The problem of interpreting medieval texts is preceded by the problem of accessing them. Primary and secondary sources alike are largely disseminated over print texts, where the only form of standardization comes from Pillet and Carsten's catalogued ID number*. An online database presents the perfect opportunity to compile information about a song, and make it accessible to a wide audience. However, the task of digitizing all of these records is beyond the scope of this class. Instead, I created a database that establishes a framework for ---, but whose content is a metaphorical arrow to a secondary source where the reader can find a piece of information, rather than the information itself. The idea is that eventually, this arrow will be replaced by a full lyric, critique, biography...etc.
The medium of a database forces scholars to confront the inconsistencies between different notations, spellings, classifications, or structures. Over the course of creating my database, I discovered several places in which primary sources don't agree with each other. For instance, Goldin's anthology attributes "Vers Dieus, el vostre..." to Folquet de Marseille, while the P&C attribution is to Folquet de Romans, two different people. Similarly, the beginning of a song in Goldin starts out as "Farai un vers", while the same song is listed as "un vers farai" in the Frank. This difference may be overlooked in print resources, where there is context to recognize that these songs are one in the same, but a database demands precision in notation.
I can see digital tools transforming the way medievalists study texts through data analytics. For instance, McMahon states that comparing first lines is not enough to identify a contrafactum. Instead, their melodies must be extensively similar, but also different enough than common melodies of the period, so it can be considered a deliberate borrowing rather than an unconscious influence. Cataloguing the dates and melodies, and lyrics of all of these songs could easily help identify which songs may be contrafacta of others.