Polyphony Database improvements

by Francis Bevan in London, Greater London, England

Polyphony Database improvements

Help fund some significant improvements to the system that powers the incredible early music resource at www.polyphonydatabase.com

by Francis Bevan in London, Greater London, England

We did it
On 20th February 2018 we successfully raised £2,560 with 54 supporters in 42 days

What is the Polyphony Database?

PolyphonyDatabase.com is a detailed catalogue of early music sources designed to help musicians perform, academics study, and enthusiasts explore a vast and glorious repertoire quickly and easily. It aims to combine the practicality of CPDL with the academic rigour and ambition of the RISM census, to make use of similar projects where possible, and to directly combat the frustrations performing musicians have with all existing resources.

It is an altruistic endeavour and will always be free to access. There are currently only a handful of administrators, but as its stability and functionality improves I plan to allow more people to sign up and contribute.

Its three main goals are:

  • To assist performers, directors, and editors by cataloguing the contents of primary sources, source concordances, and basic information about how each piece of music can be performed.
  • To provide a reliable starting point for academic research by linking to library catalogues, other existing databases, and facsimile images of early music manuscripts and prints.
  • To provide a repository for properly sourced critical editions, performing scores, and recordings of as much of this music as possible, each carefully vetted for typesetting quality and accuracy, and made available for free download, so that this music might be discovered and appreciated by a wider audience.

The story so far

The Polyphony Database was written in Ruby on Rails by a professional web developer, and all the code is free to peruse at https://github.com/frahasio/polyphonydatabase. The site has been live since August 2017, and a large amount of cataloguing has already been completed.

We've mainly concentrated on sources of sacred choral music to date, especially where facsimiles of the original exist online, but we intend to include secular and instrumental music. Obviously, the usefulness of the database depends on the quantity and quality of its content so I want to make sure that contributors can spend as much time as possible generating this and as little as possible trawling Google, battling with spreadsheets, and repeating work.

The site is already a useful resource, but there are several improvements that need to be made to the data model and the cataloguing/filtering process before the database can achieve its full potential. I can't afford to bankroll the project as a hobby any longer - the funding amount is based on a quote for the original developer to complete the following:

  • Composer attributions are currently flagged as accurate or inaccurate, meaning the cataloguer has to know this information, or make a subjective decision while working. The improvement will involve changing this model so that the cataloguer need only match a standardised spelling to an attribution while cataloguing, and match identical pieces with conflicting attributions at a later stage.
  • Editing titles and assigning functions to compositions is currently done at a composition level making it a long winded and inconsistent process. This will be separated so that titles and liturgical uses can be standardised on a much broader scale.
  • There is currently no filter by 'voice combination' (e.g. SATB), and it is not always easy to deduce this from the displayed clefs. New pages will be built to allow clef combinations to be matched to the appropriate voicings, and these voicings to filter the main interface.
  • There is currently a one-to-one relationship between a source MS or print and its scribe or publisher. This will be changed to allow multiple links, and split to distinguish between the types of creator.
  • Various other small changes to improve the cataloguing workflow and public interface, and include links to shops where users can buy existing published editions and recordings of music.

On top of these structural changes:

  • Front end design will need a refresh to reflect changes and improve usability.
  • Licensing documents, submission procedures, and typesetting guidelines need to be written and reviewed.
  • Cataloguing must continue in earnest!
  • There are ongoing server costs

About me

I have been cataloguing, editing, and performing Renaissance music for more than a decade, mostly just for fun. My academic achievements end with an unimpressive BMus in composition, but through sheer enthusiasm and persistence I've had the privilege of working with many luminary musical minds and internationally renowned performers.

My number crunching day jobs in the last decade have taught me a lot about data and its manipulation, putting me in the unique position of having experienced the shortcomings of existing early music resources and knowing what needs to be done to improve them.


Rewards

This project offers rewards in return for your donation.

£10 or more

Invitation to the launch party

You will be added to the mailing list for the secret launch party in London at some point in the Summer of 2018. The party will include some singing and drinking.

£40 or more

0 of 1 claimed

Sheppard - Missa Cantate x 7

7 printed copies of the 6 part Missa Cantate by John Sheppard (1 per singer + conductor). Used once but in good nick.

£50 or more

0 of 1 claimed

Anon - Missa Miserere Mihi x 9

9 printed copies of the Anonymous 8 part Missa Miserere mihi Domine from D-Mbs 6. Used, with some pencil markings. Foreword by Dr Bernadette Nelson

£50 or more

Commission a 4-part motet edition

Choose any* 4-part motet from the database that hasn't yet been edited: I'll type it up and send you a PDF. *I reserve the right to offer you an alternative in some cases (e.g. if the motet you choose has multiple long sections!). Email me with yer choice: frahasio@gmail.com

£60 or more

2 of 3 claimed

Carver - Missa Dum Sacrum Mysterium x 11

11 printed copies of the 10 part Missa Dum sacrum mysterium by 16th century Scottish composer Robert Carver. Used, some with pencil markings.

£75 or more

Commission a 5-part motet edition

Choose any* 5-part motet from the database that hasn't yet been edited: I'll type it up and send you a PDF. *I reserve the right to offer you an alternative in some cases (e.g. if the motet you choose has multiple long sections!) Email me with yer choice: frahasio@gmail.com

£100 or more

0 of 3 claimed

Invitation to a Bevan Family Consort rehearsal

Sit in on a rehearsal as the BFC prepare for their next concert, and meet them all in the pub afterwards.

£100 or more

Commission a 6-part motet edition

Choose any* 6-part motet from the database that hasn't yet been edited: I'll type it up and send you a PDF. *I reserve the right to offer you an alternative in some cases (e.g. if the motet you choose has multiple long sections!)

£120 or more

Commission a 4-part mass edition

Choose any 4-part mass from the database that hasn't yet been edited: I'll type it up and send you a PDF. Email me with yer choice: frahasio@gmail.com

£160 or more

Commission a 5-part mass edition

Choose any 5-part mass from the database that hasn't yet been edited: I'll type it up and send you a PDF. Email me with yer choice: frahasio@gmail.com

£200 or more

Commission a 6-part mass edition

Choose any 6-part mass from the database that hasn't yet been edited: I'll type it up and send you a PDF. Email me with yer choice: frahasio@gmail.com

£400 or more

0 of 2 claimed

Commission a composition

I will write a SATB motet on a text of your choice lasting no longer than 3 minutes in length.

£600 or more

0 of 3 claimed

A quartet will come and sing mass for you

A quartet of professional singers will come and sing (chant and polyphony) at a Catholic mass in a church of your choice (within 1 hour of London). We will choose the polyphony (it will be good).

£800 or more

0 of 1 claimed

Trip for two to see Gloriana in Madrid

Watch Benjamin Britten's opera about Queen Elizabeth I at Madrid opera house. Flights from UK, hotel, and opera tickets included. Date in April 2018 TBC.


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