NEUMES 2006 conferenceNEUMES 2006
Oxford Conference on
Computerised Transcription of
Medieval Chant Manuscripts

Held at St Anne's College, Oxford
27 - 28 June 2006
Reference URL =

See, photo scrapbook of this conference.
See also, the conference proceedings.

Sponsored by:

The Eduserv FoundationThe Eduserv Foundation  [see: Foundation homepage]

The NEUMES ProjectThe NEUMES Project  [see: Project website]

Crest of St Anne's CollegeSt Anne's College, Oxford  [see: photos of St Anne's College; and College homepage]

Oldest crest of the University of Oxford The Software Engineering Centre, University of Oxford  [see: information page]



Dear Colleagues,

I would like to welcome each of our guests to St Anne's College, the University of Oxford, and the UK (for those who are travelling from overseas) for "NEUMES 2006". I am very grateful for your willingness to contribute your time and expertise to this meeting, and I am sure it will be a very useful and stimulating event.

I would like to thank St Anne's College for providing us with an excellent venue in their newly constructed conference facilities (see, Views of St Anne's College, Oxford, 290kB). I would also like to thank the Eduserv Foundation for funding the Neumes Project and this conference.

Interdisciplinary contacts between computer scientists and scholars in the humanities offer tremendous creative opportunities, both in developing novel uses of technology, and in exploring new ways to understand and appreciate historical documents and processes. I very much hope that this meeting will allow us all to explore some of these new possibilities, as well as playing an important part in shaping the development of the Neumes Project itself.

I look forward to our discussions, from which I expect to learn much. I hope your stay in Oxford is comfortable and enjoyable, and I encourage you to contact Louis Barton or myself regarding any special needs you might have.

With best wishes,

Peter Jeavons

List of Participants
  • Prof. Peter G. Jeavons, conference host
    Professor of Computer Science, University of Oxford 
    Fellow of St Anne's College, Oxford
  • Prof. Louis W. G. Barton, conference organiser
    Software Engineering Programme
    University of Oxford
  • Dr Maria Alexandru
    Aristotle University
    Thessaloniki, Greece
  • Prof. Dino Buzzetti
    Facoltà di Lettere e Filosofia
    Università di Bologna, Italy
  • Prof. John A. Caldwell
    Emeritus Fellow of Jesus College
    University of Oxford
  • Dr Julia Craig-McFeely
    Project Manager, DIAMM
    Digital Image Archive of Medieval Music
  • Dr Jim Davies
    Director, Software Engineering Centre
    University of Oxford
  • Special guest:
    Andy Powell (Head of Development, The Eduserv Foundation)
  • Also in attendance:
    Fiona Shand (Faculty of Music, The University of Oxford)
Initial T Dr Annalisa Doneda was unable to attend due to the recent death of her mother.
 We extend to her our condolences.


Initial This conference brings together a small group of leading international scholars from various disciplines to discuss the requirements and best strategies for digital-encoding of the neumatic and textual content of medieval chant manuscripts, both Eastern and Western, and the development of digital libraries.

1. Background of the NEUMES Project

This work origated more than ten years ago in a project done by Louis Barton at Yale University under the direction of Jim Grier and Peter Kindlmann. The early work focused on designing a computer font and adapting a music-editing program for on-screen display and printing of Aquitanian and square neume notations. Jim introduced Louis to Leo Treitler: Leo's ideas, expressed in papers on neume notation, significantly influenced the semantic design of the NEUMES data representation. Louis later went to Harvard University, where he worked on a general data representation for Western neume notations under the direction of Tom Cheatham and Ugo O. Gagliardi. With the collaboration of Tom Kelly, the NEUMES Project came into being.

Phase One of the NEUMES Project was centred at Harvard University under the direction of Thomas Forrest Kelly, and was funded by a research grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. This initiative developed a symbol taxonomy for digital transcription of Western (Latin) chant manuscripts, a Unicode-compatible data representation for this symbol set, and a preliminary XML file format for describing sources and for containing transcription data. In the ensuing two years Louis Barton, with help from Annalisa Doneda and Constantine Terzopoulos, expanded the taxonomy and data representation to encompass Eastern (especially Byzantine) chant sources. He also did preliminary work on a visualization script (viz., XML Transformation to HTML), so that users can see a stylized, visual representaiton of NEUMES transcription data.

Phase Two of the NEUMES Project is being funded by a research grant from the Eduserv Foundation; it is being administered by the University of Oxford under the general direction of Peter Jeavons. The main goals of this initiative are to solidify the prior accomplishments of this Project, to improve the existing software for visualization and data-entry, and to explore the idea of a 'distributed digital library' for chant transcriptions. As of the date of this conference, we are just past the one-year mark of the funding period, and just over a year is remains.

