👓 Classical music metadata | Imani Mosley

Replied to Classical music metadata by Imani Mosley (Imani Mosley)

This metadata project came about in a very practical fashion: NPR's in-house music database has a legacy file naming convention for its art music back from when it was digitizing LPs and moving from a physical collection to an online one. I won't go too much into why the system exists as it does but what's important to know is that it is as anachronistic as possible. There is very little connection between it and any other "standard" and makes it nearly impossible to discover anything as the search is exact rather than flexible. So being good librarians, we want to fix it. Making that statement was the easy part.

What followed was a very intense meeting in which my supervisor and I went through the pros and cons of various metadata & cataloging systems (our in-house database, iTunes, and others). There were far more cons than pros. It gave us a lot to consider and some things we could put in place but still left an uneasy feeling.

Imani, I didn’t see a comment box on your website and it doesn’t appear to support the Webmention spec yet, so I’ll post my reply on my site (something I’d do anyway) and send you a ping via Twitter.

I can’t help but thinking that this may be a potential use case for microformats. I notice there’s already some useful pages and research on music and even sheet music on their website.

If nothing else, I’d recommend that you or others delving into the process of looking at music metadata try to emulate the process behind what microformats are and how they work. I think it’s highly useful to take an overview of what and how people are already doing things in real life situations, figure out common patterns, and then documenting them to make the overall scope of work potentially smaller as well as to indicate a best path forward. Many companies will have created proprietary formats and methods which are likely to be highly incompatible or described, but not actually implemented in actual practice. (Hint: avoid unimplemented suggestions at all costs.) Your small polling sample already indicates a lot of variability, and I suspect your poll is very biased give people who would most likely be following your account.

A good starting point for answering your problem might be to do a bit of reading on microformats and then asking questions in the microformat community’s online chat. I suspect there are several people in the community who have done large-scale work on the web and categorization who might be able to help you out as well as point you in the direction of prior art and others who are working on these problems.

If you need help in understanding some of the microformats material, I’m happy to help you out via phone or online video chat and introduce you to some folks in the area.

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Having created a chicken feed on my personal website really brings me a lot of joy… How can you not love this? It could have been a like or a favorite or even a jam post, but the chicken post really just transcends it all.

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Robert Greenberg’s Music Curriculum

The Learning Company Improves My Commute

For quite a while, primarily because of lengthy commute times in Los Angeles, I’ve been regularly listening to audio lectures from The Learning Company in their Great Courses series.  Last fall I came across a four volume collection entitled How to Listen to and Understand Great Music taught by the dynamic and engaging professor Robert Greenberg.  I was immediately entranced and have vowed to work my way through his entire opus of lectures.  At the time I wasn’t quite sure how many there actually were, though I was aware of at least four others I’d come across on library shelves, and I prayed that there would be one or two more to carry me through a couple of years.  If I needed to, I was fully prepared to listen to everything two or three times to really soak it all in the way I’ve done with repeated viewings of television shows like The West Wing.

How to Listen to and Understand Great Music, Third Edition

When I was partway through the series, I made an update to my Goodreads.com reading list with a short snippet about my progress. This progress update fed through to Twitter whereupon I was pleasantly surprised to receive an encouraging comment by Professor Greenberg, who apparently takes the time to search social media for mentions of his work and to respond to students.  A brief correspondence with him revealed that he’s recorded far more lectures than I could have dreamed – an astounding 26!

Robert Greenberg’s Curriculum Recommendation

Of course with such a fantastic and tremendously large list of what is sure to be brilliant material, the real question becomes: “How do I create a curriculum to wend my way through it all in the most logical manner!”

Robert Greenberg to the rescue!

Via a most helpful Twitter conversation, Professor Greenberg recommended a curriculum for plowing through his material.  For posterity, I’ll repeat it below for those who are interested in charting his recommended course of courses:

  1. How to Listen to & Understand Great Music
  2. The Fundamentals of Music
  3. How to Listen to Opera
  4. Bach & the High Baroque
  5. The Concerto
  6. The Symphony
  7. Great Masters: Haydn
  8. Great Masters: Mozart
  9. Operas of Mozart
  10. Chamber Music of Mozart
  11. Great Masters: Beethoven
  12. Symphonies of Beethoven
  13. Piano Sonatas of Beethoven
  14. Piano Sonatas of Beethoven
  15. Great Masters: Schumanns
  16. Great Masters: Liszt
  17. Great Masters: Brahms
  18. Music of Richard Wagner
  19. Life & Music of Verdi
  20. Great Masters: Tchaikovsky
  21. Great Masters: Mahler
  22. Great Masters: Stravinsky
  23. Great Masters: Shostakovich
  24. The 30 Greatest Orchestral Works
  25. The 23 Greatest Solo Piano Works (October 2013)
  26. Concert Masterworks

Given the magnitude of his opus, this obviously may not be everything, but will provide the tyro as well as the expert a clearer path through some fascinating work. I’ve presently worked my way through 3 of his courses (72 lectures comprising  54 hours of material), so I’ve only barely scratched the surface, but I couldn’t be more enticed and satisfied with what I’ve consumed so far.  His engaging lecturing style, the melodic quality of his voice (not too far from that of renowned announcer and voice artist Casey Casem – though with out the “big bottom” common to radio personalities of this type), and the dynamic range of his emotion make these series more entertaining that most of what is on television these days (and keep in mind I consume a lot of television). Even better, I’m always learning something while I’m listening.  I would dare to say that even if he “phoned in” the remaining lectures, they’d still be at an absurdly high quality level, and I would still want to devour them all.

Follow Robert Greenberg

Robert Greenberg Headshot: Graying Hair, wearing glasses, a slight smirk, black suit and tie with teal colored shirtFor others who are (or are soon sure to become) fans of Robert Greenberg, you can find him easily on Twitter and Facebook.
Happy listening!
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