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Types of Compositions: A-L --Types of Compositions: M-S -- Types of Compositions: T-Z

Types of Compositions: Introduction

The following list is taken from: Music Library Association. Working Group on Types of Compositions. Report of the Working Group on Types of Compositions


The question of what constitutes the name of a "type of musical composition" (referred to in this preface as a "generic title" became especially important to music catalogers with the advent of AACR2 and its provisions that (except when necessary to resolve conflicts) distinctive titles would not be qualified by medium, numeral, or key, and that generic titles would be indicated in the plural if the composer has written more than one of a type. Catalogers would no longer construct uniform titles without first knowing whether the basic title element was distinctive or generic.

Many titles are obviously types of composition, e.g., names of musical forms or genres (sonata, symphony, concerto), tempo designations (adagio, allegro), and standard combinations of instruments (trio, quartet). Conversely, many distinctive titles are obviously so, e.g., "Nozze di Figaro," "Appalachian Spring." But just as obviously, many titles are ambiguous and difficult to categorize. Some titles that appear to be generic are not defined in reference sources as types of composition, e.g., piece, divertissement, cantilena. While some of these terms may be treated as types of composition if they are so used by enough composeres (e.g., piece), others may not (e.g., cantilena).

Choice of language presents further complications. For distinctive titles, the composer's original title is used. Generic titles, however, may be in either English--if the term is cognate in English, French, German, and Italian--or in the original language--if the term is not cognate in each of these four languages (subject to the exceptions noted in Rule 25.29A1). therefore, one cannot readily decide upon the correct language of a term unless one knows if it is distinctive or generic and whether there are the requisite cognates. For example, the English generic term "symphony" is used rather than symphonie, Sinfonie, or sinfonia because there are cognates in the four languages "Piece," howver, would only be used if it was a composer's original title, for it has no cognate in German. the uniform title of such a work by a German speaking composer would likely be "Stück;" for a Hungarian composer "darab."

Music catalogers have been dealing with these incongruities for quite some time. A number of specific problems have been addressed by the Library of Congress through rule interpretations and music cataloging decisions. Such individual treatment by the Library of Congress, however, can only occur on an as encountered basis and cannot be expected for each of the multitude of terms encountered by music cataloger every day.

In order to eliminate practices resulting in a multitude of solutions and a great deal of inconsistency, the Bibliographic Control Committee of the Music Library Association decided to provide guidance for music catalogers. The Committee charged its Subcommittee on Descriptive Cataloging (Jennifer Bowen, Chair) to develop a list of terms that might be considered types of composition and to develop a research methodology for determining the status of these terms. A working group of four people (the editors of this publication) was formed to coordinate a group of volunteers from the membership of MLA who researched the use of these titles in music reference sources, Library of Congress documentation (AACR2 rev., Library of Congress Rule Interpretations, and Music Cataloging Decisions), the Library of Congress Name Authority File and LC MARC cataloging. The working group then checked and refined this research, using the above tools, the result of which was the list of generic and distinctive titles that was published in the November 1989 issued ot eh Music Cataloging Bulletin. The decisiion was then made to expand the list with new terms and to create an extensive alphabetical list that would include explanation of the use of certain terms, scope notes, distinctive terms that might be considered generic, and cognates of the generic titles in six major European languages (English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Russian), as well as selected terms in other languages. (The editors relied heavily on the Terminorum Musicae Index Septem Linguis Redactus to determine alternate language forms.) This publication is the result of this process.

Principles of the list

The following list of terms which are either "types of compositions" or "distinctive titles" (AACR2 Rev. 25.27A1 Footnote 9) includes equivalent terms in English, French, German, Italian, Russian, spanish, and in some cases, Czech, Dutch, Hungarian, Latin, and Polish. The list is not exhaustive.

Terms identified as"types" and their plurals are listed in boldface type, followed by the designation "type" and language. these terms should be used in the plural if a composer has written more than one composition of that type. If a term is followed by a note beginning "use ..." and has no plural listed, it is a cognate of another term, and the cataloger should refer to that term to determine its usage.

Terms which are "distinctive" are given only in the singular, followed by the designation "Distinctive" in boldface type and language.

Many terms include a brief explanation of their usage. It is essential to read this information before constructing a uniform title. Many terms are followed by additional verification: an authority record number from the Library of Congress Authority File, a Library of Congress control number from a MARC record, or items taken from documentation such as the Music Cataloging Bulletin.

This document is not meant to be a cataloging manual. The list must be used in conjunction with accepted cataloging tools: Anglo-american Cataloging Rules, 2nd ed., Rev. (AACR2Rev), Library of Congress Rule Interpretations (LCRIs), and Music Cataloging Decisions (MCDs). Throughout tis list there are many references to elements contained in these tools. To facilitate use of the list, excerpts from the most frequently cited are included below.

This list is designed to aid catalogers in their use of Chapter 25 of the Anglo American Cataloging Rules (2nd ed Rev.). It deals only with Rule 25.27A1, Footnote 9. Neither this list, nor the excerpts below, are substitutes for cataloging tools.

1. LCRI 25.27A

All modifiers other than medium or numeral make the phrase a distinctive title--no matter how common sounding it is.

2. MCD 25.27A1, footnote 9

When a composer uses a word which is normally the name of a type of composition as the title of a work which is definitely not a work of the type designated by the word, do not consider the title to be the name of a type of composition.

3. LCRI 25.29A (Liturgical titles)

Give Latin liturgical titles (e.g., "Gloria," "Salve Regina," "Te Deum") in the singular. exception: Use "Magnificats" and "Requiems" when appropriate. apply 25.30B1a, and do not normally include a statement of medium of performance.

4. 25.3A1 (Combination terms)

Combination terms ("Theme and variations," "Prelude and fugue") do not appear on this list and are addressed in 25.30A1: If the initial title element consists solely of the name of a type, or of two or more types, make additions to it as instructed in 25.30B-25.30E (use the original language). From the Music Cataloging Bulletin, v. 13, no. 9, 4th question under LC correspondence: "all titles consisting of the names of two ro more types of compositions do not qualify as cognate forms to be converted to the accepted English forms of nmae in accordance with 25.29A1 which limits such conversions to titles consisting solely of the name of one type of composition. Such titles will, however require a statement of medium of performance in accordance with 25.30B1," (e.g., Präludium and Fuge, organ, BWV 532, D major not Preludes and fugues, ordan, BWV 532, D major).

5. 25.29A1 (Cognates)

If the initial title element resulting from the application of 25.27 and 25.28 consists solely of the name of one type of composition, use the accepted English form of the name if there are cognate forms in English, French, German, and Italian, or if the same name is used in all these languages.

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