Tim Crawford's current research

The Tablature Processor

The Tablature Processor is a program for the editing, playback (via MIDI) and printing of music written in lute tablature. It was originally intended as a simple interface to a crude database system for cataloguing lute music, but has grown somewhat until it is now fairly comprehensive, although it lacks a full range of typographical symbols (for instance for ornament signs) and it is only really useful for Baroque lute music.

The main use of the program is to produce camera-ready artwork for the Das Erbe deutscher Musik edition of Silvius Leopold Weiss's Sämtliche Werke (complete works), for which Tim Crawford is the current editor, in succession to Douglas Alton Smith. The font used for the program is based on Silvius Weiss's handwriting, and was derived from digitizations of his writing carried out during the 1970s by Dr Smith which were used in preparing the tablature Anhänge to the facsimile of the London Manuscript (Sämtliche Werke, vol. 2, Tabulatur II).

The program uses the graphical user-interface of the Macintosh computer, so that notes (in the form of tablature letters) are inserted by clicking the mouse on the six-line tablature staff and typing the relevant letter. Rhythm-signs are added by typing an appropriate code (based on the upper-case initials of standard US note-values: Q for quarter-note; H for half-note and so on). It also incorporates simple MIDI recording and playback using Apple's MIDI Manager, so notes can be entered from a MIDI keyboard.

At present, only French tablature is properly supported, although crude Italian tablature can be displayed. It is hoped that proper Italian tablature can be added soon without too much extra work.

The Tablature Processor can open and save in its own native format, as well as TabCode (see below) and Nightingale's Notelist format (see below). This provides a crude form of automatic transcription of tablature into staff notation. (It is hoped that MIDI-file support will be added before long.)

It is intended that The Tablature Processor will be made available for downloading on the Internet within a short time. Also in principle it should be possible to produce versions for PC and Unix platforms, although this may take a little longer.

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Lute tablature is a specialised system of musical notation based on the notion of telling the performer which string to play at which fret. There were various ways of doing this, but they all use ciphers - letters in 'French' tablature, numbers in 'Italian' tablature - to specify these string/fret 'coordinates'. (A third system, German tablature, uses unique typographical symbols or 'glyphs', based on letters, for each coordinate, and is thus more difficult to learn and sightread. It has the advantage, however, that no staff is required. (The Tablature Processor does not support German lute tablature, nor guitar tablatures, which have their own complicating factors.)

Since the prescriptive nature of lute tablature gives it a close resemblance to a computer program listing, it seems a simple task to devise a code for its representation of tablature notation on a computer. One way of doing this is Tim Crawford's TabCode, which uses ASCII text characters so that the data can be shared across all computer platforms. It is intended to represent all graphical elements of the tablature in a manner that is readable both by humans and by machines. The code resulting from the demand for completeness is quite complex, so the following brief description is restricted to essential features only.

Each vertical 'slice' or chord in the tablature is translated into a 'Tabword', separated from other Tabwords by so-called 'white-space' (ie space, tab, return or newline characters). If there is a rhythm sign above the chord, this is denoted by the relevant upper-case US note-value initial. Then follow the notes of the chord given as <letter><string-number>. Notes on the bass strings (below the 6th course) are separated from those on the six 'playing' strings by an 'X'; the 'slash' character ('/') is used to indicate the similar markings on bass strings, or numbers can be substituted, as is usually done for the 11th course and below. So the course below the 10th course ( ///a) is normally written as '4' (to denote the 'virtual' presence of 4 slashes). Barlines are denoted by the vertical-bar or 'pipe' character ('|').

So Dowland's 'Lachrimae' pavan begins:


Reference: Tim Crawford, 'TabCode for Lute Repertories', Computing in Musicology, 7 (1991), 57-59

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Music Information Retrieval; OMRAS (Online Musical Recognition and Searching)

Together with colleagues from other departments at King's College London, Tim Crawford is working on a major collaborative research project with the Center for Intelligent Information Retrieval (CIIR) at the University of Massachusetts. The project has been awarded a major grant award under the International Digital Libraries Initiative jointly administered by the JISC (Joint Information Systems Committee) in the UK and NSF (National Science Foundation) in the US.

