As described in an article by Kirschenbaum (2010), digital humanities are scholarly academic terms that relate to education and academic disciplines. Humanities are academic disciplines that focus on culture, society and community (Liu, 2014 – 4Humanities) . An academic discipline can simply be referred to as a filed of study within higher education in which knowledge is both taught and researched (Krishnan, 2009). In relation to music, even though there are a number of humanities, a great example would be musicology – which will be the primary focus. Now knowing what an academic discipline and humanities are; the term digital humanities refers to the use of computing, digital technology and resources within, in this case, musical scholarship.
As stated above, musicology is one of the many humanities. Musicology is the study of music which focusses on analysation, research and scholarly academia (Estrella, 2017 – ThoughtCo.). Musicology studies can cover all kinds of genres and sub-genres of music from all around the world; such as Rock, Jazz, Country, Folk, Blues, Western and Non-Western etc. A musicologist can study a number of different aspects of music, not just genres and music as a whole. To name a few, some of these other studies can include: the study of a specific musical instrument or instruments, the study of musicians, the study of musical theory and the study of musical composition (Peterkin, 2017 – MajoringInMusic). Guido De Arezzo was an Italian musicologist – although referred to as a music theorist during his time – during the Medieval music era which dates from 500 A.D. to 1400 (Reisenweaver, 2012). According to the article Guido of Arezzo and His Influence on Music Learning, page 37, Guido De Arezzo is regarded as the inventor of what we know today to be musical notation, replacing neumatic notation. This invention single handily changed the way in which music was taught, documented and appreciated. Throughout musical history, musical notation continued to progress and develop, following the changes and advancements within music. During the late 20th Century, musical notation began its transition into a computer-based, digital format thus enhancing the digital takeover (Strayer, 2013).
Digital humanities has a number advantages. Within the context of musicology, some people would say that digital humanities has revolutionised the way in which information is learnt and taught (Revellio, 2015).
Digitisation has allowed questions and research to arise that could not have been done before (Holm et al, 2015).
The age of digital hasn’t discarded important information and research that is now considered to be old. It has kept all the important and old questions about music and made it possible to revise these questions and research (Borgman, 2009).
The sheer presentation and informational value of a piece of work may have a nicer or more detailed appearance as it can contain images, hyperlinks, informative images, maps, audio, blogs, communication and so on (Borgman, 2009).
Digital humanities can hold a multitude of data and information, making it incredibly easy to locate data in many different ways (Holm et al, 2015).
Most digital sources can be back traced to find original sources, trends or vital pieces of informative work. This makes it easy to find original sources, combine different pieces of information, and further research to develop musical scholarship even further (Wong, 2016).
Digitisation has made it easy for people from all around the world to work and collaborate with each other (Schaffner and Erway, 2014).
Using the internet through a computerised device means quicker access to information so more people are able to view, learn and review these projects or pieces of work (Schaffner and Erway, 2014).
Digital Humanities allows students to learn on a more in-depth scale by allowing them to experience, read and see more, as well as collaborate with each other (Wong, 2016).
Digital humanities and the combination of the internet allow never ending information, as well as information that can’t become outdated, because the information can easily be reviewed, revised and updated (Holm et al, 2015).
Not only does the use of digital resources help people understand the importance of humanities, but it also allows people to communicate and engage outside of an academic setting (Borgman, 2009).
The internet has so many different doors and ways of finding the same pieces of information. More likely than not, information can be offered – or in more cases, found – for free. Research through the internet can be done freely and is limitless (Wong, 2016).
With all these advantages being undeniable and some fairly obvious, the truth of the matter is that with every advantage there is a disadvantage. Many people may create their opinion via personal preference and without research. They prefer, especially people before the digital era, a raw form of information that can be obtained in an academic environment, books for instance (Cain, 2017). However, digitisation hasn’t just taken over humanities and academia. According to Grossman (2016), the use and transition into digital has been around for quite some time, already claiming music, art, business, law and many other industries. The use of digital is now used in almost every industry and academia, so the digital takeover of the humanities was almost inevitable (Kirsch, 2014).
Through research, the main concern about the digital takeover is the controversy between books and the internet (Munger, 2014). In 2002, Google Inc. launched a service called the Google Books project – though at the time it was known as the “secret books project” (Somers, 2017). Acoording to Somers (2017), the goal of the Google Books project is to convert books and magazines using a OCR (Optical Character Recognition) into a digital format that can be view on a computerised device. In 2010, Google estimated that there were approximately 130 million books in the world and counting (Parr, 2010). Their intention was, and still is, to digitise every single book in the world – essentially becoming the biggest library in history (Wu, 2015). In 2013, Larry Page and Sergey Brin – the two co-founders of Google – had meeting with one of the libraries librarians that had signed up for the Google Books project.This librarian asked both co-founders a question that seems to be the main concern of digitisation. This quote is taken from a 2013 online newspaper article published in The Guardian:
‘I’m wondering what happens to all this stuff when Google no longer exists.’ Recounting the conversation to me later, he said: ‘I’ve never seen two young people looking so stunned: the idea that Google might not exist one day had never crossed their minds.’ (Naughton, 2013)
Johann Sebastian Bach was a German born musician and composer of the Western Classical Tradition musical period, the Baroque era. J.S Bach is a very well respected musician/composer and is often referred to as one of the greatest composers of all time, with his compositions still being played and arranged to this day – as described in The Triumph of Music: The Rise of Composers, Musicians and Their Art, page 272.
