Music Discovery Requirements

IV.B Other Aspects of Music Discovery: Authority Records

For music materials, authority records are essential to back end functions like cataloging. In addition, they are also extremely important for public interfaces in that they provide valuable cross-references and other information to users.

Creators—whether composers, lyricists, librettists, or even corporate bodies—are important access points for music. So too are associated contributors such as performers, arrangers, and editors. Because a single creator or contributor might be known by more than one name, a method should be provided to lead users from alternate names to the forms they seek.

Musical works also present a challenge. For instance, a work might be associated with more than one creator (as in the case of works previously attributed to another), or it might be known by different titles (possibly in different languages) or multiple work numbers. Outside of cataloging codes the choice of a title’s language, elements, and grammatical construction is far from consistent. Musicians regularly use notated music with a title page is printed in a language they do not speak, because the language of the title page (which often reflects the country where the publisher is located) is irrelevant to their use of the musical notation. Even when the musical work includes a text, musicians frequently seek the language originally used by the composer, with no regard for the title page language. Similarly, the language used on a recording label or container is irrelevant to the primary purpose of listening to the recorded (including video recorded) sound. Therefore, users may begin a search with any one of many possible titles for a known musical work, and discovery interfaces should provide a method to find the musical work even if the user starts with one of these alternate titles. The same is true for expressions and manifestations, which might be issued with new titles or differ from the original work in medium of performance or key, as is often the case with arrangements. Similarly, topical subjects or musical genres can also be represented by varying terminology.

Historically, leading the user from alternate terms to the preferred one was accomplished by “see” and “see also” references (MARC 4xx and 5xx authority record fields) in author, title or subject browse lists.[1] Unfortunately, keyword searching has mostly ignored “see” and “see also” data. Mere spell check features will not solve this problem, though they are potentially helpful. Auto-complete or “did you mean” features are useful, particularly when based on database contents or rich, authoritative sources of alternate name and title data such as the Library of Congress/NACO Authority File (LC/NAF) or the Virtual International Authority File (VIAF).[2]

More recently, the MARC authority format has expanded to include 7XX fields for equivalent access points found in different thesauri or authority files. The use of linked data, which relies on an identifier rather than a text string, has made possible initiatives like the VIAF; when employed in a search interface, linked data could provide a seamless experience where patrons enter search terms in their preferred language, script, or form and retrieve the desired results automatically.[3] Future systems could allow the library to choose which heading string to display to its patrons, even if it is a “see” reference. For example, a library might choose to display all titles in the local language rather than the composer’s original language. Future systems might also allow the library to manipulate various elements that identify the work in other ways to help the user identify or select the desired work, such as producing a list of a composer’s oeuvre organized by opus number.

Finally, authority records contain a wealth of other information that potentially could be used for display, pre-search limiting, or post-search facets. Such information includes the MARC 680 public “scope” note, the MARC 043-046 fields for geographic and temporal information, the MARC 336 and 37X notes for content type, associated place, occupation, gender, language, etc., and, specifically for music, the MARC 380, 382, 383, and 384 fields for form of work, medium of performance, numeric designation, and key. Current authority records are very similar to work records in a FRBRized environment; in the future, many important attributes (see the entirety of Section II. Musical Works) will ideally be placed in work records rather than bibliographic records. In a linked data environment, the possibility exists to use data from additional information sources such as VIAF, or even from sources external to the library community such as MusicBrainz or Wikidata.[4]

Recommendation: At a minimum, in back end functions discovery systems should be able to index MARC 1XX, 4XX, 5XX, and other desired fields and also display all fields in the authority record. For public interfaces, browse indexes should display 4XX and 5XX cross-references and public notes such as the 680. Associated name and title strings must be kept together for both indexing and display.

Ideally, as discovery systems evolve, they should be able to index and display cross-references in keyword indexes and allow linking or display of alternate data. They should leverage authority information to provide auto suggestions, context-sensitive recommendations, or other functionality. Additionally, they should be able to make use of extended authority fields for display or faceting. All options should be customizable by individual libraries.

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.

[1] See, for example, an author browse on mozart, johann in Cornell University’s Blacklight instance. “Mozart, Johann Chrysostom Wolfgang Amadeus, 1756-1791” (a non-authorized term) has a link to “See Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus, 1756-179” (an authorized term.)

[2] See, for example: Demian Katz, Ralph LeVan, and Ya’aqov Ziso, “Using Authority Data in VuFind,” Code4Lib Journal 14 (July 25, 2011), (accessed August 25, 2017).

[3] The Library of Congress has made available as linked data many of its thesauri—including LCSH and the Genre/Form Terms—on its Authorities and Vocabularies web site, (accessed August 25, 2017). RDA registered vocabularies include translations. (accessed August 25, 2017).

[4] MusicBrainz: ; Wikidata: (accessed August 25, 2017).