The project, known by the acronym OMRAS (Online Musical Recognition and Searching), is described in detail on the project's web site.

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Tim Crawford has been involved with the development of the Macintosh music-notation program Nightingale (®Advanced Music Notation Systems, Inc), for several years, initially as a beta-tester, and latterly as a member of the development team.

He is especially concerned with enhancing Nightingale's usefulness for members of the academic community, and for those interesting in the computer-setting of early music.

Nightingale has extensive control over graphical features of a musical score, but its musical structures (as opposed to its appearance) can be saved in the form of a Nightingale Notelist, an ASCII representation that can be processed on any computer platform and re-imported back into Nightingale for viewing.

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Nightingale Notelist

Tim Crawford, with Nightingale's developer, Donald Byrd, and John Gibson, recently wrote a chapter on Nightingale's musical-data interchange format, Notelist, for the recently-published Beyond MIDI: The Handbook of Musical Codes, ed. Eleanor Selfridge-Field (MIT Press: Cambridge, Mass & London, 1997 ISBN 0-262-19394-9), pp. 293-318.

Notelists can be used for various projects, including the production of Braille music, the creation of lute tablature arrangements ('intabulations') and export/import from music-analysis software such as the Unix Humdrum programs. It can also be used for the creation of musical databases and or for turning a score into a sound-file (via CSound, for example).

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Weiss Sämtliche Werke

Tim Crawford is currently the editor of the Sämtliche Werke of the great German lutenist, Silvius Leopold Weiss (1686-1750), an exact contemporary and friend of J.S. Bach. Weiss was probably the greatest lutenist of all time, ranking with Francesco da Milano and John Dowland, the two outstanding figures of the Renaissance lute. He has left over 750 pieces of music, ranging from light-weight galanterien to large-scale concerto movements, all for the lute, and all written in tablature.

These pieces are usually arranged into suites or 'Suonaten' (as Weiss seems to have called them) which are frequently of great length: most of Weiss's 70 or so complete sonatas last over 20 minutes in performance (with repeats). They are found in a large number of 18th-century manuscripts located in libraries all over the world, of which the most important are London's British Library and Dresden's Sächsiches Landesbibliothek.

A paper by Tim Crawford on the relationships between these two manuscripts and the involvement of the composer in their compilation, which was read at the S.L. Weiss Congress in Freiburg in September 1992, can be read here.

Dr Douglas Alton Smith, whose thesis is a basic resource for modern Weiss research, founded the S.L. Weiss Sämtliche Werke in the early 1980s. From its inception, the edition has been sponsored by the German musicological institute, Das Erbe deutscher Musik, whose successive directors Prof Georg von Dadelsen and Prof Thomas Kohlhase have been highly supportive. Further support, in the form of research grants, has been forthcoming from the Alexander Humbolt Stiftung, the Leverhulme Trust, and King's College London.

Because of the great difficulty, for various reasons, of establishing a chronology of Weiss's output, it was decided to publish the edition ordered by source. So the first 4 volumes comprised facsimile (vols 1 & 2) and staff-notation (vols 3 & 4) editions of the partially-autograph London manuscript (probably compiled in Prague between 1717 and c1725), which contains 32 complete sonatas and a number of 'orphaned' movements, as well as a good deal of other music by Weiss, including his famous Tombeau for Count Losy (1721), and the lute parts for a number of chamber works which were reconstructed for the edition.

The current project is the production of facsimile and staff-notation editions of the Dresden manuscript. This comprises a set of six manuscript volumes assembled shortly after Weiss's death in 1750 from diverse sources, including several autographs from different periods of his life. One of the volumes is a single lute part for a series of ensemble works, including concertos and lute duets. Unfortunately, all the accompanying parts have been lost, and these works will be reconstructed in a style conjecturally as close as possible to Weiss's to permit modern performance.

