The Library of Congress >> Especially for Librarians and Archivists >> Standards

MARC Standards

HOME >> MARC Development >> Proposals List


DATE: December 9, 2015

NAME: Defining Subfield $r and Subfield $t, and Redefining Subfield $e in Field 382 of the MARC 21 Bibliographic and Authority Formats

SOURCE: Music Library Association (MLA)

SUMMARY: This paper looks at the need to establish two new subfields within MARC Field 382 (Medium of Performance), one to describe the total number of ensembles and the other to describe the number of solo instruments performing with the ensembles. The paper also suggests a clarification of the field's existing subfield $e (Number of ensembles).

KEYWORDS: Field 382 (BD, AD); Medium of performance (BD, AD); Total number of ensembles (BD, AD)

RELATED: 2015-06

12/09/15 – Made available to the MARC community for discussion.

01/10/16 – Results of MARC Advisory Committee discussion: Approved as submitted.

03/03/16 - Results of MARC Steering Group review - Agreed with the MAC decision.

Proposal No. 2016-02: Defining Subfield $r and Subfield $t, and Redefining Subfield $e in Field 382


The MARC Field 382 for Bibliographic and Authority formats currently allows for detailed and precise enumeration of the solo instruments and voices making up a medium of performance for a musical work. The field, however, lacks the same capability to precisely delineate the total number of musical ensembles that are required. It also lacks a way to record the number of individual musicians performing alongside a named ensemble. This discussion paper explores a way to remedy the lacks by defining new subfields to better permit the the precise recording of the number of performers and ensembles required to perform a work.


2.1. Current definition of Field 382 in the Bibliographic and Authority formats:

2.2. Importance of precise ways to search for musical medium of performance

Medium of performance remains one of the critical ways for catalog users to search for musical materials. The Music Library Association’s 2012 Music Discovery Requirements state, “[i]t is an identifying element for known musical works, and users also regularly seek works and expressions for a particular medium of performance, without a particular work/expression in mind at the beginning of their search.”

The need for searching by structured medium of performance has suddenly achieved greater urgency as the significant constituency currently using Library of Congress subject headings for music begins a shift away from subject headings and towards the use of the Library of Congress Medium of Performance Thesaurus for Music (LCMPT) and the Library of Congress Genre/Form Terms for Library and Archival Materials (LCGFT). Current statements project that subject headings that serve as genre and medium headings will no longer be assigned in ongoing cataloging and will eventually be canceled.

Several library catalogs have made use of MARC Field 048 (Number of Musical Instruments or Voices Code) to allow users to perform searches based on the medium of performance of a musical work. Field 048 relies on a limited vocabulary encoded into MARC and has other limitations that have made the newer 382 field the preferred location for recording a structured medium of performance. For that reason, and for the reality that users will need to move away from relying on LC subject headings, it is inevitable that more library catalogs will now take advantage of searches based on medium of performance as defined in field 382.

2.3. Development of MARC 21 field 382 to describe medium of performance

MARC Proposal No. 2010-04 led to the creation of Field 382, and introduced a much more precise way to record medium of performance, allowing the use of vocabularies external to MARC. The expansion of the field in MARC Proposal No. 2012-01 added ways to record doubling instruments, alternative instrumentation, and the total number of performers. With these changes in place, field 382 contained data elements that could be used to form sophisticated queries based on individual instruments.

That proposal, however, did not deal with ways to enumerate how many ensembles a work is scored for, a situation Proposal No. 2015-06 attempted to deal with. There, the recently-approved (January 2015) subfield $e is labeled “Number of ensembles,” and bears the definition and usage instructions “Number of ensembles named in the preceding subfield. Use after $a (Medium of performance) or $p (Alternative medium of performance).” Its definition parallels that of subfield $n, “Number of performers of the same medium.” However, that most recent proposal did not propose an additional subfield for the total number of ensembles, parallel to subfield $s, “Total number of performers.”

A final other common scenario not yet served by developments in Field 382 is when music calls for a specified number of individual instruments or voices that perform alongside an ensemble. The number of performers within an ensemble frequently is not specified; thus the total number of all performers required to perform the work would not likely be known or specified. Using the existing subfield $s would not be appropriate.

2.4. Proposed new subfield for total number of ensembles

The authors of this proposal believe that a good solution to the lack of a way to specify the number of ensembles required in a work would be to create a new subfield that would bear the label, “Total number of all ensembles,” to be used in a manner similar to $s for individual instruments. Coding this new subfield would simplify construction of systems that would allow a user to search for a specific number of ensembles. For example, with a system able to take into account both the number of ensembles of the same kind and the total number of ensembles, a patron could query for a work composed for just two choruses, and not for two choruses and orchestra. Subfield $t is currently unclaimed in MARC Field 382, and selecting a subfield adjacent to subfield $s would reinforce the parallel roles of the two subfields.

2.5. Proposed new subfield for total number of individual performers playing alongside an ensemble

Defining a second new subfield, indicating the total number of individual performers playing alongside one or more ensembles, would allow catalogers to supply the number of individual musicians even when the grand total number of players, solo and within the ensemble, is unknown or not specified. This subfield would typically be used in tandem with the preceding proposed subfield $t. A system attuned to this usage should be able to serve very precise user requests for known numbers of specific individual performers and known quantities of named ensembles. For example, a user should be able to query for exactly one violin performing with exactly one gamelan ensemble, or for the precise medium of performance of one solo tenor voice and one solo bass voice with double chorus.

