POPP: Parsing Ottaviano Petrucci’s Prints

POPP: Parsing Ottaviano Petrucci’s Prints  explores what it means to read the arcane notation and page designs of 16th-century music. With a focus on the frottola (song) books of the first music printer, Ottaviano Petrucci, POPP illustrates applications of 16th-century music theory, pedagogy, and printing practices to this repertory, together with research about the history, performance practices, and patronage of these songs and the people who created them. This project was a learning exercise, enabling the POPP Team to learn how to design databases that would respond to questions about history and aesthetics. The data sets are purposefully small, and the Data Trials demonstrate proof-of-concept.

Much of what we do in IDEA is to build bridges across disciplines, creating projects where scholars, artists, and performers in a variety of fields contribute their expertise toward a common goal. Thus, IDEA’s research teams include Italian scholars as well as Americans, experts in Italian literature, ceramics, archival studies, early printing, music history, and performance. The research that has gone into Parsing Ottaviano Petrucci’s Prints encompasses a variety of materials as well; seven Collections comprise our database: a documents Archive, Events, Library, Objects, People, Places, and Repertory. In the DH Press visualizations, data records are classified by Collection, a classification that is often used to sort, filter, or color-code information.


POPP: Parsing Ottaviano Petrucci’s Prints originated as the focus of a Faculty Fellowship sponsored by the Institute for the Arts & Humanities and the Digital Innovations Lab at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. During my fellowship year, I had the great good fortune to work in consultation and collaboration with diverse groups of insightful and talented scholars, scientists, and performers – including the members of the University of North Carolina’s Institute for the Arts & Humanities Faculty Seminar in fall 2014, the staff of UNC’s Digital Innovations Lab, the members of my Medieval and Early Modern Studies seminar “Big Data for Intimate Spaces” which took place in Chapel Hill during a winter storm in February/March 2015, and the contributors to my film Ad tempo taci: Songs for Isabella d’Este, recorded in Mantua during a whirlwind two days in May 2015.

My profound thanks go to them all, as well as to the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in Munich, the Carolina Digital Humanities Initiative and its Faculty Fellowship Program, co-sponsored by the Digital Innovation Lab and the Institute for the Arts & Humanities, UNC’s Medieval and Early Modern Studies Program, and to the faculty of the Department of Music for supporting this work.

– Anne MacNeil
17 October 2015