Musical texts and information retrieval: the case of the early modern battaglia

Gale, Michael and Lewis, David. 2015. Musical texts and information retrieval: the case of the early modern battaglia. Early Music, 43(4), pp. 587-595. ISSN 0306-1078 [Article]

Early Music-2015-Gale-587-95.pdf
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

Download (694kB) | Preview

Abstract or Description

Digital technologies can help scholars to navigate the vast quantities of musical data and source materials now available to them, but an imaginative leap is needed in order to conceptualize the kinds of musicological research questions we might ask of electronic corpora. In particular, our data-rich digital world offers enormous potential for the exploration of musical transmission and relatedness.
In this article, we explore the 16th- and 17th-century instrumental battaglia (battle piece), a genre with a very distinctive collective identity arising from the use of numerous shared ingredients (including melodic, motivic, textural, harmonic and rhythmic features). However, a battaglia is not defined by the presence of a core set of essential features, and exact concordance between these pieces is often remarkably low. This kind of musical ‘family resemblance’ (formulated after Wittgenstein) poses a serious challenge to both traditional musicological apparatus (for example, finding aids such as thematic catalogues) and Music Information Retrieval (which has often privileged melodic similarity at the expense of other kinds of musical relatedness).
This case study provides a stimulus for rethinking the complex nature of musical similarity. In doing this, we outline a set of requirements for digital tools that could support the discovery, exploration and representation of these kinds of relationships.

Item Type:


Identification Number (DOI):


battaglia; battle music; digital resources; programme music; search queries

Departments, Centres and Research Units:



4 November 2015Published


Funding bodyFunder IDGrant Number
Arts and Humanities Research CouncilUNSPECIFIED

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

08 Dec 2015 22:28

Last Modified:

21 Dec 2022 14:28

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


View statistics for this item...

Edit Record Edit Record (login required)