New Bridges Betwween Academia, Performers and Audiences of Music from c.1500 to 1750

Submitting Institution

Royal Holloway, University of London

Unit of Assessment

Music, Drama, Dance and Performing Arts

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Language, Communication and Culture: Cultural Studies, Literary Studies
History and Archaeology: Historical Studies

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Summary of the impact

Stephen Rose's research on the sources and contexts of German music 1500-1750 has benefited amateur musicians, professional musicians and commercial concert-life. Building on his research in early music-printing, his digitisation project Early Music Online has provided musicians worldwide with digitised copies of over 10,000 pieces of early printed music previously available only to researchers visiting the British Library. His research on the contexts of German music has influenced concert programming at the highest international level, enhancing public awareness of the cultural meanings of the music they hear, and introducing them to unfamiliar repertory that puts one of the giants of western music—J. S. Bach—in historical context.

Underpinning research

Rose's work on the sources and contexts of German music 1500-1750 was carried out at Cambridge University (2001-04) and at Royal Holloway (since 2005), where he is now a Senior Lecturer. This case-study focuses on activities from 2005 onwards.

Between 2005 and 2008 Rose published refereed journal articles that investigated how and why music was printed in Germany during the 16th and 17th centuries. This research examined the formats in which music was printed, the genres of music available in print, the mechanisms via which printed music was disseminated, and the uses of printed music (as performing material and symbolic tokens of prestige). See articles listed in section 3 below.

Building on these investigations into music-printing, in 2011 Rose directed the research project Early Music Online, which digitised over 320 volumes of the world's earliest printed music from holdings in the British Library. Using a team of 13 research assistants, the project created comprehensive new metadata (catalogue entries) for all the digitised books, discovering important new information about the provenance and concordances of the British Library exemplars.

Complementing his work on the sources of 16th- to 18th-century music, Rose also researches the social contexts and meanings of music in this period. His monograph The Musician in Literature in the Age of Bach (Cambridge University Press, 2011) puts J. S. Bach into context by uncovering the disreputable and dangerous connotations of a musical career around 1700. Rather than basing his social history on conventional sources such as archival material from churches and courts, Rose examines a more colourful and subversive set of sources, namely novels by or about musicians. Here, a cast of outsiders and itinerants contrasts sharply with the role of the honourable craftsman to which many musicians aspired. Instead, music appears as dangerously seductive, demonic, bestial, manipulative and destabilising, its practitioners as fascinating as they are reprehensible and unworthy of `guild' status. The interdisciplinary nature of the book, together with its capacity to reach far beyond the traditional subjects of music history, produces findings and insights of transformative significance for our understanding of German musical culture. Such use of novels as windows into past musical cultures is commonplace for the nineteenth century, when the realist novel made such techniques self-evidently useful. For earlier periods, when the `novel' was itself an experimental phenomenon, the task is far more challenging, and has not been attempted before. The book that resulted from this research therefore has the capacity to act as a model for interdisciplinary studies of music.

References to the research

Output 1: Digital Resource
Stephen Rose (Project Director) and Sandra Tuppen (Project Manager) Early Music Online

Evidence of quality: Rose applied successfully for a JISC Rapid Digitisation Grant (2011, £75,521, 5 months) to undertake this digitisation and metadata creation project in collaboration with the British Library. The digitised content is available through the Royal Holloway repository ( The metadata is held in the British Library Catalogue (, mirrored in COPAC ( and the Répertoire International des Sources Musicales (RISM) UK database (, with links to the digitised content.

Early Music Online created comprehensive inventories on the basis of scholarly examination of each surviving book, to allow database searches by composer name, title of composition, scoring, printer, place of publication, etc. This research revealed many previously unknown composer attributions and pieces not listed in standard reference works such as Grove Music Online (for an example, see Details of provenance and scribal annotations were also recorded in the metadata, providing valuable bibliographical insights into the British Library copies.

Output 2: Monograph
Stephen Rose, The Musician in Literature in the Age of Bach (Cambridge University Press, 2011), ISBN 9781107004283. Listed in REF2.

