Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The Global Chant Database

If you have ever wondered about the utility of open-source materials, consider the emergence of the Global Chant Database. It permits you to search by melody, restricting results by a number of different features like mode and text, and it thereby generates a complete listing of all chants that match your search.

From there you can look at the entire Gregorian score in .jpg format. This is the kind of research that only a few years ago would have taken months and would have only been possible in a graduate-student setting, prepping for dissertations and the like. Now this knowledge is immediately accessible, and made complete by the accessibility of online resources at and elsewhere.

As I understand it, this entire site was put together by one person working in off hours, nights, and weekends, just one person with a passion for one thing. It is not something anyone would have conceived of in advance of having posted all the chants in open-source format. Rather it is the kind of thing that comes about through personal initiative in an environment of experimentation and development through decentralized knowledge the world over. It is one of the many resources that have emerged to form a global infrastructure of support for sacred music and liturgical materials - all inspired and made possible by the opening up of the chant tradition via digital media.

People often ask what the point of providing materials through non-traditional means is. What do we expect to happen? Well, the point is precisely that we do not know what will happen but the air of freedom associated with the absence of proprietary claims over liturgical materials leads to unexpected innovation of precisely this sort.

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