Opening the Geese Book

The official project web-site was launched on November 27, 2012

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The broad goal of the project is to provide a critical model for both re-integrating the arts and recontextualizing them historically. A multimedia work from the late Middle Ages is being explored and (re-)presented through the multimedia technologies of our day. The book will be “opened” for today’s audiences using both the theoretical tools of our day and the historical specificities of its own time.

The endeavor focuses on one single work: the lavishly and whimsically illuminated, two-volume liturgical manuscript known as the Geese Book. Produced in Nuremberg, Germany between 1504 and 1510, this gradual preserves the complete liturgy compiled for the parish of St. Lorenz, as it was sung by the choir of school boys and young adults before the Reformation was introduced in the city in 1525. In 1962 the Samuel H. Kress Foundation gave this work to the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York, where it remains today. Measuring 65 by 44 cm, the volumes are the largest in the collection. Today they are particularly valued for their high quality illuminations, several of which employ fanciful and provocative satirical imagery. The book takes its name from an enigmatic, self-referential, bas-de-page illustration that shows a choir of geese and a fox singing from a large chant manuscript with a wolf as their choirmaster.

The project is composed of several products and events that are being released or taking place at various times. The centerpiece is a web site about the manuscript with a complete digital facsimile, sound recordings, high resolution photographs of the illuminations, annotations, explanations, commentary, and essays by several specialists on issues concerning the book’s production, function, history, and critical theory. Associated documents and photographs of related works of art will also be employed to gain a fuller picture of the various contexts of this book. Political, social, and economic issues are crucial to the study. Additional project components include an audio CD with 70 minutes of recorded chants, a concert on location in Nuremberg, and a radio broadcast.

The present undertaking is designed as an international interdisciplinary pilot project. To this end, a musicologist and an art historian are heading a team of experts that include digital specialists, musicians and musicologists, art historians and conservators, as well as scholars of medieval Latin and history. It is hoped that the end result will demonstrate how new electronic media can be employed for scholarly exploration of the multisensory art experiences of the past.




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