In this first year, considerable work has gone into making the NEUMES website more robust and consistent across various Web-browser platforms. Another major effort has been toward solving some difficult problems in visualization in order to make transcription views look 'more like music'. Several new transcriptions have been created for testing the software, some of which are now available online. The NeumesXML Schema (which defines the XML file format) has been substantially corrected to resolve some technical problems, principally about XML namespaces. Although the benefits of these improvements are largely not apparent to end-users, these solutions will help ensure the viability of NeumesXML over the long term. Small refinements to the NEUMES taxonomy, data representation, and regular grammar have also continued in response to transcription testing. In the facet of our software architecture that concerns a 'distributed digital library', we are working on an implementation of this concept for digital images of manuscripts: there already exists a fairly large number of high-quality images of neumed manuscripts on the Web. This provides an opportunity for demonstrating the 'distributed digital library' concept by concrete examples, and we can do this before a large number of NEUMES/NeumesXML transacriptions are available online.

In the remaining year of the funding period, our main goal is to realize a user-friendly, adaptable, and robust program for data-entry and maintenance of NEUMES/NeumesXML transcriptions. Users will run this program via the WorldwideWeb, and it will be computer platform-neutral. Transcriptions will, however, be saved to the user's local disk only: we expect that users will post their NEUMES/NeumesXML transcriptions on the Web, and thus we will have a 'distributed digital library' of transcriptions as we do for images.

2. Purpose of this Conference

For this conference we have assembled an interesting group of scholars from various backgrounds and fields of specialization. Our hope is to stimulate thought and discussion that is best done in face-to-face meetings with minimal distractions. Although we hope to come away with new insights, knowledge, and ideas that we can apply to the NEUMES Project, we do not intend to limit the discussions just to this Project.

We are asking each attendee to deliver an informal talk on a topic that relates to this Project. Some talks could be quite broad in scope, while others could be narrow in their focus. We shall present an overview of the goals, progress, and future directions of this Project, and demonstrate how to use some of the Project's software. We would encourage all attendees to familiarize themselves with the Project's software, design, and documentation as much as feasible before to the conference. Of course, the conference will include meals and other informal occasions for discussions.

Near the end of the conference, a regular meeting of the Project's Advisory Board will be held for discussion of how best to fulfill the mandate of this Project under the current research grant, and how we could attract funding to sustain this work in the future.

Conference Schedule

Monday, 26 June

Check-in at St Anne's College for out-of-town guests. Please stop at the Porter's Lodge within the front gate: you are expected, and so give the Porter your name. You will receive a conference packet, directions to your room, and other information.
Guests may get into their rooms after 12 p.m. (noon) on the arrival date (Monday).
The Porter's Lodge in the main gate of St Anne's is open 24 hours per day.

7.30 p.m. Dinner: Seminar Room 3 (48 Woodstock Road)
Reception by Tim Gardam, Principal of St Anne's College, Oxford.
Drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic); informal buffet dinner.

Tuesday, 27 June

Breakfast: ad libitum.
Breakfast in the St Anne's College Dining Hall until 9 a.m. (full English breakfast is included with rooms).
9.30 a.m. Meeting

Seminar Room 1 (48 Woodstock Road).

Agenda: [tentative]
  1. Welcome, introductions, and practical business (Jeavons).
  2. On data sharing and re-use: technologies for data communities (Davies).
  3. Current state of progress in the NEUMES Project (Barton).
    [Short break; coffee, tea, water, and biscuits available]
  4. The problem of 'semantic content' in digital transcriptions of medieval manuscripts (Buzzetti).
  5. Tour of the NEUMES website, and demonstration of the software (Barton).
12.00 p.m. Lunch

Buffet in the St Anne's College Dining Hall.

1.00 p.m. Meeting

Seminar Room 1 (48 Woodstock Rd.; seats 60).

Agenda: [tentative]
  1. Opportunities for definitive photography of chant manuscripts in monasteries of Greece (Terzopoulos).
  2. High-quality digital imaging of medieval manuscripts in the field; imaging issues in relation to scholarly and archival needs; and content delivery and management of a digital archive (Craig-McFeely).

    [Short break; coffee, tea, water, and biscuits available]
  3. Deliniation of phrases or sense units; musical declamation of sacred texts; and evidence of rhythm in early and late-medieval Latin chant notations (Saulnier).
  4. How I came to be concerned with questions about the early history of music writing in the West and how some of those questions seem to run into concerns of the NEUMES Project as I understand them (Treitler).
  5. Round-table discussion: Difficulties in the NEUMES data representation (Barton).
5.00 p.m. Break

7.00 p.m. Dinner in Oxford city centre

We shall congregate at the Porter's Lodge, St Anne's College, 7.00 p.m.

