The contemporary processing of watermarks in Franz Schubert’s music manuscripts has long been a desideratum. As part of the Heritage Science Austria funding program, the interdisciplinary project “Digitization, Recognition and Automated Clustering of Watermarks in the Music Manuscripts of Franz Schubert”, which includes thermography, machine learning and signal processing, will start in autumn 2021.
The indexing of Franz Schubert’s music manuscripts is one of the main concerns of the Vienna office of the New Schubert Edition. Dating has been a central task since it began in the 1960s, as it provides additional information on the history of the sources. In doing so, not only Schubert’s handwriting but also the types of paper he used were taken into account. Thanks to the continuous source documentation, the Neue Schubert-Ausgabe can now fall back on a stock of more than 1,300 handwritten watermark pauses.
As valuable as these breaks are, some were created under unfavorable conditions and do not allow a comparative overview. Up-to-date digital visualization and indexing have long been a desideratum. With modern imaging techniques, using thermography, machine learning and signal processing, more objective results can be achieved. This is where the new project (in cooperation with the Institute for Sound Research of the ÖAW) comes in, which makes use of basic ideas from the field of fingerprint recognition, where attempts are made in a similar way to determine from a large number of data sets which of them are assigned to the same fingerprint can. This not only verifies previous results of Schubert research, but also abstracts them towards a common application scenario – the gap between analog and digitally processed research data.
The project is carried out by a research team led by Katharina Loose-Einfalt (Vienna office of the New Schubert Edition) and Günther Koliander (Institute for Sound Research of the ÖAW) and by Andrea Lindmayr-Brandl (Head of the Schubert Research Center Vienna, Paris-Lodron University Salzburg) as a supervisor. In addition, the Vienna Library in the City Hall and the music collection of the Austrian National Library could be won as cooperation partners, which keep a predominant part of the Schubert manuscripts.
Photo: Franz Schubert, “Fierrabras” (D 796) Opera in three acts with spoken dialogues based on a libretto by Joseph Kupelwieser, 1823. Autograph writing, sheet 56 recto and 57 verso (music collection of the Wienbibliothek im Rathaus, MH 9), with one Watermark from the Welhartiz (Velhartice) paper mill, Czech Republic (Sources: Thermography: WZIS, handwritten pause: archive material from the New Schubert Edition).