Finding an aria within an oratorio and other such dilemmas

Moravian music collections are a mixed bag of printed editions, manuscript copies of printed editions, manuscripts of original music, manuscripts of excerpts and contrafactum.  By contrafactum I mean the substitution of one text for another without substantial change to the music. So these collections require access to all music down to the lowest movement level. This is essential for vocal music and slightly less essential for instrumental music.

For example, it is not uncommon to identify a favorite chorus from a Johann Heinrich Rolle oratorio, which has been copied as an anthem, perhaps the text has changed and maybe even the choral voicings (such as, SATB to SSTB). Some of these excerpts or contrafactum were copied and appear in multiple collections among the settlement congregations, including Bethlehem, Nazareth, Lititz and Lancaster in Pennsylvania, Dover in Ohio and Salem in North Carolina. The anthems were used during worship services, Singstunden or Love Feasts.

The question for catalogers is how to provide access to all the music, including sub-units such as movements of a larger work.  The answer leads to a complicated, multi-pronged solution.  First, all movements music be cataloged to gain access to the smaller sub-units; secondly, all movements must include musical incipits.  Matching musical incipits is the best way to identify musical works — independent from the texts. Musical  incipits are printed in standard music notation. They typically feature the first few bars of a piece, often with the most prominent musical material written on a single staff.  Here is an example from RISM.  In another post we will dive into musical incipits.

So, if the catalogers are providing complete access to all the music, what cataloging guidelines have been used?

  • Since we wanted to convert all information on the paper cards to online records, we chose OCLC and RISM as the two bibliographic utilities which are the best sources for discovery (bibliographic and musical).
  • Instrumental works are cataloged on one bibliographic record, with the movements noted in the table of content field (field 505) and the musical incipits encoded for each movement in separate fields (field 031).
  • Vocal works are cataloged on multiple bibliographic records, with one “parent” record for the entire work and separate “child” bibliographic records for each movement.  We include all movement titles in the “parent” table of contents (field 505), while the musical incipits are included in the “child” bibliographic record for each movement. The child record also includes additional subject access depending on the item. For example, subject headings, such as “sacred songs” or “choruses, sacred” or “canons, fugues, etc. (chorus), are added to child records.
  • The parent and child records need to be linked together, showing the relationship and providing access to each.
  • Sometimes, the manuscripts include hand-written notes with an alternate text, which is noted on the bibliographic records.  Sometimes, only the alternate text is given on the manuscript; in this case the musical incipit is the way to identify and bring together like works.
  • Use the parent/child bibliographic records model for collections of unrelated works too.

In our online catalog, GemeinKat/WorldCat Discovery, the feature of linking the parent and child records for display is still under construction.  In the RISM catalog the linking of parent and child records is an important feature (and is very cool).

An example of parent/child bibliographic records for a collection is illustrated well with the collection Zum großen Sabbath, 1768.  Johannes Herbst (a collection of 9 sacred songs). At the bottom of the page there is a list of the 9 sacred songs, each linked to an individual record for each song. Each individual song is, in turn, linked to the parent record.

 

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