Dinner at a restaurant on High Street.

Wednesday, 28 June

Breakfast: ad libitum.
Breakfast in the St Anne's College Dining Hall until 9 a.m. (full English breakfast is included with rooms).

9.15 a.m. Meeting

Seminar Room 1 (48 Woodstock Road).
Agenda: [tentative]
  1. Current and projected state of the CANTUS database project; solving the problem of fixed, permanent record ID numbers in the CANTUS database; prospective CANTUS database requirements for melodic pattern matching in Gregorian chant (Lacoste).
  2. Interoperability as a factor in designing or developing online catalogues of medieval manuscripts (Kidd).

    [Short break; coffee, tea, water, and biscuits available]
  3. Problems of classification and nomenclature in medieval chant scholarship (Caldwell).
  4. Byzantine neumes, their historical evolution, and major problems in their deciphering (Alexandru).
  5. Round-table discussion: the NEUMES distributed digital library; opportunities for interconnection of multi-media resources (Jeavons).
12.00 p.m. Lunch

Buffet in the St Anne's College Dining Hall.

1.00 p.m. Advisory Board Meeting

Seminar Room 1 (48 Woodstock Road).
Closed session. Members of the NEUMES Project Advisory Board are expected to attend.
Others are urged to spend the afternoon visiting attractions in Oxford (see, § 'Other Activities in Oxford').
Agenda: [tentative]
  1. Critical problem of collaboration and time needed from musicologists, both in the software developmemt process and in creation of musicological 'content'. What concrete steps can be taken for improving this situation? Query: was it a mistake to not hold an A.B. meeting at the outset of Phase Two?
  2. Management plan for the remainder of Phase Two. The role of Advisory Board in helping to meet our delivery schedule and in maintaining the scholarly integrity of this work. To what extent does financial compensation increase the stake that members of the Advisory Board members have in a successful outcome of the project?

    [Short break; coffee, tea, water, and biscuits available]
  3. Prospects for continued funding: realistic strategies for satisfying the interests of the Eduserv Foundation. How can development of the project continue after the end of Phase Two? Is it appropriate or realistic to pursue cost-sharing by commercial sponsorship (such as Google advertising), solicitation of private donations on the Project's website, and so forth?
  4. Draft a report to the Eduserv Foundation, critiquing the progress made in the funded research to-date. (Who will take responsibility for finalizing the Advisory Board's report?)
6.30 p.m. Closing Banquet

6.30 p.m.: Drinks reception, Upper Common Room, St Anne's College.
7.00 p.m.: Formal 'plate' dinner, Upper Common Room, St Anne's College; wine served.
→ NOTE: Please inform us well in advance regarding any special dietary requirements.
  • Conclusions and final business of the conference (Jeavons).
  • Keynote address: A historical view of computer applications for medieval chant scholarship (Grier).
Thursday, 29 June

Checkout time: after breakfast, which is until 9.00 a.m.
Luggage can be stored at the reception area of the Porter's Lodge (at the front gate to the College).



Participants travelling from out-of-town will be accommodated in the newly-constructed residential facility at St Anne's College. Reservations have been made for the nights of Monday, 26 June, through Wednesday, 28 June (three nights). Each guest will have a private room with shower and toilet.

We regret that (due to demand by other groups) we cannot offer accommodations in St Anne's College outside the dates reserved for our conference. If you wish to stay in Oxford for additional nights, you might consult the listing of bed-and-breakfast establishments 'up to £60', at:

Hotels in Oxford city centre are more convenient but considerably more expensive. (Check the listings on the above website, under other categories in the left-hand menu.) In any case, due to high demand in this season, you should make such arrangements well in advance.


Directions and Maps

1. A general map of Oxford City is provided here. It shows most of the University colleges, principal streets, and various other University buildings. Circled in  brown  are: St Anne's College; the Gloucester Green bus terminal; the Ashmolean Museum; and Cornmarket Street (which is Oxford's main commercial street). The layout of streets in Oxford might be best characterised as 'medieval'; it is quite easy to get lost, and so one does well to carry a map when exploring the city.

2. London has two main airports: Heathrow and Gatwick. Heathrow is substantially closer to Oxford and is usually the best point of entry. Gatwick has different flight schedules that, in some cases, may be more convenient; flights to Gatwick also can be substantially less expensive than those to Heathrow.

