Erik's Music Database - Terminology
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This page describes the classification terminology used for EMDB
score tagging. Except for book tagging, which is unique, each score
will contain zero, one or more attributes in the each of the following
Scores are grouped in books of 10-100 scores each. The book ID is 4
characters, the first two being the initials of the transcriber, and
the last two numeric. Every score has a unique ID, the first 4
characters of which are from the unique book in which it resides.
Currently available books are as follows:
- Erik Butterworth
- Mark Levy
- ML00: from The Bagpipe in the Rhodope
Mountains of Bulgaria, Los Angeles, 1985.
- ML01: selected transcriptions for Balkan music students.
- Marcus Moskoff
- MM02: from Introduction to Bulgarian Folk
Music and Ornamentation, New York, circa 1982.
- MM03: instrumental transcriptions for SF
Bay area vecherinki, circa 1986.
- MM04: song transcriptions for SF Bay area
vecherinki, circa 1986.
These terms refer to nationality, regionality or general stylistic
aspects of a piece. Nationality here means characteristic of the musical
style of the nation, thus an American written ruchentisa would be tagged
as Bulgarian. Multiple tagging is often appropriate here. For example,
Pirin tunes are tagged as both Bulgarian and Macedonian. Nationalities
are considered self-explanatory. Other terms are described briefly
Brittany: Region in NW France whose music reflects a Celtic
Cajun: Music of Arcadian population of Louisiana.
Classical: Art music of the Western classical tradition.
Contra: New England dance music traditionally played on fiddle,
accordion and piano. Now more commonly performed on slide whistle,
congas and didgeridoo.
Crete: An island in Greece.
Dobrudja: A region currently split between Bulgaria and Romania,
noted for heavy rhythms.
Epirus: A mountainous region in NW Greece.
Kabardinia: A province in the Russian Caucuses.
Klezmer: Music of Jewish population of Eastern Europe. What
Greek music might sound like after a case of Jolt cola and a
Krk: An island in Croatia whose music reflects a strong
influence by Martian invaders.
Latin: Music typical of latino populations of America South of the USA.
Macedonia: A country, but here also refers to parts of Bulgaria and Greece
historically called Macedonia.
Muntenia: A province of Romania within Wallachia.
Novelty: Music detached from all respectable cultural moorings.
Old-timey: Fiddle tunes typical of the Southeastern USA.
Oltenia: A province of Romania within Wallachia.
Pontos: Music of Greeks living on the S Black sea coast in modern
Rhodope: An mountain region currently split between Bulgaria
and Greece. Here refers to only Bulgarian tunes.
Pop-Rock: Music of Buddy Holly and his numerous spawn.
Rom: Music of the Roma people, aka the gypsies.
Severn: Region in N Bulgaria, noted for fast and light tempos.
Shiroka Luka: A town in the Rhodopes, home of one of the two major
styles of Rhodope gaida playing. In comparison with the Smolyan style,
the Shiroka Luka style has more bips, fewer drops, less use of the
flea-hole and more inverted mordents (Levy 1985, p 328).
Shope: Region in W Bulgaria, noted for fast tempos and
inventive aksak meters.
Smolyan: A town in the Rhodopes, home of one of the two major styles
of Rhodope gaida playing. In comparison with the Shiroka Luka style,
the Smolyan style has fewer bips, more drops, more use of the flea-hole
and more mordents (Levy 1985, p 328).
Swing: Free and easy style of early Jazz through the 1940s Big
Tejano: Music of the Texas/Mexico border melding German accordion
with Latin sensibility.
Thrace: A region currently split between Bulgaria and Greece.
Transylvania: A region in Romania, containing a substantial
Varna: A city in E Bulgaria.
Wallachia: A region in Romania consisting of Muntenia and
Aksak is conventionally a term referring to asymmetric
additive rhythms based upon subunits of 2 and 3. Here I've extended the
system to include symmetrics as well using the following rules:
- 0 designates tunes with no regular pulse (free meter or
constantly changing meter).
- 2 designates standard duple meters (e.g. 2/4, 4/4). 33 designates
compound duple meter (e.g. most 6/8).
- 3 designates standard triple meters (e.g. 3/8, 3/4). 333 designates
compound triple meter (e.g. slip jigs).
- Other designations are asymettric rhythms using either combinations
of 3 and 2, or combinations of 2 and 1. In first case (conventional
aksak) slow beats are 50% longer than quick ones. In the latter case
slow beats are twice as long as slow ones. Combination of 2 and 1 are
restricted to relatively slow asymettrics. For example ruchenitsa=223,
Aksak tagging does not attempt to capture synchopation and swing.
Thus, various duple meters with significant swing (e.g. ballos, some
chocheks) that might conceivably be tagged as aksak 332 are tagged as
aksak 2. Multiple aksak tags indicate a score whose rhythm pattern
changes over the course of the piece. For example, some beranches start
out 32232, but end 32222. Aksak subtleties for various rhythms are
Rhythm here refers to keywords that describe some combination of
meter, style, swing, synchopation and sway of a tune. Most are dance
meters and have a specific cultural background. I've tried to use most
terms in a universal way, but a few Romanian
duple meters are used here in a highly idiosyncratic way for my own
nefarious purposes. Multiple rhythm tags indicate a score whose rhythm
pattern changes over the course of the piece. Rhythmic terms are briefly
described below, along with their aksak representation or
representations (see above):
- air: Anglo/Irish free meter following a preset outline (aksak 0).
