DATE: Dec. 11, 2003

NAME: Changes Needed to Accommodate RISM Data--Music Incipits

SOURCE: RISM Zentralredaktion (RISM), Music Library Association (MLA)

SUMMARY: This paper proposes defining field 031 in the authority and bibliographic formats to contain information needed for encoding RISM incipits.

KEYWORDS: RISM (BD, AD); Incipits (BD, AD); Field 031 (BD, AD)



12/11/03 -- Made available to the MARC 21 community for discussion.

01/10/04 - Results of the MARC Advisory Committee discussion - The group expressed concern over some of the complex coding in the proposed subfields of field 031, however, it was decided that the field should meet the needs of the RISM community as much as possible. Participants also questioned whether subfield $z (Language of text) duplicated information already present in field 041 (Language code) of the bibliographic format. There was specific concern in the UK community that no consultation had taken place prior to proposing the changes outlined by this discussion paper. This was a concern because local implementations have already been established to exchange RISM data. Further study is needed to ascertain whether several item-specific subfields should be included in the authority format. There is also need to compare field 031 with incipit-related fields in UNIMARC. A proposal will be presented at the annual meeting in June.

Discussion Paper 2004-DP01: Changes Needed to Accommodate RISM Data--Music Incipits


The Répertoire International des Sources Musicales (RISM) was established in 1952 under the joint auspices of the International Musicological Society and the International Association of Music Libraries. The aim of this international cooperative effort has been to locate, identify, and catalog musical source materials including manuscript and printed music and writings about music. The project is currently underway, and the largest RISM undertaking to date is Series A/II, manuscript sources from 1600-1800. As of spring 2003 the database included nearly 400,000 bibliographic records representing manuscripts from 595 libraries and 31 countries. The RISM Central Office (Zentralredaktion) in Germany expects to add on the order of 20,000 new records per year to this database.

A major goal for RISM in the near future is to achieve the ability to receive and distribute data in multiple bibliographic data formats. To this end, they have approached the governing agencies for the MARC 21, UNIMARC and MAB formats with proposals for the additions and changes that would be necessary to accommodate the existing RISM data and to facilitate the exchange of RISM data between these formats.


2.1 History of Recording the Incipits of Musical Works

The musical incipit or initial sequence of notes of a musical composition is an important and often critical element in the bibliographic description of music. In many cases, it is the only practical identifying element. For example: composer Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) composed 104 distinct musical works with the title “Symphony.” To identify this adequately, it is necessary to include descriptive elements resulting in “Joseph Haydn Symphony in D major for 2 oboes, 2 horns and strings whose 3rd of 3 movements is marked Tempo di minuetto.” This is a unique set identifying characteristics, but it is not very practical. On the other hand, the initial sequence of 9 notes in the 1st violin part of the symphony is sufficiently distinct to uniquely identify the symphony not only among all of the works of Haydn, but also among over 16,000 other 18th-century symphonies (5102 of which share the title “Symphony in D major.” Cf. Jan Larue. A Catalogue of 18th Century Symphonies (1988)) Thus, over the years, music bibliographers have been assembling lists of musical incipits as a means of uniquely identifying musical works. Often these lists take the form of thematic catalogs, which is why the symphony described above is more commonly identified by “Hob. I, 4” or as “Symphony no. 4,” after the creator of the thematic catalog of Haydn’s works, Anthony van Hoboken.

Unfortunately for music bibliographers, the traditional music notation used to record incipits also has its problems and limitations: it requires specialized machines or software to produce and does not lend itself readily to computer searching and indexing. To solve this problem, a number of schemes have been developed to represent musical notation in the form of sequences of alpha-numeric characters. The RISM Central Office adopted the scheme known as “Plaine and Easie Code” to encode musical incipits in its computer database of musical sources.

2.2 Recording Incipits in the MARC 21 Authority and Bibliographic Formats

If the primary function of the music incipit is the precise identification of musical works, then the most logical place in MARC 21 for a field to encode music incipits is the authority format.

However, there is a reasonable case to be made for its inclusion in the bibliographic format, as well. First, it is often the case that knowledge of the existence of a musical work is based on one source, perhaps even a single manuscript or printed copy of that work. In such cases, to catalog the physical item (manifestation), in essence, is to catalog the work (at least under current cataloging practices). There would be nothing to document in an authority record that was not already documented in the bibliographic record. This is such a common occurrence in music that no need for authority records was seen in the original design of the RISM database. Second, it is easy to envision circumstances under which it would be desirable to have a field for music incipits available in the bibliographic format, even in catalogs where authority records are employed. These bibliographic records would hold documentation of variants significant enough to merit documentation, but either too minor or too frequent to include in an authority record for a work. Third, a field for recording music incipits to date has been approved for MAB and UNIMARC only for the bibliographic format. Because a principal goal of our request is to facilitate the exchange of RISM data between formats, this would be most easily accomplished if the field for music incipit information in MARC 21 was also included in the bibliographic format.