3. From either airport, you will want to take the 'Airline' bus to Oxford. We give directions here assuming arrival at Heathrow, but directions from Gatwick are largely the same; any differences can be found on the Oxford Bus website at

the Airline busThe most difficult part is finding the correct bus terminal. Likely, you should first find someone who can give you information, and ask her/him where to get on the bus to Oxford. Service to Oxford runs approximately every 30 minutes (less frequently late at night), and the trip lasts approximately an hour and twenty minutes.

When you get on the bus, tell the driver you want a period return ticket to Gloucester Green. This should cost GBP 19, and the driver can give change. This ticket is much less expensive than buying two one-way tickets.

4. Gloucester Green is the last stop (the bus parks there before taking on passengers for the trip back to London), and so it is safe to sleep during the bus ride. You'll likely want to take a taxi from the Gloucester Green terminal to St Anne's College. It is a bit tricky finding the taxi stand, and so it's best to ask directions from someone knowledgeable.

Once at St Anne's College, stop at the Porter's Lodge within the front gate. You are expected, and so give the Porter your name. Everythinig else from that point should be easy!

Miscellaneous Information

◊ Internet access: For e-mail, etc., codes will be issued to our participants for Internet use on laptops in their rooms (plug-in) Those who do not have laptop computers with them may use College's computer room. (A separate access code is needed for using the College's computers; please ask the Porter for this if you need it.)

◊ Taxis in Oxford: Hackney Cabs are licensed and limited in numbers by the city council. They are reputed to have a generally better local knowledge than drivers of hire cars (or minicabs). Fares: A minimum of £2.00, then about £1 per mile. Where to get one: You can pick one up at a taxi rank at St.Giles, Gloucester Green, or the railway station. You can also hail Hackney cabs in the street. By contrast, hire cabs are not licensed individually (rather on a per company basis), they are normally not specialised vehicles, and they, are they not allowed to pick up passengers who hail them on the street.

◊ City busses in Oxford: City bus service in Oxford is quite good. Routes and schedules are posted on signs at the many bus stops. Drivers can make change for fares, and they are generally friendly and easy to understand: they will tell you where to get down for a particular stop, or give you general directions on how to get to your destination. The prosect of riding the bus in a strange city can be intimidating, but you will find it is really quite easy in Oxford after you have made your first test run.

◊ Telephones in the UK: Generally, you can call any number within the University using a University telephone, such as the St Anne's College Porter's Lodge. Public telephones require that you have a 20p (twenty pence) coin; it's a good idea to keep a couple of these coins in reserve, because the public telephones do not accept other coins.

Other Activities in Oxford

  • A nice photo montage of Oxford views can be found online here.
  • The Ashmolean Museum of art and archeology []. Free admission. 'Britain's oldest public museum'. Conveniently located in city centre. Memorable collections of miniature paintings, ancient coins, and other topics. An interesting assortment of books for sale in the gift shop.
  • Visit the Oxford colleges. Access to the public varies depending on the college, but the impressive array of Gothic buildings is well worth a walking tour around town. Also explore some of the side streets (provided you don't get lost), as many of them contain hidden bits of quaint beauty.
  • Shopping: Cornmarket Street is the main commercial zone, but many side streets have interesting, small shops.
  • Pubs: There are lots of cozy pubs in Oxford serving a fine assortment of draft beers and ales.
  • The Bodleian Library (University of Oxford; main website The Bodleian is unique in that it is not a lending library -- no books can be borrowed, only read on the premises. The general public cannot enter the reading rooms; that right is reserved for members and those holding guest passes. We may be able to obtain guest passes upon request; please contact Peter Jeavons or another member of the Oxford faculty if you wish to obtain a pass. Other parts of the library can be seen on one of the frequent guided tours. Please note that, in any case, first-hand inspection of manuscripts is normally not permitted to anyone. Digital images of manuscripts can be browsed online at, and at ('Early Manuscripts at Oxford University: Digital facsimiles of complete manuscripts, scanned directly from the originals'). Of tangential interest is the agreement between the University of Oxford and to digitise the Library's holdings of non-copyrighted books (see also, "Google checks out Bodleian Library books").
  • The Oxford City 'Events diary' lists public events by dates [].
  • A day-trip from Oxford by train to Bath is highly recommended. Take the self-guided audio tour of the impressive and well-preserved Roman baths: unforgettable. There is a frequent bus tour of the city that also is enjoyable and informative. Bath is a fairly small town, easy to get around on foot. Beautiful gardens, parks, and river running through town. Good restaurants & pubs. Unsual shops.

This page was last updated on 25 January 2007

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