Hybrid music editions – challenges at the Reger-Werkausgabe in retrospective.

Authors: Beer, Nikolaos

Date: Thursday, 7 September 2023, 11:15am to 12:45pm

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


After almost 16 years of hybrid scholarly music edition work at the Reger-Werkausgabe1 (RWA) at the Max-Reger-Institute2 (MRI) and two years ahead of the project’s completion, this paper provides retrospective insights concerning the initial ideas about the type, scope, and content dependency of the edition’s digital part to the rather traditional edition work that materializes itself in its printed volume(s). It will outline that the situation today is at most different from the situation at the beginning where the printed part was seen as a “parent” to its new little “digital” companion.

The RWA (2008–2025) – funded by the German “Union of the Academies”3 within the “Academies Program”4 – was one of the first long-term scholarly music edition projects to merge and essentially integrate digital research and publication workflows based on MEI and TEI data facilitated in the Edirom5 Tools, with a predominantly print-based project definition. The project has since evolved from a community-counseled “user” within^ the digital turn to a “self-supporter” and “self-producer” of digital workflows, data sets and publications.^

Initially, the project’s focus on its digital part was lying on questions about digital or digitizing transformation, presentation, and contextualization of print-based edition work. After a thorough phase of defining workflows and software tools, a similarly streamlined and economized publication process should have been emerged as was already the case with printed editions for decades. But trying to simply digitize working and publishing conventions from printed editions proved to be a fallacy. The main reasons were:

  • Content creation and ways of digital research dissemination: The change of medium not only opened an infinite space for simply more content but exposed some rather media-dependent than content-related conventions of addressing and (over-)compressed presentation of music edition problems.

  • Technological progress: Technological decisions made at one point in the project’s development had to be continuously retuned and reevaluated, often causing inevitable delays.

  • Embedding and long-term preservation/availability of data and publications: Being located at the MRI, the RWA not only reuses and works on decades of musicology research stored within the institute’s archives, collections, and library. In fact, it leads to challenging digital feedbacks within the MRI’s infrastructure and its near and intermediate future.

  • Human resources: Since its beginning the project has managed to extend its digital human resources from a student assistant to a full-time “digital edition research engineer”. But mastering the interplay of the vast amount of research content and its digital presentation, communication and preservation remains one of the project’s main challenges to date.

The paper will not only name and describe the challenges but try to filter and propose some “lessons learned” concerning possible consecutive projects. The author has been responsible part of the RWA and responsible for its digital parts throughout its entire run.


  1. Reger-Werkausgabe, project page and publication portal „RWA Online“: https://www.reger-werkausgabe.de; last seen 30.4.2023. 

  2. Max-Reger-Institut/Elsa-Reger-Stiftung, https://www.max-reger-institut.de; last seen 30.4.2023. 

  3. Union der Deutschen Akademien der Wissenschaften, https://www.akademienunion.de/; last seen 30.4.2023. 

  4. Akademienprogramm der Union der Deutschen Akademien der Wissenschaften, https://www.akademienunion.de/forschung/akademienprogramm; last seen 30.4.2023. 

  5. Edirom – Digitale Musikedition, project description, https://edirom.de/edirom-projekt/; last seen 30.4.2023. 

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