Is descant writer additional composer or arranger?

In choral music, there are some works that is include descant, credited as descant artist. Some editors input descant writer as addtional composer, like these works:

But I think they should be credited as arranger. What is your opinion on this?

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Hi. Good question. I see it more like an arranger than a composer indeed. I am not a specialist in medieval music, maybe there is a practice to consider (credit and pay) them as composers.
A descant role would be more specific and appropriate. If they are arrangers, it’s still a very specific kind of arrangement.

I don’t know what the descant person does.
Can you give me a link that describes their work?

I have seen some less-than-credible claims being made for someone being a composer rather than an arranger.
There was a mainstream tradion of improvisation within classical music - perhaps up to the time of Liszt. And that co-existed with performance practices that included composers assuming that the performers would be doing their arrangements/improvisations based on the incomplete and nonspecific score the composer provided.

Are the current guidelines about the division of composer and arranger not clear enough?

A descant is a counterpoint line, usually sung in a higher register in the final verse of a hymn. (The soprano part in a SATB choir.)


So there’s some variation in meaning, but given the context my basic definition seems to hold.

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My limited understanding of counterpoint has me thinking that there are a multitude of possible counterpoint scores that could be written and that many would be substantially different to others.

It seems that deciding or choosing how much " substantial difference" qualifies something as a new composition (made in the case of descant as an extension of an existing work) would be one way of deciding whether a descant writer was an arranger or a composer.


One situation where someone produces a “score” that is an extension of an existing Work but should not be credited as Composer IMO would be the chord sequences for a song.
AIUI there are many forms the chord sequences could take but that the production of such sequences is considered pretty trivial by musicians.

In this situation there are differences but not substantial ones.

Is the production of a good descant score considered trivial or a substantial application of musical knowledge and skill?


have me thinking that Arranger/Orchestrator covers everything short of producing a new Work.
(And that “substantial difference” only counts when it reaches the level of being a new Work.)

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Option c) would be: is “descant by” common enough that it deserves being its own relationship?

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The Arrangement works section of the Classical Style Guidelines are clear that there is a high bar to be met before a new Work is to be made of an Arrangement.

For an arrangement to be valid as a unique work in MusicBrainz, it must be possible for other performers to record new versions. There must be at least two different recordings available. The recordings must be of different performances by two different (groups of) performers. You must be able to source that the both performances use the exact same arrangement. If in doubt, do not create a new work.