(References: 1. D.A. Smith, 'S.L. Weiss's Late Sonatas', unpublished PhD dissertation, Stanford University, 1977 2. T. Crawford, 'Editing Weiss for the Sämtliche Werke: the composer's contribution to the London and Dresden manuscripts', Congress S.L. Weiss, Life and Times, Freiburg, September 1992. Report forthcoming.)

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Weiss Catalogue

With Douglas Alton Smith and others, plans are being made for a complete catalogue of Weiss's music. This will certainly appear in an online edition, probably accessible via the Internet.

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The Moscow Weiss Manuscript

After the London and Dresden manuscripts of S.L. Weiss's lute music, the Moscow Manuscript is the next most important, in terms of the number of unique pieces. Tim Crawford's complete edition of the MS appeared recently, and an online version of the introductory matter, including incipits of the music, can be viewed here.

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Electronic Corpus of Lute Music

A computer-assisted examination of the relationships between the lute music of Bach and Weiss, and of their predecessors and contemporaries, is among Tim Crawford's future plans. In order to achieve this, it will be necessary to build an electronic 'corpus' of lute music, and to devise ways of analysing the corpus using the latest techniques of information retrieval as they apply to music.

A successful application to the Arts and Humanities Research Board to build such a corpus, known by the acronym ECOLM (Electronic Corpus of Lute Music), by Prof Laurence Dreyfus and Tim Crawford, has led to the funding of a two-year project for development of the system.

The project is described in more detail on the ECOLM temporary web-site.

Some experiments in online presentation of lute music can be found here

An unpublished paper by Tim Crawford, 'Lute tablature and concordance recognition: special problems needing special solutions' can be found here.

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Peasant Cantata

Tim Crawford's other recent work has involved an examination of the musical sources for 'Peasant Cantata' BWV212. This research, which was presented at a King's College IAMS (Institute of Advanced Musical Study) Colloquium in March 1996, will form the basis of an extended article in due course.

A number of the tunes used by Bach, yet unknown to Bach scholarship, in the cantata have been discovered. Many of these are in tablature manuscripts for the lute or other plucked-string instruments of the time, and many are in the 'Polish' style, which may have had a pastoral connotation for the composer and his patron, Carl Heinrich von Dieskau, who is known to have been a connoiseur of lute music.

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Breslau violin MSS

In August 1997, Tim Crawford read a paper at the International Musicological Society's Congress. Here is the abstract of the paper:

Scholars of the early violin in Germany have long been aware of the existence of a significant collection of instrumental music in the collection of the former Breslau (now Wroclaw, Poland) Stadtbibliothek. A catalogue of the music manuscripts was published by Emil Bohn in 1890, but the entire manuscript collection was thought to have been destroyed during World War II. Fortunately, however, the violin manuscripts are among the large number fom Breslau, Danzig (now Gdansk, Poland) and elsewhere that have been 're-discovered' since the reunification of Germany at the former East Berlin Deutsche Staatsbibliothek, Unter den Linden, Berlin, and they are now in the care of the Preussischer Kulturbesitz.

The collection as a whole is principally important for an enormous quantity of performance material for German church music of the early 17th century - especially that in polychoral style. Among the purely instrumental items, which include a famous set of canzonas by Adam Jarzebski (published in the 1960s from a prewar manuscript copy), two manuscripts in particular are of great importance in tracing the emergence of an idiomatic violin style in Germany, both in terms of the instrument's technique and its repertory.

Significantly, both MSS 114 and 115 also contain music for the viola bastarda, and a large proportion of their pages are taken up with embellishment examples copied verbatim from various Italian treatises (including: G. Bassano, 1585; R. Rognoni, 1592; F. Rognoni, 1620) in which the viola bastarda also figures prominently. The viola bastarda is also well represented as an ensemble instrument in the other Breslau MSS, suggesting that a school of players, probably trained by imported Italian masters, was at work in 17th-century Silesia and Poland. (The precise provenance of the collection has yet to be investigated in full.)

