New Media -- New Motivations -- New Methodologies

Users can decide when and where they wish additional information, thus replacing the rather cumbersome yet necessary apparatuses of the past – appendices, indexes, footnotes, figures, and plates. Because sound clips, colored photographs, and transcriptions of documents can be stored in highly compressed form a great volume of primary source material can thus be made available for further scholarship. Although countless CD ROMs and Web sites have now been produced as “art education” for children and adults who are non-specialists, frequently as “edutainment” in connection with exhibitions, the limitless potential of new technologies to further and enhance scholarship in the humanities has yet to be exploited. Indeed the new media offer countless possibilities for preserving a wealth of data and presenting specificities in uncompromising ways that neither distract nor burden the user. Why should scholars resign themselves to the restrictions imposed by using only still black-and-white images? The potentials here introduced through the use of new-media technology may be especially welcome at a moment in time when traditional scholarly publishing is prohibitively expensive, and therefore publishers are increasingly favoring broad thematic overviews at the expense of complex historical case studies.

An important general goal is to emphasize the openness of this and other such illuminated liturgical manuscripts, or for that matter, of works of art in general. In order to demonstrate this, users will be confronted with alternatives when exploring the significance of the manuscript itself. For some viewers, the books themselves may have been perceived as a celebration of civic pride through the exhibition of the older traditions in the city’s own liturgy, opposing the newer and more standardized diocesan rites; for others they may have been viewed simply as large, lavish, and ostentatious books, whose Latin contents remained somewhat mystified, visible only from a distance and only from their covers.

Similarly, various intention/reception possibilities will be pointed out in response to the search for meanings in the enigmatic bas-de-page illuminations. For these purposes users will be encouraged – through translations and annotations – to look carefully at the chant texts that occur in proximity to the satirical pictures. Additionally users will be provided with reports of local historical anecdotes and information about political tensions that were current, in order to suggest a range of possible meanings that may have been produced for or by contemporary viewers. For example, the choir boys peering into the manuscript and viewing the hapless geese may have recognized a warning to beware of those in authority who abuse their power. Contemporary documents chronicle a rebellion of school boys against an overly strict teacher and cantor in one of the Nuremberg parishes. At the same time clerics may have perceived a disguised call for solidarity against the bishop in Bamberg, who had in vain endeavored to maintain control of the rather independently minded Nuremberg parish churches. This particular work invites such speculations through its provocative self-referential representations of singing and making music that are brashly juxtaposed to the liturgical texts and scenes from sacred history. Interactive electronic media harbor a great potential for endeavors such as this one that wish to explore multiple meanings or open-ended interpretations. The nonlinear format of electronic media encourages the consideration of complex interrelated issues and interdisciplinary approaches.

The major components – the Web site containing the online facsimile, annotations and interpretive material, and the audio compact disc with selected chants from the Geese Book -- will be of interest not only to specialists but also to an educated lay audience. Through these media, both music and the visual arts will be reintegrated and recontextualized. The kinds of listening and viewing activities that have been sought for purposes of pleasure during leisure moments will take on new meanings. Since the web site is largely self-directed it will require a more active involvement than is common for audiences that regularly avail themselves of classical music, exhibitions, or documentaries that are broadcast. Ultimately it is hoped that through these means, broader audiences will be able to observe how public (religious) rituals with multisensory components served to shape people’s lives and form their attitudes. It is further hoped that audiences thus educated, will become more willing to use public and private funds to support the arts and humanities as an integral part of life on all levels, rather than perceiving them as nonessentials, luxuries, or the purview of an elite privileged segment of society or reserved for the members of a leisure class.

The project is designed to maximize the outcome from years of fund-raising, research, and preparation. Utilizing funds from a wide range of institutional and corporate sources as well as cost-sharing arrangements, the project attempts to produce cost-effective results in a variety of venues.


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©2004-2012 by Corine Schleif and Volker Schier