Susan Forscher Weiss & Ichiro Fujinaga
The Peabody Conservatory of Music
The Johns Hopkins University
1 East Mt. Vernon Place
Baltimore, Maryland 21202


In 1996 a team of professors and students from The Peabody Conservatory of Music and The Johns Hopkins University joined together to produce a CD-ROM based multimedia learning environment for the study of Medieval and Renaissance Music. The application has enhanced the classroom experience through the incorporation of various media, including live performances of the music on instruments from the period, digitized images of scores and paintings, videos demonstrating performance techniques and well-writ ten, comprehensive texts, all easily accessible through an intuitive and attractive user-interface.

The current available texts, anthologies and recordings are woefully inaccurate, inadequate, and uninspired. When students are limited to these materials many lose interest in the subject matter. The proposed application allows the student to work at h is or her own pace, to take an active role in the learning and discovery process and to delve more deeply into the rich sources of information concerning musical performance culture and history before 1700. Students are able to explore music in civic sett ing, in aristocratic ones, in bourgeoisie environments, and in ecclesiastical settings, moving from area to area and making the connections between musical compositions, musicians, and styles within the overall social, historical and cultural fabric of a region and a particular time period. Through extensive research, our team used Macromedia’s suite of authoring packages which includes Director 4.0, the most powerful and most cost-effective of packages on the market in 1996.

We selected "Music at Court-16th Century-France" and began with a fairly well-known painting by the Master of Female Half-Lengths of three women making music. There is within the painting a segment of a vocal composition, "Jouissance vou s donneray," by the 16th-Century Parisian composer Claudin de Sermisy. The student can learn about the composition, a Parisian chanson, in general or as it applies to the oeuvre of Sermisy. Video and audio performance in as

many as fifteen different combinations ranging from vocal versions to others combining voice and instrument and still others with instruments alone are available. Students can also learn about performance practice of the period, about compositional pro cess, about the composer, the place in which he lived and worked, and about the popularity of this piece of music. In addition, students can learn about the role of women in the period, about Mary Magdalene, about dance and about a host of other musical a nd cultural aspects of life in the Sixteenth Century. They can follow Sermisy on his travels going with him to Italy as he accompanies his patron Francois I, or can follow the path of the piece as it is disseminated in manuscript and print during Sermisy’ s lifetime and after.


The Project

In 1996 a team of professors and student researchers and performers from The Peabody Conservatory of Music were awarded a mini-grant from the Subcommittee on the Electronic and Distance Education (SEDE) sponsored by the Provost of The Johns Hopkins Uni versity to produce a CD-ROM-based multimedia learning environment for the study of Early Music. The goal was and is to encourage students to learn and to promote a greater understanding of music written before the age of Bach. The study of Early Music pro vides a scaffolding for students on which they can build an understanding of the music of the Common Practice period (and all subsequent periods) is built. The project team was interdisciplinary, made up of musicologists, art historians, text scholars, so cio-economic historians, computer experts, and students. There was also informal participation from colleagues outside of Peabody including web site designers, art historians, historians, and musicologists from institutions within Maryland as well as univ ersities in this country and abroad. The original project team included Susan F. Weiss, the project director and a member of the Department of Music History at the Peabody; Charles Kim, a graduate of the Computer Music Department and a web designer; Ichir o Fujinaga, faculty member of the Computer Music Department and Associate Director of Information Technology; Mark Cudek, Director of the Peabody Renaissance Ensemble; Webb Wiggins, faculty member of the Early Music Department and a vocal coach; Laura Par ker, faculty member, Music Education Department; Joanne Riley, Homewood Academic Computing, The Johns Hopkins University; Lisa Sheppley, graduate student assistant to Susan F. Weiss.

This interactive multimedia tool in CD-ROM format intends to supplement a course in the History of Music of the Medieval and Renaissance periods (a standard requirement at most conservatories, colleges, and universities). The goal is to encourage stude nts to learn and to promote a greater understanding of music written before the age of Bach. Through this media one can explore aspects of musical composition, music theory, the development of instrumental style, biographies of composers and patrons, ques tions of performance practice, and discover interrelationships between musical and socio-historical events. As such, it is a multimedia event, bringing to life a lost soundscape.

The CD-ROM includes various media, including audio and video performances by trained conservatory musicians, together with digitized images of paintings and scores, and well-written and researched texts (See Figure 1, Artifacts Page). The disk consists of one small segment of music history: in this case, France in the early 16th century (See Figure 2, Time Map) and a particular four-voice composition by Claudin de Sermisy, based on a traditional or popular tune.

