Provost’s Digital Innovation Grants: The Open Music History Project

The Open Music History Project

Naomi Barrettara, Musicology

Naomi Barrettara

The Open Music History Project will be an open music history “textbook,” designed to ultimately be an interactive, flexible, adaptable, affordable, and freely available online resource for teachers and students of western music history. As part of the open principle behind the project, all content created for the project will be licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license, making the content free for users to copy, share, use, reuse, distribute, and alter (providing that the user abide by all licenses governing the work). Creating an open resource for the field of music history is not just about creating an affordable alternative to the extremely expensive textbooks published by proprietary publishers; it is also about pedagogical adaptability, flexibility, and freedom. The goal of the project is to create an entirely open resource for the study of music history comprised of written text, scores, and audio recordings that can be used in college level music classrooms as a primary “textbook”, score library, and media database for students. The project will also provide professors with flexibility in the arrangement of course content with the widest possible range of repertoire to choose from. There has been great debate in past few years in the field of musicology regarding how standard survey music history classes are taught, and it has become apparent that proprietary textbook models lack flexibility and adaptability to a variety of teaching styles, methodologies, and approaches. In addition, there is no comprehensive, digitally oriented resource maintained by any large publishing company dedicated to the field of music history at large. With Internet technology now making large databases of public domain and openly licensed material more and more accessible, there is no time like the present to prove that an open music history resource is not only possible, but also sorely needed in the realm of music history pedagogy. Since music history is by definition a multi-media enterprise, involving sound as well as musical scores, it is particularly appropriate for this kind of pedagogical treatment. That is: a history of literature can be fully realized in print form, but a history of music cannot. A published textbook only describes the object under study (the musical work). A web based open music history project would allow other forms of media to be integrated into the text that realize the object under study through sound, creating a resource specifically crafted for the study of a multi-media discipline. The content for the project will be collaborative created by a diverse group of contributors, and the main mechanism for content creation will be through a series of book sprints that bring contributors together for intense, fast-paced periods of collaborative creation. The project will be the first collaboratively created resource in the field of music history, and the first project to fuse together high level academic and pedagogical writing in music history with digital technology in an open access model.

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