- batuta: Here an idiosyncratic term for fast Romanian duple meter
with an light, running step-stamp-step-stamp feel (aksak 2).
- bavna pesen: Bulgarian or Macedonian free or semi-free meter without rhythmic
accompaniment, usually with a preset outline (usually aksak 0).
- beranche: Macedonian/Greek/Albanian dance in moderate tempo with 5
dance beats, sometimes played in strict rhythm, sometimes with swing
- briul: Here an idiosyncratic term for moderate tempo Romanian duple
meter with a step-close-step-close feel (aksak 2).
- buenek: Moderate tempo Bulgarian duple meter with a shuffle or
scuff-stamp feel (aksak 2).
- chachak: Fast tempo Serbian compound duple meter (aksak 33).
- chetvorno: Fast tempo Bulgarian aksak 322.
- chiftetelli: Moderate tempo Middle eastern synchopated duple meter
- chochek: Here a moderate tempo duple meter, swung or not,
characteristic of the Rom (aksak 2). In common parlance, chocheks can
also be in 9. Here such tunes are labeled devetorka.
- cintec: Here an idiosyncratic term for slow tempo Romanian duple
meter so highly swung it could be mistaken for compound duple (aksak
- csardas: Moderate to fast tempo Hungarian couple dance in duple
meter (aksak 2).
- cumbia: Moderate tempo, synchopated and swung Columbian/Latin duple
dance meter (aksak 2).
- daichovo: Fast tempo Bulgarian aksak 2223.
- devetorka: Moderate tempo Macedonian/Bulgarian/Rom aksak 2223.
- doina: Romanian free meter without rhythic backup (aksak 0).
- eleno: Moderate tempo Bulgarian/Macedonian aksak 2212.
- ezgiya: Macedonian free meter without rhythmic backup and usually
without a preset outline (aksak 0).
- ganglat: Moderate tempo Swedish "walking tune" in duple meter (aksak
- gankino: Fast tempo Bulgarian aksak 22322.
- geampara: Fast tempo Romanian aksak 223.
- grancharsko: Fast tempo Bulgarian aksak 2322.
- graovsko: Fast, synchopated Shope duple meter (aksak 2).
- halay: Moderate to fast tempo Turkish duple meter (aksak 2).
- hassapikos: Moderate tempo Greek compound duple meter (aksak 33).
- hassaposervikos: Moderate to fast tempo Greek duple meter (aksak 2).
- hora: Here an idiosyncratic term for moderate to fast Romanian duple
meter with an upbeat emphasis (aksak 2).
- hornpipe: Moderate tempo Anglo/Irish highly swung duple meter (aksak
- huapango: Moderate tempo Texano duple meter (aksak 2).
- irregular: Changes meter with no regular pattern (aksak 0).
- jig: Moderate to fast tempo Anglo/Irish compound duple meter (aksak 33).
- jove: Fast tempo Bulgarian/Macedonian aksak 32222322.
- kalamatianos: Moderate tempo Greek aksak 322.
- karsilamas: Moderate to fast tempo Greek askak 2223 or 2322.
- kolomayka: Fast tempo Ukrainian duple meter (aksak 2).
- krivo: Fast tempo Bulgarian aksak 2222322.
- lesnoto: Moderate to fast tempo Macedonian aksak 322.
- march: Moderate to fast duple meter with martial spirit (aksak
- mandilatos: Fast Greek Thracian aksak 223.
- mazurka: Moderate tempo Northern European triple meter (aksak 3). Very
similar to waltz.
- opas: Fast Dobrudjan compound duple with heavy feel (aksak 33).
- paidushko: Fast Bulgarian/Macedonian dance with QS pattern. Usually
aksak 23, but some Macedonian tunes are aksak 12.
- patrunino: Moderate to fast tempo Macedonian aksak 32222.
- petrunino: Here a fast Bulgarian aksak 32223. The dance petrunino
can also be performed to aksak 2212, which here is tagged eleno.
- polka: Moderate to fast tempo originally European couple dance in
duple meter (aksak 2).
- pols: Moderate tempo Norwegian couple dance in triple meter, usually
highly swung (aksak 3).
- polska: Moderate tempo Swedish couple dance in triple meter, usually
highly swung (aksak 3).
- pravo: Slow to fast tempo Bulgarian duple and/or compound duple
meter. Traditionally notated in simple duple, here I prefer compound
duple, so all pravos are tagged aksak 33.
- rag: Moderate to fast tempo early twentieth century American swung
duple meter (aksak 2).
- redova: Moderate to fast tempo Texano triple meter (aksak 3).
- reel: Fast tempo Anglo/Irish duple meter, often mildly swung (aksak
- reinlender: Moderate tempo Norwegian duple meter similar to
schottishe, but usually with less swing (aksak 2).
