Soloistic Instrumental Music in the Central European Cultural Region (ca. 1500–ca. 1550): Instrumental Praxis and Humanistic Contexts

FWF-Project V661 (Elise-Richter-Programme)
Project term: 2019–2024
Head: Dr. Kateryna Schöning


The research project answers the following questions: When was a textless (instrumental) composition to be heard in the life of a people in the first half of the 16th century? What was the function of a short idiomatic instrumental composition in the musical life of that time? What did the users of tablatures at that time expect? How were the noted examples of ‘autonomous’ compositions ‘read’? ‘Autonomous’ solo instrumental compositions and sketches from previously unexplored tablatures will be revealed, transcribed and annotated. For the first time, the history of solo instrumental music is explained in its functional context using Central European sources. The focus is on the southern German language area, especially on the Viennese region as an important cultural centre and transfer site. In addition, the humanistic basis – ‘Commonplace’ practice – as a basic method for the analysis of instrumental music before 1600 is elaborated for the first time. Student notebooks, notebooks for domestic use, or textbooks – which the tablatures often were – are rich in evidence of the ‘Commonplace’ culture. The project explains the compositional and improvisational techniques of the ‘autonomous’ instrumental music and radically changes our analysis of instrumental music before 1600 and our ideas about the repertoire. Also new is the approach of exploring the bourgeois solo instrumental praxis of the first half of the 16th century, both in terms of its different social connections (court scholars, student circles and beginners) and with regard to the functions of handed-down source types (manuscripts with print prototypes and ‘commonplace books’) and in the context of the change of media (manuscript – print). The related performance and compositional practices as well as didactics will be explained in an interdisciplinary way.
Besides numerous international publications and presentations at international conferences, a complete edition of the hitherto unknown tablature (D-LEm I. 8° 191) with comprehensive commentary and will be produced within the framework of this project (2020, in preparation).

The results of the project will be presented in the following forms:

  • In a study on handwritten lute and keyboard tablatures in the context of humanistic education being developed as a habilitation thesis.
  • In a comprehensive database on the topic, which complements the habilitation thesis. The database will be linked to, among others, the leading websites on Renaissance music research and performance (e.g. LORP - The Lute Online Resources Portal; Society of Renaissance Studies) and will significantly complement these sites.

The following events also take place within this project:

  • International workshop Handwritten tablatures of the 16th century as media of musical and practical tradition, on 16.5. 2019 in Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, Basel (CH), together with Prof. Marc Lewon, Schola Cantorum Basiliensis Basel.
  • International Conference Tabulatures Reflected in Instrumental Practice and Didactics, University of Vienna 2022; Cooperation partners: Dr Veronika Giglberger, Head of the DFG project ‘Manuscript Tablatures and Part Books up to Middle of the 17th Century’, Bavarian State Library, Dr Reiner Nägele, Head of the Music Department of the Bavarian State Library, Munich (DE); Prof. Marc Lewon, Basel (CH) and Prof. John Griffiths, Melbourne (AU).

The publication of the project website and database is in preparation.