Following the discussion on J.S. Bach naming of works, I have started to think about general work naming style guidelines. I think that it would be helpful to improve naming consistency to provide such guidelines in MB documentation.
Here is a first attempt draft reflecting my thoughts on the subject, feel free to comment …
Canonical names of classical music works
Naming of classical music works faces many challenges, as many works have not been published, or are available only from manuscript copies of the composer original work.
The names of classical music works should be generally structured as follows:
[Original name of work][Key][(additional work information)],[catalog work reference number]
[Original name of work]: name of the work as printed on the first edition of the work published by the composer. If the work was first published posthumously, the following sources should be used, in decreasing order of priority:
- Autograph manuscript of the work
- Name of work in composer catalog of works
- Name of work in IMSLP
- Other name sources [examples ?]
Please note that for work published posthumously, the first published edition of the work may not be the most accurate source to name the work, as more recent musicology research may have provided better information or sources for the unpublished original work.
The name should be quoted in the original language of the publication, or of the manuscript.
When a work has been attributed a common name posthumously, or after the initial publication of the work, this name should be listed as alias. [examples]
[Key]: when relevant, the key of the work should be quoted, in the language of the work.
[(additional work information)]: when relevant, additional work information used to name the work. [examples]
[catalog work reference number]: mandatory whenever a catalog of the composer work exists.
These are general guidelines, please refer to the annotations of the composer MusicBrainz entry for specific guidelines for the composer.
Given the diversity of situations in terms of availability of information on works, I believe that the best way to ensure consistency would be to add composer specific guidelines in the composer’s MB entry annotations. This would enable to provide information on available sources to use to determine the proper work names. Given the diversity of situations in classical music, generic guidelines cannot properly cover all the specific cases.
We also would need a way to capitalize on the forum discussions which describe how specific composers works are to be named.