2.3 Definition of Field 031 for Incipit Data

The elements presented below for field 031 in the bibliographic and authority formats essentially duplicate the elements already approved for UNIMARC field 036, although there have been some minor adjustments made in the order of the subfields to conform to MARC 21 conventions.

Field 031 could be defined as the following:


Field 031 contains coded data representing the musical incipit for music using established notation schemes that employ ordinary ASCII symbols. It is primarily used to identify music manuscripts, but can be applied to any material containing music.


Indicator 1: blank
Indicator 2: blank


$a - Number of work (NR)
Subfield $a contains a code that indicates the work to which the incipit applies. The numeric code is based strictly on the order and presentation of works within the catalog record. If the record describes only one work, use 1.

Example: $a2 (An incipit describing the second sonata of a set of six)

$b - Number of movement (NR)
Subfield $b contains a code that indicates the movement within a work to which the incipit applies. The numeric code is based strictly on the order and presentation parts within the work. If the work has only one movement use 1.

Example: $b3 (An incipit describing the third movement of a symphony)

$c - Number of incipit (NR)
Subfield $c contains a code that indicates the order of incipits within the movement defined in subfield $b. If there is only one incipit for a movement, use 1.

Example: $c1 (An incipit for the instrumental introduction of an aria)
Example: $c2 (An incipit for the vocal part of an aria)

$d - Voice/instrument (NR)
Subfield $d contains the name of the voice or instrument coded in subfield $p (Musical notation). Subfield $d is usually in coded form, derived from a controlled list maintained by the cataloging agency. Terms may also be taken from the item being cataloged if there is no appropriate code available. Subfield $d must be coded if subfield $p is present.

Example: $dS (RISM code for Soprano voice)

$e - Role (NR)
Subfield $e contains the name of the character singing the incipit coded in subfield $p (Musical notation).

Example: $eSara (Name of character in the aria)

$f - Movement caption/heading (R)
Subfield $f contains the transcribed caption or heading of the movement, as it appears in the source.

Example: $fAria. Allegro (The transcribed heading of the movement)

$g - Key or mode (NR)
Subfield $g contains the key or mode of the movement, if applicable. The following codes from the Plaine & Easie Code may be used:

--Capital letters A-G indicate major keys
--Lowercase letters a-g indicate minor keys
--Letter “x” indicates sharps
--Letter “b” indicates flats
--Numbers 1-12 indicate Gregorian modes

Example: $ge (The movement is in the key of E minor)

$m - Clef (NR)
Subfield $m contains the clef of the movement, as it appears in the source. Subfield $m is mandatory if subfield $p (Musical notation) is present or subfield $2 contains either code “pe” or “da.” The following three-character codes taken from the RISM guidelines may be used:

--Clef: Capital letters “F,” “C,” or “G” indicate the clef shape; followed by
--Separator: Code “–“ (hyphen) for modern notation and code “+” (plus symbol) for mensural notation; followed by
--Staff line: Numbers 1-5 indicate the clef position on the staff, starting from the bottom line.

Example: $mF-4 (The movement uses the bass clef)

$n - Key signature (NR)
Subfield $n contains the key signature of the movement, as it appears in the source. The letter “x” indicates sharps and the letter “b” indicates flats followed by capital letters to indicate the affected pitches.

Example: $nxFCG (An incipit is in A major with three sharps)

$o - Time signature (NR)
Subfield $o contains the time signature or mensuration sign of the movement, as it appears in the source, or normalized to modern practice, according to the policy of the cataloging agency. The time signature may be transcribed as a symbol (for mensural notation use c, c., o, or o.; or c for common time, c/ for alla breve) and/or a number (3, 2, c3, etc.) or a fraction
(4/4, 12/8, etc.) or "nd" if marking is not present. Use of subfield $o is mandatory if subfield $p is present or subfield $2 contains either code "pe" or "da."

Example: $oc (The incipit is in common time)

$p - Musical notation (NR)
Subfield $p contains the notation symbols of the code specified in subfield $2 to transcribe the first 10-12 notes of the selected staff. The code system used in indicated in subfield $2.

Example: $p'2B4B8BB/4G8GxF4FF/4xA8AA4.At8B/4B$2pe

$q - General note (R)
Subfield $q contains a free-text general note.

