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This wiki space contains archival documentation of Project Bamboo, April 2008 - March 2013.

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Researching Chanson: Early Modern Musical Texts and Material Culture

Collection Date: April 9 2009
Scholar #1 Info:

  • Name: Prof. Kate Van Orden
  • Email:
  • Title: Professor of Music History
  • Institution/Organization: UC Berkeley
  • Field of Study/Creative Endeavor: Musicology, History of European Music

Collector Info (can be the same as "Scholar" above):

  • Name: Richer Meyer, Colin Dingler
  • Email:,
  • Title:
  • Institution/Organization: UC Berkeley

Notes on Methodology:

Interview in Professor van Orden's office, Morrison Hall


The scope section is provided by the collector, with input from the scholar(s), and attempts to estimate the scope of the group that performs the processes described: How broadly do the practices described in this narrative apply to others in same field, in related fields, etc?

  1. In the opinion of the scholar, who participates in the process the story describes?
    (e.g. "just this scholar", "many people in the scholar's field of inquiry", "all academics", etc.)

many people in the scholar's field of inquiry

  1. What is this process intended to accomplish for the scholar?

A historical narrative, a better understanding of research methods and problems related to historiography in the field

  1. Who is the intended audience of the processes described?

Scholars in the field, students of music history

  1. Is this the only process the scholar uses to accomplish his/her goals?


  1. What "shared services" would help transform the story into something of more benefit for the scholar or his/her audience?  What process or processes in the story could be automated?

Better digitization of musical scores and related texts, better digitized and searchable indexes and bibliographies detailing the texts and their locations, more access of sound recordings via the school library, tools for better integrating audio-visual materials in the classroom (e.g. Audacity...)


Please provide some keywords that will allow us to group or cluster related stories--or aspects of stories.

1. Was this story collected for a particular Bamboo working group? 

 Scholarly Narratives

2. Suggested keywords: Does this narrative contain elements that could be mapped to these keywords?  If so, please indicate which ones and briefly describe the mapping.  Add any additional keywords in #3. (These are global keywords from this page keywords)

  • Aggregate:  collecting meta data about geographically disparate source texts in a given field of inquiry and collecting this data in an archive
  • Annotate: adding tags and notes to digital images of material documents
  • Consider: analyzing data gather about historical documents
  • Discover: creating new narratives and theories about historical period and research methods in field
  • Engage: presenting findings to readership and students in academic setting
  • Publish: creating books and articles as final "archive" of primary research and data analysis
  • Preserve: creating digital records (including extensive meta-data) about physical objects (musical scores and volumes)
  • Share: making notes and images gathered in research available to other scholars

3. Please list additional keywords here: Digitize, Tag, Archive


Professor van Orden is currently working on a research project about material cutlure and 16th century European chanson, a popular genre of French song.  Her research looks at the surviving material documents of these songs in order to 1) understand what the material record tells us about performance practices, attitudes about musical texts and how they were used, circulated, and preserved; 2) understand how the narrative that musical historians create is shaped by the fact that very few of these material documents survive, understand the attitudes and practices about the material documents that have influenced their preservation.  

Her research methods on this project involve two phases: 1) primary research of the documents, which takes place in Europe where the documents exist in library archives and private collections. 2) Analysis of the research data back home in order to develop a historical narrative, and to write a book.  
1) In the first phase she locates the primary documents using a combination of print and digital reference texts, travels to see the texts in collections, looks at all existing manuscripts related to the project, and takes detailed notes about the documents.  Tools that she uses to search for the text vary from the reference room at the UC Berkeley music library, print and digital catalogues at archives that hold the documents (e.g. the Bibliotech National in France), print bibliographies listing texts by the presses that printed them, and catalogs located in private collections where the documents are held.  Locating documents presents certain challenges, as indexes of many collections are not up to date, even in major collection like Bib. National in Paris, and furthermore, most music collections are not fully searchable via digital records.  Musical documents are often separate from other parts of library collection because they involves a different "set of descriptors."  Card catalogs tend to be more complete, so researching catalogs in person is necessary.  
    When she studies the actual documents, she gathers a variety of information (meta-data about the objects): information about binding, format, material condition of document, marks and annotations made on the document, information about ownership history of the document.  She also takes extensive digital photographs of the documents, and keys these photographs to written notes, which list contents of the volumes she looks at.  Before the ability to make digital images, she would often trace out by hand distinguishing features from the documents/bindings.  Currently she organizes her notes and images by date and location of research, so that during the second phase of research she can correlate notes to images by a tag such as, "June 17th, Verona."  As some of this data is difficult to reconstruct from micro-film reproductions of the documents, in-person research is crucial for Prof. Van Orden.  

2) The second phase of her research on this project occurs at home.  In this phase she analyzes the notes and images she has collected.  Digital files are already organized by date/location, and she digitizes her written notes, organized in the same date/location fashion, by scanning on the music dept. copier/scanner.  Her analysis at this phase is directed towards producing a historical narrative about the documents, and a theoretical narrative about historiographical issues related to the study of this type of document.  One digital tool that she uses in this phase of analysis is a google search, which allows her to find the source documents referenced or excerpted in the documents she studies.  By googling a phrase in latin she can locate the biblical or liturgical text it came from.  In general, she describes the analysis phase of research as extremely "novelistic"; ultimately the books she writes only uses a fraction of the total research data.  Unused data is stored in digital files on her computer, or in physical files she keeps.  Prof. Van Orden sees the book itself as the ultimate archive of her research, however--a carefully revised presentation of the most important findings of her research.  

Teaching is also a dimension related to her research.  Her teaching methods involve power-point presentations combining images, text, and audio files.  To find images she either searches online using google or related searches, or she scans images and scores.  For locating musical files she primarily uses the UC Berkeley library catalog, as only sound recordings held at Berkeley are accessible.

Other Comments:

Prof. van Orden's dept. web page, reflecting research interests, etc.:



Example Link