- reka: Moderate tempo Dobrudjan duple meter, heavier than buenek
- ruchenitsa: Moderate to fast tempo Bulgarian aksak 223.
- rustemul: Moderate tempo Romanian compound duple meter (aksak 33).
- schottishe: Moderate tempo originally European couple dance in duple
meter. Often so heavily swung that it resembles compound duple (aksak
- serranitsa: Fast tempo Pontic aksak 223.
- singathistos: Moderate tempo Greek Thracian aksak 2223.
- sirba: Fast tempo Romaninan compound duple meter (aksak 33). All of
Romania's stupidest tunes are sirbas.
- slide: Fast Irish compound duple meter, lighter than a jig
- slip jig: Moderate Irish compound triple meter (aksak 333).
- sta dyo: Slow to moderate tempo Epirot duple meter (aksak 2).
- sta tria: Slow to moderate tempo Epirot triple meter (aksak 3).
- straspey: Moderate tempo Scottish highly synchopated duple meter
(aksak 2). Swing? Surely you jest, sir. True Scots do not swing!
- svornato: Moderate tempo Rhodope aksak 2223.
- syrtos: Moderate tempo Greek duple meter (aksak 2). Often swung to
resemble aksak 332.
- tango: Moderate tempo highly synchopated duple meter, originally
Argentine (aksak 2).
- tik: Fast tempo Pontic dance with SQ dance pattern (aksak 2111,
2232). Some authorities (hi, Bob!) suggest 3222 is a better
representation than 2111, but no tiks here are currently notated as
- trite puti: Fast tempo Bulgarian duple tempo (aksak 2).
- tsamikos: Moderate tempo Greek triple meter (aksak 3).
- u shest: Slow to fast tempo Serbian duple meter (aksak 2).
- ugros: Moderate tempo Hungarian duple meter with up-beat emphasis
- waltz: Slow to fast tempo couple dance in triple meter, originally Western
European (aksak 3).
- zembekikos: Slow tempo Greek aksak 2223.
- zonoradikos: Fast tempo Greek Thracian duple or compound duple meter similar to
pravo. Here always tagged as aksak 33.
- zwiefacher: Moderate tempo German couple dance intermixing waltz and pivot steps,
resulting in an endless variety of aksak combinations.
Scores a tagged by lead instrument, that is, instruments likely to be
notated in a score. The following describes current conventions:
accordion: Free reed button and keyboard instruments with
the exception of the concertina.
bagpipe: All bagpipes except those from Bulgaria and Macedonia,
which are labeled gaida.
banjo: Perennial American musical scapegoat.
bitov: Small or lange Bulgarian ensemble featuring gaida, gadulka,
kaval and sometimes tambura.
bouzoukee: Greek plucked lute.
brass: Mixed brass instrument ensemble.
chalgia: Turkish-flavored Macedonian ensemble featuring clarinet,
oud, kanun and darabuka.
clarinet: Standard Western clarinet.
concertina: Free reed button instruments too feeble to be called
cymbalom: Grand Romanian/Hungarian hammered dulcimer.
dobrudjan: Ensemble typical of Dobrudja, featuring gaida, gadulka
flute: All flutes except those labeled kaval, whistle and panpipe,
e.g. Irish wooden flute.
frula: Wooden Serbian fipple flute.
gadulka: Bulgarian 3-string bowed lute.
gaida: Bulgarian or Macedonian bagpipe.
guitar: Standard Western guitar.
hardangerfele: Norwegian violin with sympatheic strings.
harmonica: Diatonic or chromatic harmonica.
izvorna: Macedonian emsemble featuring gaida, kaval, tambura and
kaval: Bulgarian/Macedonian chromatic end-blown wooden flute.
lute: Miscellaneous plucked lutes I don't know the specific name for.
lyra: Cretan or Pontic bowed string instrument.
mandolin: Plink, plink, plink. Next to the silver flute, the world's
most insipid instrument.
nyckelharpa: Swedish wooden-keyed violin.
oud: Unfretted Middle-eastern plucked lute.
panpipe: Clustered wooden pipes played like Coke bottles (e.g.
piano: Standard Western piano.
saxophone: Standard Western saxophone (shiniophone).
sopile: Shawm from island of Krk.
synthesizer: Electronic keyboard instrument.
tambura: Bulgarian/Macedonian plucked lute.
tamburica: Serbian/Croatian plucked lutes whose cheery tunes seem
suspiciously out of place in the Balkans.
taragotte: Romanian wind instrument, sounding somewhere between a
clarinet and a saxophone.
trumpet: Standard Western trumpet.
violin: Standard Western violin or fiddle.
voice: Human voice.
whistle: Metal fipple flute, e.g. Irish tin whistle.
zurna: Macedonian or Turkish shawm and sonic cleaning device.
Work tape tagging ties a score to a tape in my personal collection.
None of these tapes are commercially released, and so of no interest to
anyone but me and my musical collaborators.
Folkdancer tagging is an indication as to the folk dance group or
teacher I associate with a recording. This is totally subjective,
based on my personal experience, an probably useless to anyone but