Music Discovery Requirements

II.J Musical Works: Geographic Area (and Ethnic/National Group)

Geographic area of musical works--the geographic area from which they emanate, as distinguished from geographic areas they are about--is a challenging attribute to record and therefore undercoded. A somewhat common tendency to conflate or confuse geographic area with a corresponding ethnic or national group may be a contributing factor to the problematic nature of this attribute. While it might be assumed that this information would inherit from a work’s creator, such is only possible if the creator is a specific person or persons, corporate body, or family rather than an ethnic or national grouping of some sort.

Despite (or perhaps because of) this circumstance, geographic area is a particularly important attribute for music other than Western art music. Descriptions of these musics (including non-Western classical music genres and genres often referred to as “popular” or “folk” music) have historically included more geographic access, primarily through assignment of geographic subdivisions to Library of Congress Subject Headings.[1] However, the resulting subject heading strings may be problematic for search faceting and limiting because of the need to combine information on geographic locale and ethnic/national group to create meaning: as suggested above, these two data points do not always overlap. For example, the heading "Folk music -- Germany" is applied to folk music: (a) of Germans in Germany; (b) of other ethnic/national groups in Germany; and (c) of Germans in other locales. To clarify which of these is intended, a second subject heading string is required: for example, “Turks--Music--Germany” (for a particular non-German national group in Germany); “Germans--Music--United States” (for Germans in a particular locale outside of Germany); but “Germans--Music” (that is, without a geographic subdivision--for Germans in Germany). In cases such as these, it is important that the entire subject heading be displayed and machine-actionable as a string.

In addition, the same subject headings used for music emanating from a geographic area are also assigned--with the addition of appropriate subdivisions--to works about the music in question. For example, the heading “Music--Uganda” is used for music recordings and scores; the same heading is used for a book about music in Uganda by simply appending the subdivision “History and criticism.” Again, it is important that the entire subject heading be displayed and actionable as a string to avoid loss of meaning.

A final complication of geographic access to musical works is the intellectual task of determining and prioritizing associated geographic areas. Geographic areas associated with a composer or work are now commonly recorded in name and name/title authority records in MARC 370, though this information may not be present in legacy data. When it is present, harnessing this data for limits or facets can become problematic, as creators often change residence over the course of their lives, and none of these places may be pertinent to a specific work by that creator. Furthermore, the geographic terms in use themselves,[2] like the boundaries of the entities that they name, often change over time and thus may differ from the terms in use during the creator's lifetime or period of residence. Finally, as noted above, the distinction between geography and ethnicity may not be apparent to the user (or to the cataloger providing the data, for that matter) and may even be a matter of controversy. In the future, some clarification may be achieved through use of the new MARC 386 field (Creator/Contributor Characteristics).[3]

See III.K for discussion of geographic area as an expression and manifestation level attribute.

Recommendation: Geographic access to musical works is problematic. Index appropriate fields, and be careful to distinguish between work, expression, and manifestation-level attributes. For data using standardized vocabulary, make it possible for users to link from standardized vocabulary terms within the record display to other materials associated with the same attribute/entity. This could be accomplished through use of bound texts strings for full authorized terms or via identifiers functioning behind the scenes.

Index and display (Bibliographic/Descriptive Metadata):

(note that MARC 651 is not included; this field is for topical use)

MARC: 043 Geographic Area Code (display code in vernacular) (problematic because MARC fields codes do not distinguish between “is” and “about”)

MARC: 370 Associated Place (more common in authority records)

MARC: 650 Subject Added Entry--Topical Term (problematic: both “is” and “about” are contained in MARC 650; distinction could be made based on presence of other subdivisions)

MARC: 650 $z Subject Added Entry--Topical Term, Geographic subdivision (problematic because MARC field tags do not distinguish between “is” and “about”; distinction could be made based on presence of other subdivisions)

Dublin Core: coverage

EBUCore: hasCoverage

MODS: geographic

PBCore: pbcoreCoverage (coverage, coverageType = Spatial)

BIBFRAME 2.0: Classes: bf:Place; Properties: bf:geographicCoverage, bf:originPlace, bf:place

Facets/Limits (Bibliographic/Descriptive Metadata):

MARC: 043 Geographic Area Code (display code in vernacular) (problematic because MARC field codes do not distinguish between “is” and “about”)

MARC: 650 Subject Added Entry--Topical Term (problematic; both “is” and “about” are contained in MARC 650; distinction could be made based on presence of other subdivisions) (also problematic because not always recorded due to subject cataloging rules)

EBUCore: hasCoverage

MODS: geographic

PBCore: pbcoreCoverage (coverage, coverageType = Spatial)

BIBFRAME 2.0: Classes: bf:Place; Properties: bf:place, bf:originPlace

Related Authority Fields:

MARC: 150; 151; 370 (150 is problematic because it does not distinguish between “is” and “about”)


[1]See in particular SHM H 19 17, Music of Ethnic, National, and Religious Groups. Use of geographical subdivisions for jazz and popular music is found in SHM H 1916.5 (2.); for Western art music, SHM H 1160 (3.). Subject Headings Manual (SHM), accessed August 25, 2017, https://www.loc.gov/aba/publications/FreeSHM/freeshm.html

[2] As of the most recent update (August 2017), Z1 of the Library of Congress Descriptive Cataloging Manual instructed use of the LC/NAF form of name in MARC 370, when an authority record for the entity exists.

[3] As of the most recent update (August 2017), Z1 of the Library of Congress Descriptive Cataloging Manual continues to “encourage” LC/PCC catalogers to wait until the PCC develops guidelines before using MARC fields 385 (Audience Characteristic) and 386. Per correspondence with LC representatives, LC practice is to not use either $m (Demographic group term) or $n (Demographic group code).