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16th-Century Songs Presented in a 21st-Century Format

For nearly three years, Professor of Music Richard Freedman has been developing a website that would allow users to view and play Renaissance-era songs in their original format. Now, the site has finally gone live.

“Les Chansonniers de Nicolas Du Chemin,” a digital forum focused on 16 sets of music books published between 1549 and 1568 by Parisian printer Du Chemin, is the result of a collaboration between Freedman and France’s Centre d’Etudes Superieures de la Renaissance (Center for Higher Renaissance Studies, CESR). The project is funded by a “Digital Humanities” grant awarded to Freedman by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

In addition to reading and playing the songs, visitors to the site can search a database and image archive, read commentaries and modern transcriptions, and reconstruct pieces with missing voice parts. A companion blog will also encourage conversation and scholarship on the music books, which provide a glimpse of changing tastes and show the impact of printing on musical culture of the time.

Freedman recently spent a month at the CESR as a visiting professor. In late May, he presented the site to 40 scholars from across Europe, Israel and Australia during a week-long “Seminaire musicologique” that brought together papers and reports on many CESR digital projects. “Folks were quite enthusiastic about the tools we’ve developed for the Du Chemin project,” he says. “One of the recurring themes through the week was the challenge of finding ways to collaborate in humanistic work like this, especially across wide geographical divides.”

The Climbing Stone, by Peter Rockwell '58, is located outside Magill Library.

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