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 tagging categories:

Book tagging terminology

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:

Nationality/Style tagging terminology

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 below:

  • Brittany: Region in NW France whose music reflects a Celtic inheritance.
  • 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 lobotomy.
  • 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 Turkey.
  • 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 Bands.
  • 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 Hungarian minority.
  • Varna: A city in E Bulgaria.
  • Wallachia: A region in Romania consisting of Muntenia and Oltenia.
  • Aksak tagging terminology

    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:

    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 discussed below.

    Rhythm tagging terminology

    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):

    Instrument tagging terminology

    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 accordions.
  • cymbalom: Grand Romanian/Hungarian hammered dulcimer.
  • dobrudjan: Ensemble typical of Dobrudja, featuring gaida, gadulka and accordion.
  • 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 tupan.
  • 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. Romanian nai).
  • 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 terminology

    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 terminology

    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 me.