During Bach’s time, the 17th Century, he wrote most of his ideas and compositions on manuscripts (Wolff, 2000 – pp. 456-461). Through the centuries, Bach’s original hand-written manuscripts have been able to be kept and preserved. In 2016, J.S. Bach’s original copy of his Prelude in E flat minor, BMV 998, was auctioned and sold for just over £2.5 million (Christie, 2016).
In the 18th Century, 1802 to be exact, the first step towards J.S. Bach in relation to digital musicology was made – his very first biography was written (Geck, 2006 – pp. 9-10). The book was written and published by a German musicologist, Johann Nikolaus Forkel, and is titled “Johann Sebastian Bach: His Life, Art, and Work.” Forkel obtained most of his information from Bach’s two sons, Carl Philipp Emanuel and Wilhelm Friedemann. On top of this knowledge, he added his own interpretations and evaluations of Bach’s keyboard music, almost entirely ignoring Bach’s last tenure in Leipzig and the music Bach wrote for the church for almost two decades (Forkel and Terry, 1920). Over the years, there has been many re-prints and editions of this book, as well as an English translation. Ironically enough, this book is available on Google Books.
Throughout the entire 19th Century, over 200 books about J.S. Bach were published. His music was continually played and performed in all major musical centres (McKay, n.d.).
In 20th Century, Bach’s music and legacy continued to live on. His music was widely performed, arranged, listened to and broadcasted in this century (Sartorius, M., 1996; Sartosius, L., 1996). Many books, studies and biographies were still being written and published about Bach by musicologists (Marr, 2005). In 1950, Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis was first published. The BWV is a catalogue that contain all 1128 of J.S. Bach’s compositions – this is a great piece of history for musicologists (Schmieder, 1950).
Through the centuries, the progression and advancements on the work, information and history of J.S. Bach is quite notable. In today’s century, as stated above, all 1128 of Bach’s compositions became available online. There is an extensive amount of websites and domains dedicated to J.S. Bach and his work. Biographies are still being written and published, as well as revising older biographies and publications (Marr, 2005). The digital transformation is very notable and how musicologist attain there information about J.S. Bach and his work has drastically changed over the years. From having to speak to family members and creating their own interpretation of something, to sitting at a computer and gathering all the information they need from there.
Scott Joplin was an American born pianist and composer of the Non-Western Classical Tradition musical period, the ragtime era (Berlin, 2016). Scott Joplin is also a very well respected musician/composer and is often referred to as the “King of Ragtime” because of his ragtime compositions (as described in King Of Ragtime: Scott Joplin And His Era). His most notable piece of work, the Maple Leaf Rag, is one of the most influential and famous pieces of ragtime music that is still being used to this day (Edwards, 2008). Compared to Johann Sebastian Bach, information about Scott Joplin and his work was easier to preserve and research because it wasn’t as old. Bach’s work dates back to the 17th Century, whereas Joplin’s only dates back to the very late 19th Century and early 20th Century. Another clear difference between Joplin and Bach research is the number of compositions they have. Bach, as stated above, has 1128 compositions, whereas Joplin has just over 40 (Edwards, 2013, pp. 1-4). According to Berlin (1994), Brun Campbell, a musical composer and pianist, claimed to have seen the manuscript for the “Maple Leaf Rag” about a year prior to it’s release. This suggests that Joplin’s original pieces of work were all written and documented on manuscript paper just like J.S. Bach. Not soon after the “Maple Leaf Rag”, in relation to musical scholarship, Joplin had his first biography written by author Rudi Blesh as an introduction in a piano sheet music book. Blesh claimed that there were 1 million copies of the “Maple Leaf Rag” sheet music sold during Joplin’s lifetime, making him the first musician to do so (as described in Scott Joplin Complete Piano Works, page 23). However, through thorough research, author Edward A. Berlin proved that this was not the case in his book King Of Ragtim: Scott Joplin And His Era.
This is a great and unique example showcasing how information could get misinterpreted or fabricated when there wasn’t a lot of resources or technology to help build research. With technology and digital within the humanities, it allows a world where information can’t get lost or forgotten, but built upon and expanded with ease, control and endless possibilities (Dumon, 2013). This quote is taken from a 2013 online magazine article published in Wired: