IncipitSearch: a guide to collaboration

poster / demo / art installation
  1. 1. Anna Neovesky

    Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Literatur (ADW) Mainz

  2. 2. Frederic von Vlahovits

    Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Literatur (ADW) Mainz

Work text
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A centralized access to sources, editions, and further kinds of publications facilitates the research process and provides a comprehensive overview of existing information. To connect musicological collections and repositories, we created a metasearch for annotated music: IncipitSearch. (Neovesky and von Vlahovits, 2018) It is a tool and a service specifically tailored for research on music incipits, the initial sequences of notes that characterize a work. IncipitSearch is a service to interconnect musical pieces via metadata. It is also a tool that can be reintegrated into existing digital research platforms. By connecting some of the largest digital collections of music metadata it already offers access to around 1 million incipits. In four comprehensible steps, this poster will be a guide explaining how data owners can add their data to IncipitSearch and how the reimplementation of the search functionality can be carried out.

What kind of digital collections can be integrated?
Firstly, the poster focuses on the process of implementing data and elaborates what preconditions must be taken care of to get the musical sources ready for IncipitSearch. To these key questions answers will be given: What kind of music can be implemented? What kind of digital collections can be integrated? How do they have to be licensed? What exactly is the IncipitSearch definition of an incipit?

How must collections be prepared if they are not already encoded?
IncipitSearch uses a specific metadata format that aims at making the content highly semantic and interoperable. Our approach uses RDFa and ( to add fundamental metadata to existing markup in a semantically structured way. Plaine & Easie (Brook and Gould, 1964) notation is used to encode the music incipits.
The format is also used to semantically enrich the output format for the aggregated data. An easy understanding and usage of the format is necessary to create a low-threshold approach to inspire the integration of further resources to the IncipitSearch platform.
In order to achieve that we needed a format that could serve two use cases: 1) Augmenting already existing collections with incipit information. 2) Annotating completely new content not available online yet.
Data owners will ideally provide their content in JSON-LD serialization. The poster will demonstrate how the metadata format is structured and explain each step in producing the metadata file.

How must collections be prepared if they are already encoded?
At the moment, IncipitSearch aggregates the incipit data of the catalogue of Gluck’s complete works, the SBN OPAC, the RISM OPAC and includes a sample data set of the thematic Breitkopf Catalogo delle Sinfonie 1762. The underlying data of these repositories is quite diverse. Therefore different crawlers have been programmed to transform and aggregate such already existing data. The poster will offer help for projects that already came to an end or don't have resources for their own data engineering. The importance of update routines will also be touched.

How to implement incipit search functionality in other repositories?
Fourthly, the guide will demonstrate how easy it is to implement an incipit search functionality in individual projects such as work catalogues or library catalogues by making use of the IncipitSearch API. An example of this is the “Incipitsuche” of the Gluck-Gesamtausgabe’s digital work catalogue ( By making the API basically an elasticsearch endpoint it is naturally very well documented. The poster will present some fundamental parameters of an IncipitSearch query and give insights into the making of the Gluck reintegration. The basic structure of an IncipitSearch service script will be provided as well.
From its very beginning the main idea of IncipitSearch was bringing very different types of musicological resources together and to make them accessible in an open source environment. This proposal emphasizes openness, transparency and collaboration as central aims of IncipitSearch by delivering a manual for involvement.


Brook, B.S., Gould, M. (1964).
Notating Music with Ordinary Typewriter Characters (A Plaine and Easie Code System for Music). Fontes Artis Musicae, vol. 11, no. 3, pp. 142–159.

Neovesky, A., von Vlahovits, F. (2018).
IncipitSearch - Interlinking Musicological Repositories. DH 2018 Bridges / Puentes, pp. 462-464.

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