Music Brought to Life

I believe that introducing new mediums into the field of manuscript study is the next step in generating interest on a widespread level. Throughout my own study, I have realized that most people find medieval manuscripts interesting when put into a context that they can understand. The digital age is making this a realistic option through all the tools now available to us. This is especially useful when looking for teaching tools. Our next generation of students are from a digital and media driven world, so translating academic work into this sphere will help capture their interest.

As a student myself, I am very keen on sharing my ideas of how to reach other students, and an example of one of my ideas is a way to combine these digital mediums. In one of my previous blog posts, I introduced Smith College’s MS.321, a large scale Catholic Antiphonary. This particular manuscript is often brought out and used in the rare book room as an example of what a medieval manuscript is for first time visitors. Drawing on the fact that it is already a popular teaching instrument, I wondered how we could enhance it’s instructive use by adding a digital element to it. Using a digital camera, I photographed the first leaf of the Antiphonary, then used photoshop to paint in each neume with its corresponding scriptural lyric. I then transposed the Gregorian chant into modern music, which allowed me to take the music to a singer, who I recorded singing the piece . I then created a video by setting the images in consecutive order to match the music.

This music video allows the viewer not only to see the manuscript but to hear its music at the same time. It is my hope that by combining these audio and visual elements together, my viewers might get a better sense of what this manuscript is and how it was used. Suddenly, what was once just a page in a book is now turned into a total music experience, where history is being brought back to life. I wonder- what if this were applied to more medieval manuscripts, what would our students reactions be like? My hope is that they would be just as awed as I was, and keen to learn more about these amazing pieces of history.


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