Figure 1, Artifacts Page

Figure 2, Time Map

All performances were done by Peabody students, guided by faculty from the Early Music Department. A member of the French department at The Johns Hopkins University helped students arrive at correct pronunciation and syllabification of the poetic text prior to recording the vocal versions. The music library and other libraries of the university provided us with facsimiles and some modern editions of the music. The Recording Arts and computer faculties of Peabody and The Johns Hopkins lent support with technical aspects of the project.

The program offers a comprehensive understanding and appreciation of Early Music by placing it in the precise socio-economic culture within which it flourished. The rationale for doing this project stemmed from an assessment made over a number of years teaching the required course in Medieval and Renaissance Music at the Peabody that the available texts, anthologies, and recordings were woefully inaccurate, inadequate, and uninspired. When students are limited to these materials alone, the majority los es interest in further pursuit of knowledge in this very important part of our musical heritage. The classroom experience must be augmented by other activities including listening to newer and better recordings and viewing contemporaneous images in order to help the student grasp meaningful understanding of the cultural environment surrounding the musical compositions. Many paintings and literary works are in fact rich sources of information concerning performance practice in the periods prior to the Baro que era. As these periods are the least familiar and perhaps the most mysterious to the majority of music students, it is particularly important to enliven the materials.

Geography, language, and culture are interdependent and our program can be of use not only in the teaching of music, but also in other disciplines, such as languages, the social sciences, and art history. This is also an area of increasing interest to secondary education, as music becomes a source of enrichment and an enhancement to the overall learning process.

One of the many advantages of an electronic learning environment (with its many tiers and levels of information) over traditional textbook pedagogy is its emphasis on the development of good visual and aural memory. Although the program focuses on a sp ecific area, we are confident that it will serve as a paradigm not only for cultures of music but for other disciplines in the humanities.

The project places a musical soundscape within the socioeconomic landscape in which it flourished. Although other musical CD-ROMS are available, such as the very fine series by Robert Winter, ours is unique in that we bring to life a composition from a very early period in the history of music and examine it, not in a single performance, but in as many different versions as it might have been heard. The student can navigate back and forth to see images of contemporaneous culture, read about people and events, and view artwork created at approximately the same time period as the musical composition being heard. This multicultural approach is destined to enrich any classroom experience and inspire both the students and professors with ideas for further c reative endeavors.

The team effort, the brainstorming, and intellectual energy generated by the opportunity to find new pathways to educate and engage students most definitely spreads enthusiasm for the project and helps to overcome possible phobias connected to the use of computer technology. The project also stimulates faculty to rethink their pedagogical methods and act as a preventive measure against burnout. Thus, the CD-ROM will serve students in music and other disciplines, faculty, the curriculum, and the general population.

The project consisted of one small segment of music history: France in the early 16th century and a particular four-voice composition by Claudin de Sermisy, based on a traditional tune. The student with accompanying images of Renaissance music making. For example, a student selects Music at Court-16th Century-Paris. The first level includes text and pictures describing basic historical and social conditions and subsequent learning paths include a study of musical forms, more information about the conte mporary figures in literature and the arts, as well as an in-depth study of the music itself. Readings are taken from primary and secondary sources, including the latest research and scholarship (see Bibliography). A time line scrolls through the period h ighlighting important contemporary cultural and historical events (See Figure 3, Time Line).

Figure 3, Time Line

On this CD-ROM the student has an opportunity to learn about the Parisian chanson. After looking at a number of scores and hearing them performed, the student can draw conclusions about style and form and is then able to apply the knowledge gained thus far to a musical problem. For example, in the painting by the Master of Female Half-Lengths, referred to as The Concert or Three Musicians, the trio of musicians is shown reading music and performing a vocal and instrumental composition tha t has been identified as "Jouissance vous donneray" by the 16th-century Parisian chanson composer Claudin de Sermisy. The vocalist, a soprano we assume, is accompanied by a lute and transverse unkeyed flute. All three musicians are reading from two music books. The student will have learned that during this period (1500–1530), four-part frottole, chanson, and lieder are often performed as voice and lute duets. The student would need to determine which parts were played by which musicians in this particular painting. They could make choices and hear them played in all the possible combinations. After a period of study and discovery a student would be able to determine that if the flute were to play the alto part, the least important line would be come the most prominent, thereby confusing the cadences. But the student would have to come to this conclusion after hearing a number of versions. Other aspects of music and culture are revealed through am in-depth study of this painting (and four other v ery similar ones by the same artist, see Figure 4, Five Paintings).

