Academic journal article Notes

Beyond the Score

Academic journal article Notes

Beyond the Score

Article excerpt

Ever since libraries first began collecting materials other than books (so-called "other formats" or "nonbook materials"), librarians have grappled with the descriptive issues these materials have raised.(1) Librarians have traditionally attempted to describe these items using existing standards while claiming that they actually must be treated differently. This discrepancy is manifested in the current cataloging rules,(2) which can blur the distinction between the description of an item and the description of the work it contains,(3) resulting in confusion that jeopardizes access to both the item and the work.

To make the problem worse, there are those who seem to confuse the concept of a musical work with its primary paper representation - the score. This confusion affects access to musical works by complicating the gathering of like entries in the catalog. When the sound recording was introduced into music libraries, there was controversy over whether the cataloging for scores and recordings could be interfiled, and if so, how the recording could be caused to file adjacent to "its score" - as though the score were somehow the work and the recording of a performance of the work were nothing more than a poor relation. Although that particular controversy has for the most part been settled felicitously, at present we are challenged once again by the introduction of a new technology - in this case, videorecordings of musical performances - and the old arguments return. This time there are those who would create a special category of "main entry"(4) so as to cause the videorecording of a performance to file adjacent to its score.

This argument is misinformed. The critical problems today are first how to identify the properties of musical bibliographic entities and then how to control each property in the bibliographic universe and in each of our own subsets of that universe - i.e., local library online catalogs. In the following essay, we examine the concept of "musical work" as it has been described by bibliographers, catalogers, and scholars of bibliographic control - granted that the terms "work" and "version" are sometimes defined differently by bibliographers, catalogers, and semioticians. There is ample evidence that equality exists among the representations of a musical work regardless of their physical format. The collected representations of any given musical work cannot be conceived of (and therefore cannot be controlled) as hierarchical entities. An understanding of the concept of the musical work should obviate the need to reconsider forms of access under current cataloging practice and lead the way to the next generation of bibliographic control for musical works.

THE MUSICAL WORK(5)

The relationship of a musical work to its physical instantiations is thorny and subject to continuing debate. At the heart of the debate is an inherent conflict between the bibliographic realm, where physical items exist on a static basis, and the musical realm, where works exist momentarily in a time continuum. The primary purpose of any physical instantiation of a work is to convey an intellectual conception from the creator to others. This is true regardless of the type of work. For printed books, the means of conveyance is usually from individual to individual - i.e., directly from the author to the reader. In this exchange, ideas are captured and recorded at the author's pace and absorbed at the reader's pace. Because musical works are fundamentally meant to be heard, however, the printed version is not of primary importance in the exchange between creator and consumer. Rather, the printed version is a medium through which the musical ideas captured at one end of the continuum may be reproduced so that they may be absorbed at the other. While some would hold that this is technically true of books as well, the ephemeral nature of music - and the obvious limitations of printed music in relation to the musical work itself - make the distinction between books and scores glaring. …

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