Barbara Haggh-Huglo, Professor of Music at the University of Maryland, College Park, specializes in medieval and Renaissance sacred music and music theory as studied through manuscripts and archives. Her research has taken her to major libraries and archives throughout Europe, many in the United States, and to Mexico City. A past Vice President, Program Chair, and Member of the Directorium of the International Musicological Society, and former Chair of the IMS Study Group ‘Cantus planus’, Dr. Haggh-Huglo has also chaired the MLA-AMS Joint Committee on RISM, and her late husband, Michel Huglo, prepared four volumes of RISM catalogues with different collaborators. Dr. Haggh-Huglo is beginning the process to publish a completed two-volume study of plainchant by Du Fay that was sung for 500 years in northwest Europe and plans to turn her book into historical concerts bringing together chant, vocal polyphony, and organ music.
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As a musicologist who has published on the history of music at cities, courts, and in churches and monasteries, on office chant and on medieval music theory, I regularly use online databases. What I lack is easy access to sources from before 1500 and to notated manuscripts of church music, whether they be liturgical books, choirbooks of choral polyphony, or organ/manuscripts. For me to compile a list of musical sources from a particular city or timeframe or with a distinctive characteristic, such as rotulus or oblong (partbook) format, Hufnagel notation, or being of the genre of ordinal, requires hard-copy books and much effort. If a ‘work title’ as those of RISM, were to include short descriptions of entire sources, even like ‘anonymous compilation of treatises and chant,’ as well as the date and origin or provenance of the source, this would greatly help musicologists researching early modern sacred music. Beyond this, appropriate choices of cataloguing elements would be useful. The problems for early church music are known: much is anonymous, even untitled, and comprised of material ranging from tonaries to distinct offices and/or masses for saints, votive and festal polyphonic ordinaries or ordinaries whose purpose cannot be determined, untitled organ versets, and much more. I propose using several levels of specificity in descriptions, always preferring that including the most material efficiently. Single chants, polyphonic entities, or untitled distinct compositions, should be referred to by their text incipit (Salve regina, Te Deum, Obrecht Missa Maria zart), purpose if possible or necessary (individual mass movements or motets), or genre (untitled [sacred] keyboard work, untitled textless [sacred] vocal monophony), with the place and date of origin of the source if appropriate. Collections, such as chanted offices or masses in monophony or polyphonic mass ordinaries or propers or plenary cycles, should be identified only as such, without naming composite parts, but with the general work title, the destination of the liturgy (name of a city or a particular church, here Abbey of St. Emmeram, or religious order) and text incipits to distinguish offices (Arnold Vohburg, Office of St. Emmeram Sancte Emmeramme). Manuscript collections of compositions should be cited by shelf number and performer destination (vocal, keyboard), at least. Correcting or circumventing major cataloguing errors effectively would also be helpful.