Evidence of quality: Reviewer Celia Applegate wrote in Eighteenth-Century Music (Sept 2012) `In this eye-opening study of German prose fiction written between 1660 and 1710, Stephen Rose has unveiled for us a richly detailed, complicated and above all unfamiliar portrait of the musician around the turn of the seventeenth to the eighteenth century'; Mark Peters wrote in Bach (spring 2012): `Rose demonstrates that an interdisciplinary consideration of sources can complement the traditional approaches [of Bach scholars]'; Hannah Vandegrift Eldridge wrote in German Quarterly (spring 2013): `Rose has made these virtually forgotten novels engaging and instructive. His central questions should influence scholarship on aesthetics in general and on the relationship between sound and text in particular'; Robert L. Marshall wrote in Early Music America (winter 2011): `This remarkable volume is replete with fascinating information and thought-provoking ideas'.

Outputs 3-5: Refereed articles disseminating Rose's research on early music printing, the research that underpinned his directorship of Early Music Online.

3. Stephen Rose: `Music, print and presentation in early modern Saxony', German History 23 (2005), 1-19. DOI: 10.1191/0266355405gh333oa


4. Stephen Rose: `The mechanisms of the music trade in central Germany, 1600-1640', Journal of the Royal Musical Association 130 (2005), 1-48. DOI: 10.1093/jrma/fki004


5. Stephen Rose: `A Lübeck music auction, 1695', Schütz-Jahrbuch 30 (2008), 171-90 Listed in REF2

Details of the impact

Early Music Online
Rose's research on early music-printing has created significant cultural benefit to amateur and professional musicians. His digitisation project has supplied them with access to digitised versions of over 10,000 compositions that previously were available only to researchers visiting the British Library. Underpinning this impact is Rose's research on the types and formats of early printed music. Using his expertise, Rose determined the categories of metadata entry (to ensure that users could discover all relevant items) and selected the items to be digitised. He chose repertories that would have high impact, including vocal polyphony suited to amateur choirs (a growth area of musical participation), and lute tablatures for plucked-string enthusiasts and guitarists.

Early Music Online has enriched and expanded the lives of thousands of amateur musicians worldwide. In its 24 months of operation, over 320,000 items have been viewed or downloaded. Each month an average of 3,500 PDFs of complete music-books are downloaded by users to print or save to their computers. The Secretary of The Lute Society comments: `Early Music Online is a fantastically useful project, making the sources of early music available to music lovers anywhere in the world. The inclusion of lute tablatures is especially welcome, because lute players are more likely than singers to perform from the original notation. There is increasing interest in the lute in middle-income countries such as Romania, Brazil and China, where musicians cannot afford to buy printed facsimiles, and Early Music Online makes music accessible to them.'

As further evidence of how Early Music Online has enriched cultural life, many public libraries worldwide have created links to the site. (See section 5 below.) The Library of Congress and the Hochschule für Musik, Leipzig, have incorporated Early Music Online's bibliographical data into their own library discovery systems. Rose's research is thus shaping how Western cultural heritage is preserved and presented by these libraries.

Rose's digitisation project has also created wealth in the creative sector, enabling professional musicians to devise concerts based on this newly available material. On 7 September 2012 The Brabant Ensemble gave a concert `Le Fleur des Chansons: An Evening of Renaissance Music from the British Library' at King's Place, London. The concert was marketed as a `showcase programme featuring some of the most popular works of the 16th century as represented in the 300 books so far digitised in Early Music Online'. The Director of The Brabant Ensemble explains:`Early Music Online has had a significant positive effect on the availability of sources for my performance projects. The quality of the performing editions I have been able to prepare has increased substantially as a result of this wider availability of sources via EMO.'

Early Music Online is a collaborative project. Rose at Royal Holloway supplied the academic leadership and research expertise. Sandra Tuppen at the British Library supplied the day-to-day supervision of the research assistants. Royal Holloway's institutional support includes: hosting the digital repository for the digitised content; hosting the RISM UK database for the metadata (at a benefits-in-kind estimate of £2000 per year); and the ongoing support of the digital repository team to deal with technical and user enquiries.