Figure 4, Five Paintings

At any point in the program, the students can move to another category. Should they wish to know more about the composer Sermisy or his poet Marot they could click on to the "People" icon or they could opt to retrieve more information on othe r examples of music and musical performance in other very similar, but not entirely identical paintings (See Figure 5, People Page). A student might wish to learn more about the original notation and about part-books in printed and manuscript sources. At this point a comparison between the original facsimile score and any of the modern transcriptions would shed light on issues of editing early music (Figure 6, Music Page). The program stimulates critical and creative thinking by encouraging the students t o assimilate information from different, but related disciplines. Music students can see the relevance of their subject within the broader context of other academic areas and non-music students can gain accessible information on a period of music that is usually considered out-of-reach.

Figure 5, People Page

Figure 6, Music Page


Evaluation and Feedback

The process of having the students and faculty engaged in the research and performance practice efforts, learning to work cooperatively, created institutional enthusiasm and energy as the project evolved. Students in the undergraduate required course i n Medieval and Renaissance Music have been testing the prototype both as learners and as critics. For the prototype, one member of the team gave a presentation in the Computer Music Department multimedia grant seminar. That provided opportunities to share and explore problems and challenges that were common to the individual projects and also to receive constructive criticism. Members of The Johns Hopkins Academic Computing department visited the lab at Peabody to offer their input on design and implement ation. Other interdepartmental and interdivisional collaborations included the singers meetings with a member of Hopkins French department to arrive at correct pronunciation and syllabification of the poetic text prior to recording the vocal versions. The music library and other libraries of the university provided us with facsimiles and some modern editions of the music. The recording arts and computer faculty lend support to help with the editing of both video and audio. All of the above resources were fully exploited in the production of the CD-ROM.

Enthusiasm for this type of learning far outweighs the criticisms of the limitations of the CD-ROM. Several students chose to do independent work in computer applications to early music. One of these projects was completed by an undergraduate student w ho had an interest in the history of notation. The student was a double major in music and electrical engineering and found the process of uniting musicological research with the skills needed for creating a web site particularly rewarding.

As a result of campus-wide publicity and an article that appeared in The Johns Hopkins Gazette (vol. 26, no. 8), other divisions of the university have expressed interest in our methodology. The project director was asked to give a multimedia presentat ion in the Masters of Liberal Arts program in the Division of Continuing Studies. We designed a web site that included a soon-to-be published article that had at an earlier date been presented at a conference entitled "Food and Eating in Medieval Soc iety." The paper, the musical examples (in facsimile edition and in transcription), the recording of the examples, and the visual images were all transferred to the web as a reference for the students in the course.

In addition, there have been applications and interest in the program beyond Peabody and The Johns Hopkins, at local institutions, such as the Walters Art Gallery and the Maryland Institute College of Art, as well as outside of Maryland. The project di rector consulted on a number of other multimedia projects that combined music and technology, such as the exhibition of music in medieval manuscripts "Singing Along With Guido and Friends" at Baltimore’s Walter’s Art Gallery. This show, on displ ay from November 1996-January 1997, was a joint project of the Peabody and the museum. By scanning the images and wall text, as well as the recordings of chant and medieval instrumental music, we were able to provide students, teachers, and scholars, as w ell as laypersons with a documentary that examines the relationships between music, religion, history, classical literature, and art history during the Middle Ages.

In Spring 1997 the project director acted as consultant on Common Life in the Middle Ages, a web site sponsored by the Annenberg Foundation and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting aimed at to secondary school students. This web site was chos en as "Yahoo Pick of the Month" in September 1997.

In an effort to get additional feedback from outside experts members of the original team presented at the Second Annual SEDE Conference this past October and at The Johns Hopkins University Board of Trustees at their fall meeting.

At the end of the spring semester, we presented a pilot study to the students for the purpose of getting initial feedback and helpful suggestions. The results were extraordinarily positive. Students have been able to see the practical application to st udying music within a cultural context. The class of 45 students was divided, based largely on self-selection into three groups: the first (15 students: 7 females, 8 males) chose to use the CD-ROM program only; the second (23 students: 12 females, 8 males ) chose to use the required text and recordings; the third (7 students: 1 female, 6 males) elected to use both text, recordings, and the CD-ROM program. For the final exam, the students were expected to answer a series of questions based on their reading, listening, or experience with the CD-ROM. Questions were geared both to general knowledge and to specific points requiring the use of visual and aural memory. The result of the exam showed that the third group (CD-ROM and standard materials) scored highe r than the other groups, followed by the first group (CD-ROM only). Among the comments, many wrote that the graphics were beautiful and that CD-ROM is a fun and effective way to learn and to supplement music history and performance practice. All enjoyed t he audio and video, the magnificent images, and the time line that provided them with chronological framework, often missing in textbooks. A similar evaluation process including a Likert-type scale survey is planned. We also expect evaluative comments and criticism from other faculty at Peabody and scholars around the world over the Internet when this material become available on the Web.


