A Digital Corpus for a Cultural Tradition: Vienna’s Neujahrskonzert meets Digital Musicology

Chanda VanderHart, Ph.D. (mdw -- Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst Wien); David M. Weigl, Ph.D.

The New Year’s Concert (NYC) of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, an annual cultural tradition for over 80 years, is broadcast to millions of viewers internationally with commercial recordings regularly topping the charts. It is both ubiquitous and inscrutable. Individual orchestra members go systematically unnamed and even records of the compositions and performance order differ depending on the source.

For musicologists, the institution represents cultural and kulturstiftende currency, the threading of the needle of the “popular music” / “serious music” dichotomy, and questions of Klangstil — though there is broad agreement that its core, Strauβ-dynasty, repertoire is played uniquely, quantifying Vienna’s signature sound is hardly straightforward. For data scientists, the institution's static yet ever-changing character provides a unique, valuable dataset. The repertoire changes each year, yet musical genres (waltzes, polkas, marches) and certain works repeat annually, notably the Donauwalzer and Radetzky March. Further, there have been three major eras of conductors: Josef Krauss, Willi Boskovsky and — since the 1980s — annual selections from a pool of star guest conductors.

Signature Sound Vienna, an FWF-funded project housed at the Department of Music Acoustics — Wiener Klangstil of the mdw — University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna, brings together interdisciplinary experts in musicology, performance science, music informatics, and Web science to collate, enrich, and analyze a corpus of performance recordings, historical discourse and other NYC-related ephemera. Linked Open Data models and software developed collaboratively by music scholars and technologists support discourse analysis, historical contextualization, and close-listening across large collections of performance recordings. These collections, aligned via machine-readable music encodings, provide a semantic framework bridging performance- and score-time. Emphasizing FAIR research data management and tooling supporting digital annotation invites scholarly discourse scrutinizing and building on our findings, as well as future re-use and re-interpretation.


Chanda VanderHart, PhD is a musicologist, collaborative pianist and music journalist. She has a piano performance degree from the Eastman School of Music (B.M. 2000), three graduate collaborative piano degrees from Milan and Austria (dipl. 2006, MA 2006, post-MA perf. Dipl. 2012) with honors and a PhD in musicology from the mdw - University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna in 2016 wíth the dissertation, “Die Entwicklung des Kunstliedes im Wiener Konzertleben zwischen 1848 und 1897.” A related monograph, Lieder and Performance in 19th Century Vienna; Contexts and Perspectives is currently in review with Cambridge University Press and will be published with a series of historically informed recordings.

VanderHart is faculty at the mdw where she is currently a research assistant on the project Signature Sound Vienna in the Department of Music Acoustics - Wiener Klangstil, lecturer in the Department of Musicology and Performance Studies (IMI), and vocal coach and pianist at the Anton Bruckner Institute. She was previously research assistant on the Wie Klingt Österreich project, exploring politics and its utilization of music for identity creation in 20th-century Austria. She has guest lectured at the Malta School of Music, the Institute for European Studies, the Kunstuniversität Graz. Publications include articles for the AMC, MDPI books, the yearbook of the Centre for Popular Culture and Music, Albert-Ludwigs-University Freiburg, the Sorbonne University and CIERA. Within the last two years she has given papers chaired sessions at Oxford University, UC Irvine, Queen's University Belfast , ELIA in Helsinki and at the Digital Libraries for Musicology conference in Prague.

An international performance career includes performances at the Musikverein, the Volksoper, the Volkstheater, the Schoenberg Center and Porgy and Bess in Vienna, the Malmö Opera, the Banff Centre in Alberta, Kala Mandir in Kolkata, DeDoelen Concertgebouw in Rotterdam and City Recital Hall in Sydney. Recordings includes the first recording of Brahms cello sonatas on the historical "Brahmsflügel,” a double-CD of Robert Fuchs compositions on fin de siècle Steinway, the first English language version of Robert Schumann’s Dichterliebe with tenor Eric Stoklossa as well as numerous recordings of marginalized late nineteenth-century songs.

VanderHart co-founded the multimedia children’s story-telling platform Talespin, Musical Tales for Big and Small and the interdisciplinary concert series Mosaïque. She was musical director of Opera Moderne, and performs regularly as pianist and aerialist with the circus ensemble The Freestyle Orchestra. Her podcast on accompaniment and gender, “Too Many Frocks,” with producer Bill Lloyd was featured by NATS, and she has published two multilingual children's books with CDs. Her music journalism work includes reviews for over 150 opera and concert productions for Bachtrack in London since 2013 as well as articles for MET on Demand and the Staatsoper magazine

David M. Weigl, PhD. is an interdisciplinary researcher in cultural and social informatics, specializing in the application of semantic technologies to digital music research. He holds a PhD in Information Studies (McGill University, Canada). He conducted doctoral research in music information retrieval as a student member of the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Music Media and Technology (CIRMMT) in Montreal, functioning on the Student Executive Committee as Research Axis Coordinator and Student Representative.

As postdoctoral research associate at the Oxford e-Research Centre, University of Oxford, UK, David received training in Linked Data and Semantic Web technologies. He investigated applications of these approaches within digital humanities scholarship, libraries, and music industry contexts, through collaborative research with the HathiTrust Research Centre, the BBC, and academic partner institutions in UK EPSRC and AHRC-funded projects including Fusing Audio and Semantic Technologies (FAST) and Transforming Musicology. At Oxford, David led development on research software packages supporting digital musicology scholarship, including the Semantic Alignment and Linking Tool (SALT), employed in the interlinking of catalog and broadcast metadata relating to early music, and the Music Encoding and Linked Data framework (MELD), which has seen application in diverse use-cases in music rehearsal, performance, (re-)composition, annotation, and scholarly communication.

Since returning to his native Vienna, Austria to continue his postdoctoral research at the mdw – University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna, David took on the role of Data Officer on the EU Horizon 2020-funded Toward Richer Online Music Public-domain Archives (TROMPA) project, investigating infrastructures for large-scale, FAIR data management approaches to the interconnection and enrichment of online music resources, before serving as Principal Investigator on Signature Sound Vienna, an ongoing FWF-funded digital musicology investigation of the Vienna Philharmonic’s New Year’s Concert series. He further serves as National Research Partner on Weave (FWF/DFG/SNSF)-funded Electronic, Linked, Annotated, Unified Tablature Edition (E-LAUTE), a collaboration with the Austrian National Library and international academic partners establishing an open-access hyper-edition of lute tablatures of the German speaking area between 1450 and 1550.

Music encodings, and particularly the Music Encoding Initiative (MEI), form a special focus of David’s research and academic service. He has served as Programme Committee member (2020) and Programme Chair (2022) of the Music Encoding Conference, is co-convener of the MEI Linked Data Interest Group, and a member of the MEI Board (2023 – 2025). Through his work at mdw, David has been involved in the development of mei-friend, an interactive browser-based graphical editor for music encodings.