Musicology and the Multimedia Classroom at Haverford


Richard Freedman, Associate Professor of Music



Aims and Methods

By nature musicology involves students with a wide variety of source materials, from printed scores and texts to sound and (of course) live musical performances. New and old technologies (from the CD player to the chalk board) manage a reasonably contented coexistence in the musicological classroom, which has long been `multiple' in its use of media long before the current generation of computers made `multimedia' something of a household word. Yet the prospect of smoothly coordinating these materials through some computerized system for the storage, reproduction, and manipulation of sounds has clear appeal, particularly if it might help to streamline the process of comparing and contrasting rival performances or help student to test out their own analytic or critical arguments about particular pieces.

Thanks to help from a Multimedia Development Grant from Haverford College, during the last two academic years I have put into place a successful system that manages to serve many of these needs. At the heart of the system is a pair of high performance Macintosh computers with built-in CD players. Simply stated (although there is more to the story) these machines are able to play precise (timed down to a fraction of a second) excerpts from standard audio compact disks (we don't actually distribute the recordings themselves over the internet) using special commands delivered by a standard World Wide Web browser. For the student the effect is seamless, since the excerpts are designated in ordinary text on the Web pages that deliver them, and can take the form of prose descriptions, references to particular measures, or any other convenient term.

Students have worked with this system both as a means of class preparation and study (listening through a particular performance with what in effect are aural rehearsal marks) and as a means of supplying their written work with recorded musical examples. To date our work has resulted in two `virtual' symposia. Chopin's Mazurkas, Op. 41: Studies in Musical Form and Performance investigates question of interpretation, analysis, and musical editions by comparing performances by Peter Serkin, William Kapell, Arthur Rubinstein, and Ignace Friedman. The Renaissance Text and its Musical Readers considers the relationship between text and tone in works by Lassus, Palestrina, Monteverdi, Marenzio, and others, considering questions of representation and expression in 16th-century style.



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