Tools, Formats, Mappings: Encoding Franz Liszt’s Œuvre between MARC and MEI

Authors: Kolb, Severin / Richter, Matthias

Date: Wednesday, 6 September 2023, 2:15pm to 3:45pm

Location: Main Campus, L 1.202 <campus:note>


Franz Liszt’s œuvre – despite its undeniable central importance for the music history of the 19th century – is still insufficiently researched today. His manifold activities and works polarized not only during his lifetime, but also in its posthumous reception and in research. A cosmopolitan musician and composer, Liszt was located in a vacuum between the increasingly nationally oriented music historiographies. This is still reflected in today’s research, which lacks important foundations: Historical-critical editions of works are only gradually emerging. Editions of his extensive correspondence are outdated and unreliable. And last but not least, the lack of a reliable catalogue raisonné of works and sources hinder research.

With the development of an online portal, the DFG project Digital Liszt Source and Work Catalogue (University of Heidelberg, Goethe and Schiller Archive Weimar, SLUB Dresden) is laying a new foundation for source-based Liszt research. The portal will host the catalogue raisonné and be able to become an umbrella for future projects focused on Liszt related sources as well. All projects will communicate via central data services, providing the research community with a plethora of well searchable and navigable data on music, writings, performances, research literature, and the like. The portal aims to serve an international research community by providing an internationalised user interface and localisations of metadata. All data will be available via standardised APIs. Central services include registers, bibliographic data sets, a search engine and databases for relational and XML data. The portal will encourage the usage of large research infrastructure projects such as RISM, authority files, musiconn.performance or Zotero. It will evaluate different kinds of data integration via a search engine only vs. approaches of translating data sets from third party repositories to formats which may be stored locally like MEI or TEI.

The project focusses on Liszt’s musical œuvre, which constitutes the portal’s starting point. It poses considerable challenges, as many of his works evolve during a long process characterized by constant transformation resulting in different versions of a work or closely related work groups. Additionally, improvisational practices of Liszt’s time, profoundly shaping his oeuvre, and the collaboration with other composers, musicians, scribes, and publishers lead to interesting but quite complex relations between works and their expressions.

As a result of this creative process, a plethora of sources, often interconnected, are found in libraries and archives all over the world. For generations, scholars have tried to understand the nature of this œuvre and to find a system to describe it aptly. From the same starting point, researchers have come up with a surprisingly broad spectrum of attempts to delineate which collections of sources constitute a specific work. No attempt to compile a complete and detailed catalogue raisonné has yet been successfully completed. With the digital turn, new foundations for scholarly work are now available. The digital medium enforces data organisation according to data models. Thus, pre existing quality standards may be used on the one hand and pre-existing tools on the other. FRBR-based open-source tools (RISM’s Muscat or MerMEId) for working on those data structures can be adapted to project-specific needs.

Given the nature of Liszt’s oeuvre, the project aims to apply a „source first“ approach. It inductively infers the more abstract work data from source data. MerMEId’s rather monolithic work-based data model makes this approach quite difficult. As an alternative the project seeks to store data from the FRBR layers „work“ and „expression“ separately from the levels „manifestation“ and „item“ and establish id based connections between datasets as done in relational databases. To gather lower level information and structured source data, primarily RISM’s infrastructure is adapted, either queried from the RISM API and displayed directly in the Liszt Portal or translated to MEI and stored in an adapted form of the MerMEId. For information on performances and literature, which are only secondarily catalogued in RISM and with little differentiation, Zotero and Musiconn.performance are used as primary hubs for the creation of separate datasets. This approach allows for a flexibly arranged presentation of the records, which are thus ideally reusable and more in keeping with the characteristics of Liszt’s oeuvre than the lists of conventional printed catalogs of works or the MerMEId front-end.

About the authors

Severin Kolb and Matthias Richter are members of the DFG-project team Digitales Liszt Quellen- und Werkverzeichnis (Universität Heidelberg, Goethe- und Schiller-Archiv Weimar, SLUB Dresden)

Contribution Type