An alternate suggestion would be to redefine subfield $s to function as a place to record either the total number performers or the total of individual performers playing alongside one or more ensembles. This solution would generate one fewer subfield devoted to the total numbers of performers or ensembles, and could prove easier to implement with catalogers. Also, subfield $s is currently only recommended for use for solo and ensemble music where the total number of individual performers is known; data currently stored in subfield $s would move seamlessly into the broadened definition. The weakness of this solution is that it results in a subfield that would contain data that could be interpreted two ways. It would be more difficult to construct effective machine reasoning tools to make sense of this mixed situation, and there would be a greater number of false drops. To better prepare our metadata for discovery tools based on the contents of Field 382, we ultimately reject this alternative, and propose the creation of a separate subfield to record the number of performers when they are performing with an ensemble.

Within Field 382, subfield $r is not currently used. We propose defining it for this use because of its proximity to the existing $s and the $t proposed in the paragraph above.

If the new subfields above are approved, practitioners would get much closer to being able to precisely describe the medium of performance for the great majority of music where the instrumentation is known or specified.

2.6. Proposed clarification of label for subfield $e

Another proposed improvement would be a minor revision of the label for $e, “Number of ensembles,” to “Number of ensembles of the same kind.” This would reduce possible confusion with the new subfield $t, and at the same time more closely mirror the label for $n, “Number of performers of the same medium.”


If a new subfield were defined for total number of ensembles, simple and complex examples such as the following could be encoded clearly in Field 382. Both of the first two examples call for two mixed choruses, which is recorded in subfield $e. However, the second example shows that far greater forces are required to perform the work, a fact that a new subfield $t could help clarify. Examples 2-4 call for individual performers in addition to the named ensembles. The proposed subfield would permit recording the total number of extra performers required in addition to the number of ensembles.

All examples are formulated according to the MLA Provisional Best Practices for Using LCMPT, with the addition of the recently approved subfield $e, and the hypothetical subfield $t discussed above as a place to record the total number of ensembles required to perform a work.

Example 1:

Giovanni Gabrieli's Jubilate Deo terra omnes, for two unaccompanied choruses, each consisting of soprano, alto, tenor, and bass voices (SATB):

382 01 $a mixed chorus $e 2 $v SATB, SATB $t 2 $2 lcmpt

Example 2:

Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 8, scored for 8 vocal soloists (3 sopranos, 2 altos, tenor, baritone, bass) 2 SATB mixed choruses, 1 children’s choir, and orchestra:

382 01 $b soprano voice $n 3 $b alto voice $n 2 $b tenor voice $n 1 $b baritone voice $n 1 $b bass voice $n 1 $a mixed chorus $e 2 $v SATB, SATB $a children’s chorus $e 1 $a orchestra $e 1 $r 8 $t 4 $2 lcmpt

Example 3:

Erik Bergman’s Bardo thödol, for speaker, mezzo-soprano, baritone, mixed chorus and orchestra, op. 74:

382 01 $b speaker $n 1 $b mezzo-soprano voice $n 1 $b baritone voice $n 1 $a mixed chorus $e 1 $a orchestra $e 1 $r 3 $t 2 $2 lcmpt

Example 4:

Amy Beach’s Service in A, for soprano, alto, tenor, bass solo voices, SATB chorus, and organ:

382 01 $b soprano voice $n 1 $b alto voice $n 1 $b tenor voice $n 1 $b bass voice $n 1 $a mixed chorus $e 1 $v SATB $a organ $n 1 $r 5 $t 1 $2 lcmpt

In this example, four performers are designated soloists, but the fifth, the organ, is not. Subfield $r is used to record the total of five individual performers employed with a mixed chorus.

Example 5:

Anders Edenroth's Words, for SATBB/SATB choruses, unaccompanied:

382 01 $a mixed chorus $e 2 $v SATBB, SATB $t 2 $2 lcmpt

This final example shows subfield $e used to record that there are two choruses of the same kind. Although the choruses are not identical, the LCMPT terms for both are “mixed chorus.” The difference is noted here in subfield $v.


Medium of Performance is a complex area and holds great potential for specialized retrieval if well coded.  Working this out in the MARC environment will provide smoother transition to the “to be developed” vocabulary for Music in BIBFRAME.


5.1. In Field 382 of the MARC 21 Bibliographic and Authority Formats, define:

$r – Total number of individuals performing alongside ensembles (NR)
The total number of individual performers needed to perform in the musical work/expression when the work/expression also requires one or more ensembles. Include both individuals recorded in subfield $a and soloists in subfield $b. Use subfield $s to record total number of individual performers when no ensembles are involved.

5.2. In Field 382 of the MARC 21 Bibliographic and Authority Formats, define:

$t – Total number of ensembles (NR)
The total number of ensembles needed to perform in the musical work/expression.

5.3. In Field 382 of the MARC 21 Bibliographic and Authority Formats, change the label of subfield $e to: Number of ensembles of the same kind.

HOME >> MARC Development >> Proposals List

The Library of Congress >> Especially for Librarians and Archivists >> Standards
( 03/03/2016 )
Legal | External Link Disclaimer Contact Us