ECHOES is an interdisciplinary research project funded by the Portuguese ‘Fundação para Ciência e Tecnologia’ (2022.01957.PTDC). ECHOES was ranked first in the 2022 Portuguese national call for research projects in the ‘Arts’ group. The project runs from 03/2023-02/2026 (36 months) and the total awarded funding is 249.506,19€.


Plainchant;  Music Encoding;  Digital Musical Analysis;  Optical Music Recognition

ECHOES pursues a deeper understanding of an early chant repertory from medieval Portugal. While the main research questions are musicological, this project involves a large component of information technologies related to the development and application of techniques such as Optical Music Recognition (‘OMR’) and Music Encoding Initiative (‘MEI’) to early music scores. ECHOES will combine these technologies in new ways to make available to scholars and music aficionados a chant repertory that was part of the cultural identity of the region of Braga for centuries.

Project description

In our modern world, it is increasingly common in all areas of society to have machines performing tasks without human intervention. Access to information is mostly digital, information is dematerialized, it travels through fibre optic cables and it reaches us at our fingertips, on mobile phone screens and laptops. This research projects aims at bringing historical musicological research into the 21st century. It will push standard methodologies for research and open their barriers to fully exploit the most recent technologies for music encoding and automatic analysis.

Nowadays musicologists still largely perform analytical tasks ‘by hand’, often on the basis of small samples consisting of exemplary works or groups of works with common characteristics or function or a presumed common origin. Encoded music can instead dramatically expand the possibility for musical analysis, allowing more sophisticated searches through large repertories that would otherwise be difficult to handle simultaneously. This results in less time-consuming analysis and in a deeper understanding of the music, its compositional process, style, and transmission across time and space.

ECHOES aims to fully understand the history and evolution of the plainchant tradition (aka ‘monophonic liturgical chant’) of Braga (in northern Portugal) from the 11th to the 17th century. Our ambition is to explore the creative and dynamic process of musical production and transmission using automatic digital analysis of musical scores that were written with two different styles of notation: Aquitanian neumatic notation (employed until the 15th century) and square notation. This will lead us to reconstruct the plainchant soundscape of the Braga region and understand how this music was transmitted and, sometimes, reshaped over the centuries. Music is a product of the culture of its time and the people who created, listened and performed it. ECHOES tackles music with a more ecological approach, by studying not just the musical scores but also exploring how music changed over time and why; hence, this project will advance knowledge in the area of medieval and early modern music, Iberian cultural identity and, ultimately, history of mentalities. Indeed the analysis of handwritten musical notations can reveal hidden and meaningful information about the people who prepared, edited, used and later changed these books. ECHOES will frame the contribution of the individuals who wrote the scores and explain how they contributed to the larger exchange of ideas. Ultimately, the aim of ECHOES is to trace networks of ideas and cultural models and to determine how they were shaped by the people who handled the music books, thus leaving a personal mark on the history of Iberian early music book culture. ECHOES also contributes to protecting this musical and cultural heritage and promoting its understanding and availability to a broader audience of musicologists, scholars, and music enthusiasts.

Our research plan
ECHOES tackles the objective with a dual perspective: research line 1 (L1) on historical musicology and research line 2 (L2) on music technology. L1 aims to digitize, catalogue, describe and make freely available online on the PEM database all sources that can be ascribed to the region of Braga (this phase will build on previous research carried out by our team). L2 will focus on musical analysis and interpretation of data created by L1. L2 will create a prototype interface for musical analysis of plainchant that will initially perform automatic cross-referenced analysis of a selection of around 100 chants found in either books or fragments. The project’s prototype interface can eventually be scaled up to analyse the full repertory of Braga plainchant in future projects and even expanded to add further
cross-comparison between plainchant sources written in other European music notation styles.

In short, ECHOES will be the first comprehensive analysis of this repertory and will establish its distinctive features, provide open access to all the sources and objects of analysis, and will establish new tools for research. In addition, it will provide critical training and development for a new generation of music scholars.

More about us…

CESEM–Centre for the Study of the Sociology and Aesthetics of Music is a research unit based at the School of Social Sciences and Humanities of Universidade NOVA de Lisboa. CESEM is devoted to the study of music and its correlation with other arts, culture and society, incorporating various approaches and making use of the latest perspectives and methodologies in Social and Human Sciences.

These are the general aims of CESEM:

  • Create a suitable environment for teamwork, organised to tackle the identified scientific needs and priorities;
  • Support the research interests of its members and their participation in international professional venues, and the publication of the research results;
  • Promote new collaborative research projects that deepen the knowledge and dissemination of Portuguese, Iberian and Latin American themes;
  • Create new research tools, applications, and databases, allowing the international academic community to study local repertoires and other little explored objects as well as promoting the role of Music in contemporary Portuguese life;
  • Foster a renewed atmosphere of research and debate, bringing its members together in a dynamic musicological community capable of maintaining excellence in postgraduate studies in Music.

CESEM does not privilege, benefit, prejudice or deprive of any right, nor exempts from any duty any members and collaborators based on their heritage, age, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, family circumstances, economical status, level of education, ethnic origin or social condition, genetic heritage, limited capacity – handicap, chronic disease – nationality, spoken language, religion, political and ideological convictions or union membership.