Follow-up and Dissemination

In the future we hope to make the project permanently available over the Internet on Peabody’s web server, thus enabling access by an international population of students, scholars, and lay people. It is hoped that the new format can be used to revamp the current undergraduate curriculum in Music History. The program could be adapted for use at the high school level for classes in humanities and history. In addition, the project will be key to the syllabus of a number of other course offerings in the C onservatory including the course "A History of Performance Practice," a new offering, "The Social History of Music," to be team taught by the project director Susan Weiss and The Johns Hopkins University history professor Richard Goldt hwaite, and the graduate seminars, The History of Notation and Renaissance Music: form Music from Machaut to Monteverdi. It will also serve to enrich courses in the history, art history, humanities, and language departments of The Johns Hopkins University . In Spring 1999, the French and Musicology departments of The Johns Hopkins and Peabody plan a joint symposium on The Arts and Culture of the 14th Century. We plan to undertake similar studies for other countries in Europe, such as Italy, Germany, Spain, and England in order to complete a series of web pages on Music in Western Civilization.

The next stage in this particular project would be to trace this chanson’s lineage back to France in the time of the 13th century, examining a monophonic composition by a well known troubadour, followed by a composition by Guillaume de Machaut, the mos t famous composer of the period known as the Ars Nova, or 14th century, to two works, one by Guillaume Dufay, and the other by Josquin des Prez, the two leading representatives of the 15th and early 16th centuries respectively. In each example, we hope to provide the same kind of panorama of events related to the music as exists in the prototype, each of which will be interactive. The content of the project will be permanently available over the Internet, thus enabling access by an international populatio n of students, scholars, and lay people. The long-range goal will be to revamp the current undergraduate curriculum in Music History. In addition, the project will be of value to a number of other course offerings in the humanities at The Johns Hopkins Un iversity. We eventually hope to create web pages for early music and culture of Germany, Italy, England, and Spain. Based on the prototype we created we will expand the curriculum to earlier periods, add more interactivity, transfer the data from CD-ROM t o web format, and make it available over the Internet. By expanding the prototype to include music from the three preceding centuries we can develop a chronological approach that could then be interfaced with similar studies of other geographical centers in Western Europe (Early Music in Germany, Italy, England, Spain, Poland, etc.), as well as links with non-Western centers. Furthermore, with the increasing proliferation of computer systems with multimedia playback capabilities, students may access the w eb pages from any home or dorm rooms equipped with such a system. Bibliographies and interlocking web sites will be available for those wishing to examine issues and concepts in greater depth.

In the expanded web pages, students will be able to explore music and culture in the 13th, 14th, and 15th centuries in the French-speaking lands of Western Europe. The student will be given opportunities at each step to ask and answer questions, testi ng his knowledge on the way to becoming fluent in the musical language and vocabulary of the period. The research, writing, web designing, rehearsals of the music, and overall content will resemble the prototype, but the expanded programs on the web will be enhanced by activities that will reveal the students’ progress.

We will consult periodically with an advisory group of specialists, many of them colleagues at other institutions, including: Margaret Bent (Professor of Music, All Souls College, Oxford University), Jane Bernstein (Professor of Music, Tufts University ), Bonnie Blackburn (Oxford University Press), Sayeed Choudhury (Academic Computing, The Johns Hopkins University), Kristine Forney (Professor of Music, University of California at Long Beach State and editor of The Enjoyment of Music, a textbook f or college-level Music Appreciation courses), Brenda Knox (Academic Computing, The Johns Hopkins University), Ann McNamee (Music Theorist and Chair of the Music Department, Swarthmore College), Stephen G. Nichols (James M. Beall Professor of French and Ch air of the French Department, The Johns Hopkins University), Will Noel (Curator of Medieval Manuscripts and Books, The Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore), William Prizer (Chair of the Music Department, UCSB), Colin Slim (Professor Emeritus of Music, Universi ty of California at Irvine), Reinhard Strohm (Chair, Music Department, Oxford University), Daniel H. Weiss (Associate Professor, History of Art, The Johns Hopkins University), and Craig Wright (Professor of Musicology, Yale University).


