«Ricercar» is a research programme in musicology, established in 1992 at the Centre d’études supérieures de la Renaissance (University of Tours – CNRS – Ministère de la Culture). The programme, directed by Philippe Vendrix, is carried out by a permanent team and associated researchers.
There are three fields of activities:
1. Research in Renaissance music, with particular attention paid to repertoires, compositional processes, reconstruction of lost voices, musical practices, social history, theory and philosophy of music, iconography, organology.
2. Construction of databases, online repertoires and digital tools.
3. Promotion of musical heritage.
In 1993, Ricercar established Épitome musical, a series dedicated to studies in Renaissance music which aims to produce finely-designed books, with high-quality images and music transcriptions, specifically tailored to the needs of the scholars, under the supervision of Vincent Besson. The Épitome musical series currently comprises almost one hundred volumes.
The Ricercar team works on both national and international collective projects, such as Agence Nationale de la Recherche projects on Prosopographie des Chantres de la Renaissance (2007-2010, directed by David Fiala), on the Saintes-Chapelles (2011-2013, directed by David Fiala), the European project Aux confins de l’humanisme musical dir. by Vasco Zara, David Fiala and Philippe Vendrix.
International collaborations engendered some major digital projects: with Richard Freedman (Haverford College, Pennsylvania) on DuChemin, Lost Voice Project, and CRIM (Citations: The Renaissance Imitation Mass); and with Ennio Stipčević (Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts, Zagreb) on Renaissance Music in Croatia. In certain cases, questions arising from the digital experience led to the production of books, such as the books on Picardie, on Croatia.
Grants from the University of Tours and from Le STUDIUM institute allow research scholars to come to Tours and work with our team.
The Ricercar team also has a long tradition and experience of organising conferences, such as that on Johannes Ockeghem in 1997, the MedRen in 2005, the Spinacino Conference in 2007, the MEI Conference in 2017, as well as international seminars and workshops.
Databases, online repertoires and digital tools
Creation of databases began in 1994 with the Catalogue de la Chansons française à la Renaissance by Annie Cœurdevey, and continued with the Prosopography of Renaissance Singers by David Fiala.
In parallel, we started working on free online publications of specific repertoires, in connection with some research projects – Le corpus de luthistes and Les messes anonymes du 15e siècle –, and we experimented with the latest digital technologies suitable for music. More recently, in collaboration with the TGIR Huma-num, we integrated MEI and other encoding standards for metadata shared by the international community for the Gesualdo Online project.
Participation in the Consortium musica by the TGIR Huma-num, allowed our team to develop a new open-source tool, called “TiKiT•MUSICA”: a CMS Omeka personalised distribution platform with a default plug-in configuration, in which OMEKA, MEI, TEI, Dublin Core, and Verovio viewer work together. TiKiT • MUSICA is thus a tool which enables researchers to build their own music libraries, for free.
Promotion of Musical Heritage
Since 2011, Ricercar has been working on digital projects on cultural heritage designed to disseminate musicological research results to a wider lay audience. Our first endeavour focused on the re-creation of music in some long-lost Renaissance spaces. For this purpose, we produced 3D renderings of the Sainte-Chapelle in Dijon, in 2014, and the 15th century Saint Martin Collegiate in Tours, in 2016, for public exhibition.
In a similar vein, we also developed an immersive installation, called the “Cubiculum musicae”. Developed in collaboration with Intelligence des Patrimoines, the Cubiculum musicae is a revolutionary exhibition space that can be custom-designed for specific events.
The Cubiculum musicae is a mobile unit in which selected pieces of music are played and explained to the public with the aid of visuals, technological tools, interactive software, and web applications. The visitor enters into a dark, acoustically-isolated room which features a central screen and with tailored sound diffusion all around the walls, to optimise their experience of the music. Since 2011 many Cubicula have been produced. Among the most recent projects, we can mention the Cubiculum musicae on the musical life of Fontevraud Abbey, a UNESCO site in France, and another Cubiculum on Leonardo da Vinci (Tours, September 2019).