The online platform Early Modern Songscapes is co-developed by the University of Toronto Scarborough Library’s Digital Scholarship Unit and the University of Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities. It aims:
  1. to provide insight into song’s versatility in diverse textual and performance contexts; 
  2. to produce Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) and Music Encoding Initiative (MEI) editions of a selected corpus of early modern songs, together with audio and video recordings of those songs in performance; 
  3. to animate the acoustic and visual facets of early modern English song culture; and
  4. to generate an interdisciplinary and collaborative hub for work on sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English songs.
There is a great richness, elusiveness, and ambiguity in the term “song” as a generic category in the period. Early Modern Songscapes will focus on “ayres,” songs composed with a primary vocal line and usually performed with instrumental accompaniment. Popularized in the late sixteenth century with the published lute song collections of John Dowland and Thomas Campion, the ayre evolved in the first half of the seventeenth century into the declamatory vocal style associated with Henry Lawes. The genre’s emphasis on clear communication of text makes it an ideal case study for the rich interplay between music and poetry in early modern England. 

Although the ayre was a vital component of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century musical soundscapes, surprisingly few studies have attempted to use intermedia resources to capture the performance-based dimensions of the genre. 

Our platform aims to complement and build on comprehensive databases such as The Early British Broadside Ballad by providing an online “songscape” that animates the ayre’s multi-dimensionality by juxtaposing archival sources, contextual essays, and audio and video clips. An intermedia approach to the early modern ayre will make the facets of song that often seem the most intangible—its acoustic fleetingness, its movement through varied textual and social settings, its connection to the performing body—a tangible focus for critical discussion. Early Modern Songscapes also aims to provide a centralized and methodologically playful forum for performance- and sound-oriented conversations about song that are currently taking place in literary and historical studies, in musicology, and in gender and cultural studies.

Questions about the project may be directed to: 
Katherine Larson 
UTSC English Department
Scott Trudell 
University of Maryland

Sarah Williams
University of South Carolina