AMIS 2022: Historic Cardboard and Metal Discs Revisited

The American Musical Instrument Society (AMIS) promotes better understanding of all aspects of the history, design, construction, restoration, and usage of musical instruments in all cultures and from all periods. In June 2022, their annual meeting was held at Studio Bell, home of the National Music Centre.

Historic Cardboard and Metal Discs Revisited
Heike Fricke

Heike Fricke works at the Forschungsstelle Digital Organology at the Musikinstrumentenmuseum der Universität Leipzig. She studied musicology at Freie Universität Berlin and holds a PhD in musicology. She has worked with the musical instrument museums in Berlin, Edinburgh, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Heike has published articles in MGG, New Grove, and Lexikon der Holzblasinstrumente and has written several books. She is the editor of the German special magazine rohrblatt and the CIMCIM Bulletin.

Music comes in very different formats, for example as an audio recording, as a musical text or as a performance. “Analogue” musicology has not yet succeeded in bringing these three types of sources together in a comparable, comprehensible, or even automated manner. Computer musicology, on the other hand, succeeds in this direct comparison and analysis by converting these different formats into one exchange format. The research project DISKOS at the Musikinstrumentenmuseum der Universität Leipzig, funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, considers historic piano rolls in its collection as important and hitherto unexplored sources for the musical practice of their time: they store the finger movements of pianists using a pioneering recording system around 1900. Basically, all sound information carriers store coded movement impulses that are transferred to a musical instrument with a control interface. The 2400 piano rolls that have been digitized since 2018 will now be joined by their technical predecessors, cardboard and metal disks. A condition for the quantitative analysis of the entire range of digitization formats and data visualizations is their conversion into one common format: as a prototype, the MIDI standard is chosen for this purpose. With this standard developed, it will be possible to access and compare printed music, musical storage media, and audio recordings. The digitization of cardboard or metal discs has not been done anywhere so far. The DISKOS project also breaks new ground with the development of a distant-reading tool for the analysis of different source formats by means of an exchange format for multimodal sources. Also, computer philological questions, e.g., of stylometry, have not yet been applied to musical interpretation. This paper will introduce the concept and the working steps of the research project DISKOS.

Watch more videos from the 2022 AMIS Conference here.