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Thesaurus musicarum latinarum.

Thesaurus musicarum latinarum. Thomas J. Mathiesen, Project Director. Center for the History of Music Theory and Literature, Indiana University. [Requires a Web browser and an Internet connection.]

It was with great interest and enthusiasm that I accepted the task of reviewing the Thesaurus musicarum latinarum (TML) for Notes. As a medieval musicologist in his second career as a working librarian, I remember when TML first appeared on the scene, back when FTP and listserv were the dominant means of accessing files over the Internet (well before browsers made their appearance). It was both exciting and exhilarating to be able to participate in one of the first "global" music consortiums, where the effort was done by working musicologists, the content was freely available through FTP download, and one could get regular updates on the progress and content of the project through e-mail. Now, in this Internet environment where Web pages and Web sites are more common and convenient than FTP download and Veronica (remember her?!), TML continues to move forward as a pioneer in the area of music on the Web, and in the continuing development of global participation by the music community to provide open access to this unique and otherwise hard-to-acquire material.

As the Web site states, TML is "an evolving database of the entire corpus of Latin music theory written during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance." As such, it fills a huge gap for scholars in these areas of study, by 1) providing access to these materials in one location, and 2) providing it for free. Other databases with this kind of depth of content and scholarship entail an annual expenditure on the part of libraries in order to provide access for their patrons. The goals of TML are immediately apparent when one accesses the Web site. Instead of going immediately to database content, or the actual front page of the Web site, the user is taken to a copyright notice, where it is made clear that everything is either public domain or from copyrighted materials for which TML has obtained permission. In addition, the publishers make clear that they do claim copyright on content created by TML staff (introduction, canon, text and graphics, the encoding system, and the compilation of the sources).

Once the user enters the Web site, it is readily apparent that the project is under the direction of the Center for the History of Music Theory and Literature at Indiana University, and that Thomas J. Mathiesen is the director. The introduction to TML describes what it is, as well as other projects and databases that it complements but does not duplicate. These other projects include: the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae (, the Lexicon musicum Latinum medii aevi (, the Thesaurus Linguae Latinae (, Saggi musicali italiani (, and the Center for the Computer Analysis of Texts ( The introduction also states the two fundamentals of the project since its beginning: that users be able to locate and retrieve sources without editorial intrusions (even those that correct errors); and that every printed edition of a particular text be available for users, even if it has been replaced by a more modern edition.

The content of the database itself comprises Latin texts related in some way to music theory and composition in the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Most of our understanding of practical matters related to musical composition during these eras comes from these manuscripts; in fact, without these treatises, modern musicologists would have no idea when compositional techniques became standard practice. These treatises were often written by well-known musicians of the time, or by Latin scholars describing and defining current compositional and notational practices. The sources, while mainly Latin, come from all over Western Europe. Many of the treatises have musical examples, illustrations, and drawings, showing current notational and/or fingering practices, which are provided as GIF images for examination and research. Most of the sources are well-known and already published in various other sources; what TML provides is the opportunity to manipulate the data within one treatise, between a number of treatises of the same or different time periods, and even data within various versions and printings of one treatise. There are no audio files associated with the data. This would be an interesting feature for TML to consider in the future, to have audio files that illustrate the discussion at a particular point in the treatise.

TML offers users four different ways to access the content: through the CHMTL-L listserv, through FTP, through the Web site itself, and on CD-ROM. One can even download the entire TML database to one's personal computer, and search the contents using one of two programs: GOfer (for Macintosh or DOS) and Eureka! (for Windows98, NT, 2000, or XP). Either program is available for $20 from TML. Using the software, one can customize searches of the TML in endless ways, such as between editions or between centuries, and save the results for future analysis and study.

There are two ways to access TML through the Web site. One is to search the entire content of TML, while the other is to browse the database by century or centuries. When browsing, there are nine time periods from which the user can choose: 3rd to 5th centuries, 6th to 8th centuries, 9th to 11th centuries, the 12th century, the 13th century, the 14th century, the 15th century, the 16th century, and the 17th century. When searching the entire TML database, a search interface appears with Boolean search terms and three search boxes. One can search by "AND," "OR," or "ANDNOT." In addition, a drop-down menu allows the user to restrict the search to the specific periods mentioned above. The user can also alter the default settings of ten files to display per page, and the number of lines of context. Instructions for using the search interface, as well as hints for searching, are provided at the bottom of the search page. The list of search results displays each occurrence of the search terms in context, and provides a link to each retrieved document.

When one chooses to access the contents of the database by the centuries icons, one forgoes use of the search interface and goes directly to a listing of the TML contents for that century. For each entry, the name of the file and direct access to it is provided first, followed by the author of the treatise, the title of the treatise, the source of the text of the treatise in the database, whether there are graphics files included, and a permission statement if required.

In conclusion, TML has become an essential resource, not just for musicologists who specialize in medieval and Renaissance music, but also for broader disciplines such as late antiquity and medieval arts, sciences, and history, as well as lexicography and philology. The fact that the content of TML is available and accessible through a variety of technologies accommodates scholars and users at any technological level, and the fact that the information can be customized and manipulated for whatever purpose or scholarship is necessary is indeed innovative. High praise should be given to Mathiesen, who was the founder, director, and inspiration behind TML from the start, and who still directs and supervises the project today. TML clearly exhibits many of the features that make so much sense for database projects today: open access, ease of use, direct access to content, both search and browsing capabilities, and data that can be manipulated and personalized by the user for whatever tasks and directions are needed. For those of us who were there when TML first appeared on the scene (in the early 1990s), it was an inspiration and revolution in scholarship; today, it still exhibits this innovative attitude through its open access and public domain materials. Clearly, this is a highly marketable product, and kudos goes to Mathiesen and Indiana University for continuing to make this available at no cost to anyone interested in using it.


University of Nevada, Las Vegas
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Author:Eden, Brad
Geographic Code:1U3IN
Date:Sep 1, 2006
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