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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Moving data from paper records to online records

There are many decision that need to be made when transferring information from paper records to online records.  In this case, we are moving the information to MARC records that are readable in library catalogs.

  1. What does the paper record respresent? Moravian music cataloged during the NEH cataloging project in the 1970s have compact descriptions.  That is, all the manifestations of an entity are represented in one descriptive record.

For example, Christian Ignatius Latrobe’s cantata The Dawn of Glory has three manifestations: one printed organ-vocal score, one manuscript organ-vocal score and 16 manuscript parts.  See the description here: Dawn of Glory.

A conceptual decision was made for these instances that the printed music have spearate records from the manuscript music.  In this case, there was a record for Latrobe’s printed vocal score, plus a record for the manuscript vocal score with manuscript parts.

2. How does the catalog handle multi-part works (like a cantata), so that a single movement can be discovered? The catalogers made separate records for each movement of a work and included a musical incipit, so that the specific passage can be identified. These records were linked together by call number.  In the online catalog records are linked together with linking fields.

In the case of the Latrobe cantatas, using the manuscript vocal score and parts as an example, there is a parent record for the whole cantata plus 16 records for individual movements. I call them the children records.  So there is a parent record, plus 16 child records for the vocal score and parts.

Conversion has begun

GemeinKat: catalog of the Moravian Gemeinde or community

Conversion has begun at the Moravian Music Foundation, but we are not talking about a religious conversion — rather a conversion from catalog records on paper converted to online records in a new web catalog. Barbara Strauss and David Blum, catalogers for this project, started working on two tracks — working on the Research Library and working on the manuscript collections from the vaults.

As David worked his way through the Research Library collection, he integrated books from the Moravian Music Foundation with the books from the Southern Province Archive into one collection ordered by Library of Congress call numbers.  Each volume, however, retains a mark for the Archives or the Foundation.  David has found some real gems, which Nola Knouse will explore at one of the lunch lectures in the future.

Barbara worked with staff from Backstage Library Works in Provo, Utah as they converted the catalog records for the manuscripts and early music imprints.  This is a high-tech, high-touch job.  Barbara created specifications for each collection to create a consistent record with all the Moravian and musical points of identity. Catalog cards or book catalogs were scanned; catalogers at Backstage Library Works created records according to specifications; records were checked for quality assurance; finally the records were added to the largest library database in the world — WorldCat.org.  From WorldCat.org, the Foundation will create the new web catalog.

What will all this conversion work do?  There is not one answer to that question.  As this project progresses, we will discover many benefits to this conversion work.  Let me start with one. On the Foundation’s webpage Research at the Moravian Music Foundation, Nola discusses a broad array of research topics and approaches. All of this is based on the assets found in the Winston Salem and Bethlehem vaults.  This conversion work will facilitate research on these topics and topics we haven’t dreamed of yet.