for cut time (a "C" with a vertical line) does not figure among the basic ASCII character set. This and all other symbols characteristic of mensural notation (relevant in Renaissance and Baroque treatises) will be borrowed from the TML's "Table of Codes of Noteshapes, Rests, Ligatures...," a system of encoding developed by Thomas J. Mathiesen and published in "Transmitting Text and Graphics in Online Databases: The Thesaurus Musicarum Latinarum Model," Computing in Musicology 9 (1993-94): 33-48.

The SMI Canon

In addition to the text and graphics files the SMI Canon provides full bibliographic information and metadata for each treatise. Each entry in the Canon includes the following fields (in this order): the name of the author of the treatise, as given in the source from which the data was taken; the author's given name, if applicable; the title of the treatise; the incipit; the source of the data file; the names of the persons responsible for entering, checking, and approving the data; the filename; the filetype; the filelist; the size of the file in kilobytes; annotations (including specific details on manuscripts, if the file is not derived from a printed source); and the type of source (i.e., manuscript or print). The latest version of the TFM Canon is available as a PDF by clicking here).

Contributions to SMI

Text files of treatises are contributed to the project by scholars from around the world, and SMI very much welcomes contributions from individual scholars as well as from the members of the SMI Project Committee. Contributions of this sort should be sent to the Project Director, either over the mainframe or by mail.


If you have any problems with SMI or suggestions for its improvement, please contact the Project Director, Andreas Giger (telephone: [225] 578-3688; INTERNET: agiger1@lsu.edu; mail: Louisiana State University, School of Music, Baton Rouge, LA 70803).


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