Selected Bibliography

Jane Bernstein, French Chansons of the Sixteenth Century, University Park, Pa., 1985.

Basel University Library, MS F. IX, 59-62, no. 44, and MS F. X. 17-20, no. 71, facsimiles.

Howard Mayer Brown, Music in the French Secular Theater, 1400-1550, Cambridge, Mass., 1963.

Isabelle Cazeaux, ed., Claudin de Sermisy. Collected Works. Corpus Mensurabilis Musicae 52 (1974). III, p. 138.

_______________, "Claudin de Sermisy" in The New Grove Dictionary of Music, vol. 17, pp. 171-176.

_______________, "The Secular Music of Claudin de Sermisy" (unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Columbia University, 1961), vol, I, pp. 72ff.

Max J. Friedländer, Early Netherlandish Painting, vol. 12, Leyden and Brussels, 1975, pp. 18-21.

James Haar, editor, Chanson & Madrigal, 1480-1530, Cambridge, Mass., 1964.

Daniel Heartz, "Mary Magdalen, Lutenist," Journal of The Lute Society of America, vol. 5 (1972), pp. 55-58.

____________ Preludes, Chansons and Dances for Lute/Published by Pierre Attaingnant, Paris (1529-1530), Neuilly-sur-Seine, 1964

____________Pierre Attaignant, Royal Printer of Music, Berkeley, 1969.

____________"Au pres de vous: Claudin’s Chanson and the Commerce of Publishers’ Arrangements," The Journal of the American Musicological Society, xxiv (1971), pp. 193-225.

Vladimir F. Levinson-Lessing, The Hermitage, Leningrad: Medieval and Renaissance Masters, London, 1967.

Laura Macy, "Women’s History and Early Music" in Companion to Medieval and Renaissance Music, ed. Tess Knighton and David Fallows, London, 1992, pp. 93-100.

C.A. Mayer, ed., Clément Marot, Oeuvres Lyriques (London, 1964), p. 177 (edition of Marot’s L’Adolescence Clementine (1532).

Carol Neuls-Bates, Women in Music, Boston, 1996.

Paul O’Dette, "Plucked Instruments," A Performer’s Guide to Renaissance Music, New York, 1994, pp. 139-153.

John Parkinson, "A Chanson by Claudin de Sermisy," Music and Letters 39 (1958), pp. 118-122.

Gustave Reese, Music in the Renaissance, New York, 1959.

Albert Seay, ed., Pierre Attaignant, Transcriptions of Chansons for Keyboard. Corpus Mensurabilis Musicae 20 (1961), p. 192.

H. Colin Slim, "Instrumental versions, c. 1515-1554, of a late-fifteenth-century chanson, ‘O waerder mont,’" in Iain Fenlon, ed., Music in Medieval and Early Modern Europe: Patronage, Sources, and Texts, Cambridge, 1981, pp. 131-161.

_____________"Mary Magdalene, musician and dancer," Early Music, vol. viii (October 1980), pp. 460-473.

_____________"Music and Dancing with Mary Magdalen in a Laura Vestalis," in The Crannied Wall: Women, Religion, and the Arts: Early Modern Europe, ed. Craig Monson, Ann Arbor, Michigan, pp. 139ff.

_____________"Paintings of Lady Concerts and the Transmission of "Jouissance vous Donneray" in Imago Musicae (1984), pp. 51ff.

Rob C. Wegman, "Musica ficta" in Companion to Medieval and Renaissance Music, ed. Tess Knighton and David Fallows, London, 1992, pp. 265-274.

Susan Forscher Weiss, "If Music Be the Food of Love: Medieval and Renaissance Wedding Banquets and Other Feasts" in Food and Eating in Medieval Society, London: Hambledon Press, 1998

_________________, consultant, "Common Life in the Middle Ages" for Annenberg/CPB, September 1997 URL: http://www.learner.org

_________________, "Singing Along with Guido and Friends: Music In Manuscripts at the Walters Art Gallery," Bulletin of The Walters Art Gallery, October 1996, p. 5

Franz Wickhoff, "Der Bilder weiblicher Halbfiguren aus der Zeit und Umgebung Franz I. von Frankreich," in Jahrbuch der kunsthistorischen Sammlungen des allerhöchsten Kaiserhauses, pp. 221-245.