ROCKnROM: The Ultimate Database of Popular Music

Article excerpt

ROCKnROM is an interactive searchable database of popular music artists and their works, intended "for professionals in the business of music," as stated on the opening window of the program. Michael Wadleigh, producer of the film documentary Woodstock, receives main credit for the disc. American and British rock music from 1955 to 1995 is the primary coverage of the product, but Wadleigh has extended the scope to approximately three hundred genres of popular music in the broadest sense, and, in fact, more than 100,000 of the 800,000 recording track titles in the database are devoted to jazz.

The main screen presents a kaleidoscopic assembly of clickable sections for words, artists, writers, works, recordings (tracks), products (CDs, LPs, tapes), musical genres, roles (instruments, performing group types, or functions such as arranger, producer, and engineer), dates, popularity charts, and places. Data is consolidated into boxes with labels such as "identity" (name, gender, product format), "space-time" (dates and places of birth, death, publication, work), "relations" (to performing groups, label names, publishers), and "attributes/achievements" (genre, medium of performance, works, recordings, products, contributions). Other aspects of ROCKnROM include concept analysis charts, biographies, reviews, photographs, and descriptions of musical genres.

This CD draws upon the databases of three leading music organizations - the Mechanical-Copyright Protection Society Ltd. (MCPS), a British organization representing over one million composers and music publishers worldwide, and Chart Information Network Ltd. (CIN) and Billboard, which are the primary managers and distributors of music popularity charts in the United Kingdom and the United States respectively. Descriptions of musical genres derive from the MCPS database and Steve Smith, Bits and Pieces (1988). Photographs were supplied by the Hulton Getty Collection in London. Most of the biographical information is several years old, having been extracted from Donald Clarke's 1989 reference book, The Penguin Encyclopedia of Popular Music. Sources for reviews of recordings include Dave Marsh, The Heart of Rock and Soul (1989), David Sinclair, Rock on CD: The Essential Guide (1993), and Caroline Sullivan, rock critic for The Guardian (1995-96).

Most text searching is dependent on keyword queries with right and left truncation. Other search methods include clicking on icons or lists of selected names and titles. Limiters include categories such as publisher, label, venue, gender of artist(s), place, dates, genre, type of product, biographies, and photographs. Search results often include tabbed windows that list products, contributions, recordings, or works. When returning to a list display, the most recently retrieved item is positioned at the top of the list. Throughout the course of a search session, the bottom of the screen variably contains options for returning to the home screen, reviewing search histories, returning to previous screens, searching, clearing searching windows, adding to playlists (bookmarks), and quitting the program.

Indexes in the database are sorted according to computer filing rules - uppercase characters file before lowercase. The situation is complicated by the fact that capitalization is used for full names of performing groups (BEACH BOYS) and artists known by single names (MADONNA) and for surnames of other individual artists (Michael JACKSON). The usefulness of the indexes is further weakened by a lack of authority control, by sorting a host of performing group names under the initial article "The," and by frequent listing of personal names under the first letter of the first name rather than the surname (Jackie GLEASON files under "J"). Collectively these factors often cause multiple alphabetical sequences in search results, so one usually needs to browse such lists with care.

The "Words" searching function is the most dynamic direct query feature that ROCKnROM offers, supplying exact word or phrase access to the one million words in the product's data entries. …