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So that’s what they sound like…

August 19, 2011 3 comments

On Thursday 11 August, three accomplished musicians and one tone-deaf member of the project team congregated in the new Ensemble Room in Oxford University’s Music Faculty to record some of the pieces which are to be included in What’s the score at the Bodleian?

Our sound engineer chose to use some rather less daunting equipment than this.

The pieces recorded are all by Charles d’Albert, and were selected on the somewhat unscientific basis that the collection is being digitised alphabetically by composer, and d’Albert is by far the most prolific of those composers whose surname begins with the letter A.  That and the fact that we rather liked some of his tunes.

The Faculty provided us with microphones and some portable recording equipment (and instructed us how to use it), as well as – crucially – a piano (for which instructions weren’t required).  Twenty-seven takes and a couple of hours later, we had five piano pieces in the bag, performed with aplomb by Ben Sheen and Tim Hawken, all ready for editing and post-production:

  • Nearest and Dearest (Waltz, on airs from Audran’s comic opera, Olivette), performed by Ben Sheen
  • Trial by Jury Polka (on airs from Arthur Sullivan’s operetta), performed by Ben Sheen
  • The Rink Galop (as performed at the Royal Aquarium, Westminster), performed by Ben Sheen
  • Adelina (on Jules Cohen’s Opera Les Bluets), performed by Ben Sheen
  • The Cleopatra Galop, performed by Tim Hawken

Meanwhile, having been thoroughly entertained by some live performances of parlour songs at the project’s introductory reception in June, and with plenty of studio time left, it seemed too good an opportunity to miss to also record some non-project songs which demonstrate other aspects of domestic music which were popular in the 19th century:

  • Come into the Garden, Maud, by M. W. Balfe (words by Alfred, Lord Tennyson)
  • Home! Sweet Home! by Sir Henry Bishop (words by John Howard Payne)
  • The Lost Chord, by Sir Arthur Sullivan (words by Adelaide A. Procter)

As at the June event, these were sung by Greg Skidmore, accompanied by Tim Hawken on piano.

All of these pieces have now been made available on a new Recordings page on the project’s website, and for each of the d’Albert piano pieces a PDF file of the score itself is also provided.  Once the crowd-sourcing aspect of the project is in full swing, it is hoped that any members of ‘the crowd’ with a modicum of talent on the ivories will make their own recordings of piano pieces delivered through the project and allow us to put them online.

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Crowdsourcing for transcription projects

What’s the Score at the Bodleian? featured at an event this weekend. The Crowdsourcing for transcription projects workshop was held at Merton College, Oxford, and saw a group of eager participants gather to hear about and discuss crowdsourcing in the context of transcription projects.

The program for the half-day event opened with three talks:

Arfon Smith (Zooniverse) couldn’t be at the event in person but luckily a podcast was available of his very relevant talk from the Beyond Collections 2011 conference last month. The talk provided a useful introduction not only to Zooniverse but to a number of issues to be considered by anyone setting out to conduct an academic crowdsourcing project.

David Tomkins described the What’s the Score at the Bodleian? project and showed some examples of the kind of material we are working with. He could also share some screenshots from the data collection interface which has just been made available to small group of testers.

Giles Bergel (Bodleian Ballads) talked about the work with ballads that has been going on at the Bodleian for a number of years. He presented some of the problems with the material, such as some text being very difficult to read for both humans and machines, and outlined some ideas for future projects.

The rest of the morning was spent productively discussing thoughts on crowdsourcing in general and ideas about transcription crowdsourcing in particular. It was agreed that this was beneficial, and that we’d like to continue the discussions and exchange of ideas. A first step will be to collect the ideas and references gathered during the day and circulate these, together with suggestions for further activities for the group.

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With a bit of music

June 17, 2011 1 comment
Greg Skidmore and Tim Hawken performing parlour songs

Greg Skidmore and Tim Hawken performing parlour songs

What’s the Score at the Bodleian? was introduced to a number of specially invited guests at a small event in Oxford this week.  About 40 people gathered in the Denis Arnold Hall in the University’s Faculty of Music to hear Bodley’s Librarian, Dr Sarah Thomas, introduce the project, after which three members of project staff each gave short presentations.  Martin Holmes outlined the Bodleian’s extensive music collections and explained some of the problems currently faced in making them more accessible; Ylva Berglund-Prytz gave an overview of crowd-sourcing as a relatively quick and economic means of capturing data, citing in particular some of the initiatives undertaken by Zooniverse; and David Tomkins gave an overview of the project methodology and its potential for additional enhancements in the future.  The presentations provided a platform for much informal discussion about the project and its future directions between guests and project staff over drinks and canapes.

Before and after the presentations, Greg Skidmore and Tim Hawken stole the show with a series of outstanding performances of parlour songs and piano pieces selected from the first batch of digitised scores for the project.

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