Instrumental Music in the South German Region

About the project

As these projects will be integrated into the comprehensive E-LAUTE edition project, the most content of this website will be updated and will be available from the E-LAUTE website from 2025 (April, 2024)  

go to: E-LAUTE: Electronic Linked, Annotated, and Unified Tablature Edition – Die Laute im deutschsprachigen Raum 1450–1550


This website presents two intertwined research projects, which I have been conducting at the Institute of Musicology at the University of Vienna since October 2016: 16th-Century Soloistic Instrumental Music in the South German Cultural Region (Austrian Science Fund - FWF project M 2062) and Soloistic Instrumental Music in the Central European Cultural Region (ca. 1500 – ca. 1550):Instrumental Praxis and Humanistic Contexts (Austrian Science Fund - FWF project V 661). The aim of both projects is to explore 16th-century tablatures from Southern Germany through the entire set of their musical, literary and graphic entries. The material consists mainly of lute tablature manuscripts and a few scarce handwritten keyboard tablatures (see Material in Database description). Due to the meagre research on most tablatures and the fact that some sources are still difficult to access, as a prerequisite of the actual project the initial bibliographical, paleographical and historical information had to be completed, checked and corrected. Furthermore, the tablature notation had to be transferred into score notation in order to introduce the music into a broader scholarly discourse so that it no longer only circulates among lutenists.

Methodologically the problems of transmission and interpretation of sketches and fragments had to be solved, the question of ‘concordance’ itself and the underlying problem of ‘similarity’ in instrumental music. Where the manuscripts are exercise books or at least notebooks, i.e. directly reflect or introduce practices, the question arose whether these practices could be reconstructed, among other things based on hitherto unknown handwritten symbols (see Database description). My aim was and still is to try, as far as possible, to look at the material from a sixteenth-century musician’s perspective and to reveal, as far as possible, the historical usage of the tablatures and their perception in the 16th century. Therefore, one of my focuses is on socio-cultural spaces of instrumental music.

It must however be taken into account that the student notebooks, notebooks for domestic use or textbooks (primers), that tablatures often were, form part of humanist culture. Consequently they are full of indications of humanistic education, from literary components (e.g. sententiae) to the loci communes technique of wide scope and specific forms of handing down material as a sort of "friendship albums" (alba amicorum). Insofar as these phenomena had an effect on the music, involved it or at least were conceived in connection with it, they provide a rich perspective and a useful tool for understanding the tablatures.

This website gives an overview of the ongoing work in the project. Here you will find information about the research results published, workshops, talks and presentations taken place or scheduled, as well as some information about the CD production and other audio recordings connected to my projects. Particular sources such as D-LEm 191 or Don Mus. Autogr. 1 have been so much excluded from scholarship and practice that it seemed necessary to reproduce them separately in an annotated and edited form. With these efforts being work in progress, readers will be informed here about their results.

The greatest achievement of this website, however, is its database, where the research data are being added continuously. The database is interdisciplinary and makes it possible to see all components of the research work in their context, e.g. the interrelation of literary (sententiae) and musical entries. Both the database and a detailed description of the its concept (see Database description) will, will be made available later this year.

I would like to express my sincere thanks to all those who support me in this endeavour.

Kateryna Schöning 

January 1, 2021