[vorbis-dev] Re: [vorbis] Request for Standardization: classical music TAGS

Craig Dickson crdic at yahoo.com
Wed Oct 3 17:19:11 PDT 2001

Greg Wooledge wrote:

> I think you misunderstood the proposal.  Either that, or I did.
> The ARTIST tag would be overloaded to mean COMPOSER when dealing with
> classical music.  The ARTIST would be "Ludwig van Beethoven" or "Johann
> Sebastian Bach" or "Bela Bartok" -- not the performer or the conductor.
> That way, players that display "$ARTIST - $TITLE" would show "Ludwig van
> Beethoven - Symphony no. 9".  This is the natural way to handle classical
> music.
> But this leaves a gap -- not only in classical music, but in *pop*
> music!  If you use ARTIST to mean performer in pop music (which, again,
> is the natural designation in that genre), then you have no place for
> the songwriters.  The reverse holds for classical music -- if ARTIST
> designates the composer of the music, then you need an extra tag for
> the performers.

No, I don't agree. I think it's silly to reverse the meaning of "artist"
and "composer" for classical music. Beethoven was a composer, not a
recording artist, so "artist=Beethoven" is patently ridiculous.

It is true that people often think of classical pieces in terms of who
wrote them, but that doesn't change the meanings of the words "artist"
and "composer". Nor does it necessarily imply that people want to see
"Beethoven - Moonlight Sonata" in their WinAmp/xmms/etc. playlist
window. If, let's say, I had several different performances of the
Moonlight Sonata in a playlist, each by a different performer, it would
be pretty useless for all of them to be identified as "Beethoven -
Moonlight Sonata". I'd definitely want to see the performer's name.

I think the issue you're grappling with is that in classical music, the
composers are often more famous than the performers, while in pop music,
the general public often has no idea who wrote a song, even though it's
credited in the CD booklet (sometimes in rather small print on the last

There are counter-examples, though, even in classical music. If you have
a Glenn Gould performance of a Bach fugue, you probably want to see
"Glenn Gould" in the playlist, because he's an immensely important
performer. A Gould performance isn't just a Bach piece, it's Gould's
Bach piece, much more so than is typically the case with classical
performers. And since he was a Bach specialist, it's almost beside the
point to say that Bach wrote a piece that Gould played.

I think what this really boils down to is that it is not adequate for
the player software to have a single format style that it always uses
for all music, even if that format is user-configurable. There are a
few ways this situation could be improved:

(1) Embed formatting information in a tag in each audio file. This is
    a way to take Ogg where MP3 cannot go without a new ID3 revision.
    The trick, of course, is to get the players to support it.

(2) Embed formatting information in the playlist file. Again, the players
    would need to support it, and it would not give Ogg an advantage over
    MP3 or WMA.

(3) Have the player support a separate format style for each genre of
    music, based on the Genre tag in the file. Obviously there would
    be a default format, so you wouldn't have to define every possible
    genre's format in advance. This, again, would not give Ogg an
    advantage, but the end user wouldn't have to set the format style
    for every file. This is the least flexible but probably most
    convenient for the end user of these three options.

> We also need it to be simple to use -- not only for decoding software,
> but for *people*.  I sure as hell do not want to type XML gibberish.

It would be silly for you to have to do that directly. The tag-editing
software would have to take care of XML formatting for you.


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