Helsen to contribute to major new Digital Chant Project

Music History professor Kate Helsen will participate as a co-investigator in an exciting new $2.5 million SSHRC Partnership grant, over the next 7 years.

The project, titled "Digital Analysis of Chant Transmission," will bring together 23 co-investigators, 24 collaborators, and 20 partner organizations in Canada and around the world, led by Dalhousie University Professor Dr. Jennifer Bain. Together they are building an online platform to connect plainchant databases around the world and advancing Digital Humanities research in early music notation.

Dr. Helsen is involved in three separate parts of the larger project. First, she is involved in an algorithmic analysis of the music of Hildegard of Bingen. Second, she is contributing to the Music Encoding Initiative Working Group, which will examine schemas for various kinds of notations that existed prior to the standard notation of today. This group will present some of their findings at the Music Encoding Conference at Paderborn University in Germany in September, 2023. Finally she will work with the Chant Analytics Group to test drive a selection of AI bots and neural nets on large amounts of musical data.

Dr. Helsen speaks with excitement about the many recent innovations in the digital Humanities that have made this work possible. "Ten years ago, nobody knew how to encode melodic strings in a way that would help us determine tendencies for thousands and thousands of chants in the repertoire. Ten years ago, we still didn't really have a good idea how OCR for handwritten musical notation was going to work. Ten years ago, no one had taught an AI bot to 'compose' Gregorian chant by learning from examples. Now, we can do these things, and getting to be a part of that process is really rewarding."

More information about the project, and Principal Investigator Dr. Jennifer Bain, can be found here: https://www.dal.ca/news/2023/08/29/dal-researcher-leads-unparalleled-global-project-to-empower-scho.html