Ground-breaking computer modelling of the development of canonic compositions from the Late Middle Ages to the early Renaissance is revealing the melodic and rhythmic conventions learned by their composers.

Dr Denis Collins, one of the chief investigators for this Australian Research Council funded project, said the work included not only consideration of the different ways of transforming melodies and their rhythms across the canonic voices, but also broader contextual issues relating to canon’s role in society and culture during this period.

“In devising computer-assisted analysis tools that extend recent methods in computational musicology, we focus on identifying different kinds of repeated patterns of contrapuntal behaviour across all voices in a composition,” Dr Collins said.

Dr Collins and his fellow chief investigator, Dr Jason Stoessel of the University of New England, expect to address two research questions through their innovative approach.

“The first seeks to determine empirically what conventions might lie behind the creation of canonic compositions, particularly the regulation of melodic behaviours, Dr Collins said.

“The second, is how these conventions manifest themselves in one sense as repeated contrapuntal patterns. The superimposition of these repeated contrapuntal patterns informs us about the interrelationship between canonic techniques and contrapuntal convention, providing the first steps towards answering the first research question.”

Dr Collins expects that their methods and results will have wider application for studies for studies of later contrapuntal repertoire to ca. 1800.

Project members

Dr Denis Collins

Senior Lecturer in Musicology
Director of Teaching & Learning
Senior Lecturer
School of Music

Dr Michael O'Loghlin

Honorary Research Fellow & Casual Lecturer
School of Music