Writing a Big Data history of music

Stephen Rose, Sandra Tuppen, Loukia Drosopoulou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article introduces the project A Big Data History of Music, which aimed to unlock the bibliographical data held by research libraries in order to create new research opportunities for musicologists. The project cleaned and enhanced aspects of the British Library catalogues of printed and manuscript music, which are now available as open data. It also experimented with the analysis and visualisation of the British Library datasets and the RISM inventories of printed and manuscript music. The article shows how quantitative analysis of these datasets can expose long-term historical trends, such as the rise and fall of music printing in 16th- and 17th-century Europe. Data analysis and visualisation also facilitates research on the dissemination and canonisation of specific composers (as shown by case-studies on Palestrina and Purcell) and on changing trends in genres, scoring and ethnic colourings in music (as shown by a case-study on ‘Scottish’ music).

Keywords: quantitative analysis; big data; network diagram; visualisation; RISM; music-printing; Palestrina; Purcell; Scottish; Venice
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)649-660
Number of pages12
JournalEarly Music
Issue number4
Early online date3 Sept 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2015

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