$r - Coded validity note (NR)
Subfield $r contains a note in coded form on the validity of the information.
--Question mark ? indicates that there is a mistake in the incipit that has not been corrected
--Plus sign+ indicates that there is a mistake in the incipit that has been corrected
--Letter “t” indicates that the incipit has been transcribed (e.g. from mensural notation)
--Exclamation point! indicates that incipit discrepancies have been commented on in subfield $q (General note)

Example: $r? (There is a mistake in the incipit that has not been corrected)

$t - Text incipit (R)
Subfield $t contains the literary text (if present) as it appears on the source. It is usually the text corresponding to the music in the incipit. If the source has multiple texts (usually recorded to accommodate contrafactum texts), each corresponding text string is transcribed in a separate occurrence of subfield $t.

$u - Uniform Resource Identifier (R)
Subfield $u contains a Uniform Resource Identifier (URI), for example a URL or URN, which provides electronic access data in a standard syntax. This data can be used for automated access to an electronic item using one of the Internet protocols. URIs usually recorded include audio files (such as .mid, .wav., .mp3), image files (.jpg, .tiff, .gif) or notational files (such as enigma or niff).

Example: $uhttp://www.classicalarchives.com/cgi-bin/n.cgi/prep/6/jsbbrc11.mid (A MIDI file of the incipit is located online)

$z - Language of text (R)
Subfield $z contains the language code(s) for the language(s) of the incipit text. It is used only when the language code is different from the code in field 008/35-37 (Language). The source of the code is the MARC Code List for Languages which is maintained by the Library of Congress.

Example: $zita (The incipit text is in Italian)

$2 - System code (NR)
Subfield $2 contains a two-character code that indicates the encoding system used to transcribe the musical notation in subfield $p (Musical notation). Use of subfield $2 is mandatory if subfield $p is present. The following codes may be used:

--Code “pe” indicates a Plaine & Easie Code
--Code “da” indicates a DARMS Code

Example: $p'2B4B8BB/4G8GxF4FF/4xA8AA4.At8B/4B$2pe (The incipit is encoded using the Plaine & Easie Code)

$6 - Linkage (NR)
$8 - Field link and sequence number (R)
See the description of these subfields in Appendix A.


3.1 Coding of Aria, S Rei d’impuniti eccessi

  031 ##$a01$b01$c01$dS$fAria$tRei d'impuniti eccessi$ge$mC-1$oc $p'2B4B8BB/4G8GxF4FF/4xA8AA4.At8B/4B$2pe

3.2 Coding of the scena ed aria Deh parlate che forse tacendo by Cimarosa


031 ##$a01$b01$c01$dvl1$fScena. Largo$lG-2$nbBEA$oc$p8{'C+8(3{CDEFG};5)}8{GC}{,nB'G}4(-)/''2G+6{GnB'''C''E}6{DCAG}$2pe

031 ##$a01$b01$c02$dS$eSara$fScena. Largo$mC-1$nbBEA$oc$tChi per pietà mi dice il figlio mio che fà$p=5/4-''6C3CC6DEgF6CC8-6ED/q8D4C8C'nB''4D-/2-/$2pe

031 ##$a01$b02$c01$dvl1$fAria. Allegro$mG-2$nbBEA$oc $p6{'EDEF}{GABG}{EDEF}{GABG}/{''C'BAG}{FEDC},4B-/$2pe

031 ##$a01$b02$c02$dS$eSara$fAria. Allegro$mC-1$nbBEA$oc$tDeh parlate che forse tacendo$p2-/2-''4.F8D/gC'8BB4-2(-)/=2/''2E'G/''4.C'8A4F-/-Fq8B4A8GF/$2pe

3.3 DARMS coding and URL of MIDI source of J.S. Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto Nr.1 BWV 1046, 1st oboe part:

  031 ##$a01$b01$c01$dOb. 1$mG-2$nbB$oc$pRE 9S(( 8)) 9(( 8 9 8)) 9E( 6) 7( 6S( 5)) / 4S(( 3 2 3)) /$uhttp://www.classicalarchives.com/cgi-bin/n.cgi/prep/6/jsbbrc11.mid$2da


4.1 - Should a field for incipits be defined in both the authority and bibliographic formats?

4.2 - What effect will defining a field for incipits have on the user community, system vendors and/or utilities?

4.3 - Is the current definition of subfields $a, $b, and $c adequate for identifying incipits taken from within an individual movement, such as the "2nd theme?” If yes, is an additional example or wording necessary to make this clear?

4.4 - Both of the documented encoding schemes and the presentation of music incipit information in the field are very much specific to the Western art music tradition and to post-Gregorian chant music notation. How might this field accommodate other music traditions and other forms of music notation?

4.5 - Would it be needed to link incipit fields to other fields in the record?

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