The interaction between the viola bastarda repertory and that of the violin is also attested by a manuscript in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, an English source which shares one virtuoso violin piece in common with Breslau MS 114. Further 'English' connections in the Breslau manuscripts can be traced through the repertory, which includes elaborately embellished versions of a few tunes of English origin (one or two of which may be masque dances) which also occur in other German sources, and at least one named composer, 'Stephan Naw' (Etienne Nau), who entered English royal service in 1629. This date may be taken as a plausible terminus ante quem for MS 114, which seems to have been copied by one 'Johannes Georgius Beck'.

Nau's Fantasia (MS 114, ff. 34-5), like many of the pieces in the collection, seems to be for unaccompanied violin. (The manuscript includes eight of the recercars for unaccompanied treble instrument from Bassano's 1585 treatise.) In some cases, however, it is hard to say whether the violin needs the accompaniment of a lacking continuo part, which is certainly true for some of the pieces (violin parts of a sonata by O.M. Grandi and some canzonas). An extensive repertory of variations over standard ground-bass patterns (passamezzi, bergamascas) is also included, whose accompaniment could have been improvised without written music, or even possibly omitted altogether.

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Walter Rowe and the Baryton

Walter Rowe (1584/5-1671) was an English viol player who worked for most of his long life at the Brandenburg court in Berlin and Königsberg (now Kaliningrad, Lithuania). He was the first player of the baryton whose name we know today. The baryton was a special form of viola da gamba with a rank of brass strings provided behind the neck of the instrument in such a way that the player could pluck an accompaniment on these with his left thumb. Its chief claim to fame is the large body of works by Josef Haydn, mainly trios with viola and cello, but these were written for a slightly different form of the instrument, and do not fully exploit its self-accompaniment possibilities.

The music for baryton from Rowe's time was written in tablature similar to that for the lute, which instrument provided most of the baryton repertory in arrangements. The early repertory of idiomatic music for baryton and Rowe's possible composition of some of it was discussed in a paper read by Tim Crawford at the International Haydn Festival at the Esterhazy palace at Eisenstadt (Kismarton) in Austria in September 1997.

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The historical importance of of François Dufault and his influence on musicians outside France

Paper read at the Colloque, 'Le luth en l'Occident' at the Musée de la Musique, Paris in May 1998.


François Dufault's music forms, along with that of the Gaultiers, Mezangeau and Pinel, the central core of the mid-17th-century French lute repertory. The 1964 CNRS publication of his works almost doubled in size for the second edition in 1988, largely because of the addition of undoubtedly authentic music from non-French sources unknown to the editors in 1964. His music certainly travelled widely outside France, and its sources suggest that it was very influential. Although it is known that he spent some time in England, the documentation for this visit is frustratingly sparse, and it may not have been as important as a possible visit to Germany for which there is also some evidence. Indeed, Dufault's music was probably as well, if not better, known to German and Austrian lutenists of the late 17th and early 18th centuries than that of the Gaultiers.

The paper takes a fresh look at some of the sources, in particular an important but relatively little-known manuscript (Brussels, Bibliothèque royale, MS II 276) that shows strong evidence of being a partial autograph. If this identification is accepted, many 'new' pieces can be added to the oeuvre. This source, like most lute books of the period, is clearly of didactic intent and the paper touches upon the important master/pupil aspect of the transmission of the lute repertory. It also examines the reception of Dufault's oeuvre in its Germanic context and shows how non-French sources can cast light on French performance-practice (especially of the 'duple-time' gigue) as well as identifying some aspects of Dufault's music which may have particularly appealed to German and Austrian musicians of the following generations.

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Lord Danby's Lute Book

November 16 2000

As long ago as 1985 (intended for the Bach/Handel/Scarlatti tricentenary) I prepared an edition of this manuscript for Faber Music, but it was unfortunately never published. I am currently working on a facsimile edition for Éditions Minkoff.

As I have received several requests for information about this source, here is a shortened version of the introductory material for the Faber edition. This may be removed when the Minkoff edition appears, for copyright reasons. NB It was prepared quite hurriedly, so please report any weirdnesses in layout to me!

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