Research into the history of medieval liturgy and music is immensely facilitated and supported by the transcription of codices (such as the CAO by Dom R.J. Hesbert) and the catalogues made of the rich material (like the CANTUS Database directed by D. Lacoste). The CAO-ECE is also based on the accurate transcription and analysis of the medieval sources, its aim is, however, to go further in defining the liturgical practice of the church institutions and local traditions along principles and methods described in the section Principles of CAO-ECE. The results will be summed up in tables accompanied by notes. They can be used
for studying the tradition and sources of a given church,
for comparing the medieval rites of different centres (and thereby for investigating the flow of transmissions and influences), and also
for defining or checking the provenance of codices and fragments.
The first part of the name CAO-ECE (Corpus Antiphonalium Officii - Ecclesiarum Centralis Europae) refers to the prominent opus of Dom Hesbert, while the second part wishes to call attention to the sources of Central Europe. Although this region is not without interest (since it preserves archaic features and offers new insights of method by way of some strong, isolated traditions, etc.), its documents have been rather outside the sphere of interest of most scholars. Nevertheless, they must not be omitted from a summary survey of European traditions if we are really interested in history in its integrity and not merely in the verification of preconceived theses. The program intends to order the material according to the inner disposition of liturgies, and takes unambiguous sources of the liturgical traditions as its starting point. (The method is to proceed to outside from inside.) The direct aim of research is to identify the crystallized medieval traditions with respect to their contents and supporting communities. The next question concerns the changes of these traditions in time and their interrelationships (origin, mutual influences). The long-term aims may be:
The principles of the project were worked out by László Dobszay, on the basis of the methodological experiences of research carried out on Hungarian plainchant material. These principles were first explained in detail in:
- László Dobszay - Gábor Prószéky: Corpus Antiphonalium Officii Ecclesiarum Centralis Europae, A Preliminary Report (Budapest, 1988),
- László Dobszay: The Program CAO-ECE in: Studia Musicologica 30 (1980), pp. 355-360.
Since this research was supposed to study a great deal of data gathered from many sources in order to reach its goals, the application of the computer with all its advantages and difficulties appeared to be a possible, indeed imperative requirement. For this reason a special program system was written by Gábor Prószéky aimed at meeting the requirements of the theoretical principles of the project. In this respect, CAO-ECE is the name of both a scholarly project and a computer program system. This program helped the transcription and study of sources, offered the possibility of managing the data and mantaining the databases easily, of searching information, comparing sources, printing the tables in different forms etc., and all under very modest technical circumstancies.
Nevertheless, the computer assistance is no more than a tool for listing the Office structures in a clear and surveyable form, comparing them, and retrieving them fast. Since there are many possibilities to meet these requirements, particularly owing to the rapid development of computer technique and the general technical conditions, the CAO-ECE project no longer depends on the special software called CAO-ECE. Since the program system used the DBASE file format conventions, any DBASE compatible software can be used either for retrieving the data of the tables or transcribing new sources for the study. The only things to be insisted on are the structure of the databases (as the manifestation of the Office form) and the conventions, keys and abbreviations used in the tables for remaining compatible with the earlier databases, so that different sources and traditions continue to be comparable with each other.