Collaboration with The Academy of Ancient Music
Rose's research into the contexts of German music has benefited the orchestra The Academy of Ancient Music and its audiences. His research, communicated via programme notes, pre-concert talks and as a musicological consultant to the orchestra, has allowed the AAM to create wealth in the cultural sector by developing new concert repertories and attracting new audiences.

The AAM is a leading period-instrument orchestra dedicated to exploring historical performance styles, and to presenting the public with interpretations rooted in recent research. Since 2003 Rose has written introductory essays and programme notes for the AAM's UK and international concerts (over 70 different programmes, representing several hundred performances to a total of over 85,000 audience members). Each of these programme notes is printed in at least 1000 copies and given free of charge to all concert-goers.

Since 2008 the relationship has intensified, and the AAM has used Rose's research to discover new repertory for concerts, and to present familiar repertory (such as Bach) in a fresh light. Insights from Rose's research allow the AAM to create a distinctive cultural offering that draws in new audiences. For example, several AAM concerts have incorporated research from Rose's monograph The Musician in Literature in the Age of Bach. In October 2011 its Halloween programme `Witches and Devils', held in London and Cambridge to a combined audience of about 1000, derived from Rose's research into the links between Baroque violinists, the demonic and magic. The programme included a Telemann concerto, Tartini's `Devil's Trill' Sonata and arias from Handel's Alcina. Rose's research provided a narrative giving coherence to the programme. Extracts from Chapter 4 of The Musician in Literature were used in Rose's essay introducing the concert; the AAM also used these extracts to market the concert via its website and Facebook.

In March 2013, the AAM's performances of Bach's Passions (held in London and Cambridge to a combined audience of about 4000) used Rose's research on the social contexts of Bach to help modern audiences hear these familiar works afresh. Through pre-concert talks, programme notes and contributions to the AAM's blog, Rose enabled concert-goers to realise how and why 18th-century listeners reacted so violently against the Passions. As well as enriching the imaginations and sensibilities of concert-goers, Rose's research here created economic prosperity for the AAM, making its presentation of Bach's Passions stand out from those offered by competitor ensembles. Reviewers and bloggers commented on the power of Rose's introductions to help them hear the music afresh: `While such large-scale religious music may strike contemporary ears as conservative, Stephen Rose's incisive programme note remarks that Bach's congregation would never before have heard anything quite like it'; `The AAM clearly put a lot of thought into their programme notes, namely Stephen Rose's background into the St John Passion, and to the 1724 version of the St John Passion'. (Sources of these comments are listed in section 5 below.)

As an indication of this continuing collaboration, since December 2012 the AAM has used Rose's expertise in the social history of music to plan a concert programme that will explore crossovers between 17th-century courtly music and the music of North African visitors to central Europe. Rose has excerpted primary sources that offer a possible narrative for the concert, and has offered expertise in the previously unknown musical repertory that documents these cultural encounters. This impact is at an early stage, with the concerts to be held in 2015 at the Barbican and in Cambridge.

Sources to corroborate the impact

Early Music Online: evidence of users

  1. Secretary, The Lute Society (large user group). This source can corroborate the usefulness of the project and its benefits to amateur musicians.
  2. Director, The Brabant Ensemble. This source can corroborate the usefulness of the project and its benefits to professional musicians.
  3. Peter Holman, 'Viol Music on the Internet', Viola da Gamba Society Journal 5 (2011), 56-68 (p.61) This review explains the value of Early Music Online to amateur musicians.
  4. Early Music Online: evidence of library usage

  5. Hochschule für Musik und Theater in Leipzig. Has included all the EMO catalogue data, with links to the digitised images, in its new music resource discovery system (
  6. Library of Congress, Washington D. C. Has included all the EMO catalogue data in its `Music Treasures' website.
  7. Lincoln Public Libraries, Nebraska. Public library whose music resources link to EMO:
  8. Collaboration with The Academy of Ancient Music

  9. Head of Communications, Academy of Ancient Music. This source can corroborate the usefulness of Rose's research to the orchestra's projects.
  10. AAM webpage with profile of Rose:, indicating the role of his research within the orchestra.
  11. Programme booklet for `Witches and Devils' concert, October 2011, showing use of Rose's research:
  12. Concert reviews indicating audience appreciation of Rose's programme notes for AAM:;