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DATE: May 27, 2011

NAME: Additional Means of Identifying Medium of Performance in the MARC21 Bibliographic and Authority Formats

SOURCE: Music Library Association

SUMMARY: This paper explores options in the MARC 21 Bibliographic and Authority Formats for more specific encoding for medium of performance, especially medium of performance data currently recorded in subject headings.

KEYWORDS: Field 048 (BD); Field 382 (AD, BD); Medium of performance (AD, BD)

RELATED: 2010-04

05/27/11 – Made available to the MARC community for discussion.

06/26/11 – Results of MARC Advisory Committee discussion: The majority of participants agreed that field 048 should not be considered as an option for recording medium of performance. The group also felt that additional examples were needed in order to determine whether field 382 or the 6XX block would be preferable for recording this information. New examples will be posted on the MLA Bibliographic Control Comittee's listerv. Additionally, general consensus was that Option 1 would be preferable, where all information related to the medium of performance is placed in a single field and the order of new subfields would be relied upon to give meaning. Predictability would be ensured by always pairing subfields $a (Name of instrument) and $p (Number of performers) together and having them be repeatable, with subfield $n (Total number of performers) always being placed at the end of the field. Discussion on the MARC list and more complex examples should inform development of a possible proposal for Midwinter 2012.

Discussion Paper No. 2011-DP05: Additional Means of Identifying Medium of Performance


1.1. Definition of medium of performance

Medium of performance is the instrument(s), voice(s) and other participants (narrator, etc.) in musical resources as created or arranged. (Note: A definition of medium of performance appears in the Field Definition and Scope of the 382 field: The instrumental, vocal, and/or other medium of performance for which a musical work was originally conceived or for which a musical expression is written or performed)

1.2. History

In conjunction with the Library of Congress development of the thesaurus, Library of Congress Genre/Form Terms for Library and Archival Materials (LCGFT), the Music Library Association and the Library of Congress are developing a vocabulary of genre/form terms in the field of music.  In current LCSH practice, headings with medium terms in them are assigned to musical works in the same way as genre/form terms are.  Many headings combine medium and genre/form terms.  But medium of performance vocabulary is out of scope for LCGFT and is now recognized as an entirely separate facet of musical works.  Consequently, it is also necessary that medium be separately searchable, irrespective of other attributes of the music.  As a practical matter, when LCGFT is implemented for music, LCSH headings with medium terms in them will no longer be valid to assign to music.  After music genre/form implementation, genre/form terms will be recorded in 655 fields.  Medium of performance terms will need to be accommodated elsewhere in the MARC record.

It is important to emphasize that medium of performance is used extensively by library patrons to search for music, so ample provision in MARC records for displaying and searching by medium is necessary.   An indication of what current practice provides, and what future practice will be once LCGFT is implemented, is given below.

Current practice

Example 1:
            650 #0 $a Sonatas (Flute and piano)

Example 2:
           650 #0 $a Waltzes.
           650 #0 $a Flute and piano music.

Future practice with form/genre thesaurus implementation

Example 1:
           655 #7 $a Sonatas $2 lcgft
           AAA ## $? flute $? piano

Example 2:
           655 #7 $aWaltzes $2 lcgft
           AAA ## $?flute $? piano


MLA has identified 3 possible MARC fields that might accommodate medium of performance. Two already exist: the 048 (Number of voices or instruments code) and field 382 (Medium of performance). The other possibility is a new 6XX field defined for medium of performance. The benefits and drawbacks of these choices are discussed below. In addition, a discussion of additional subfields that would need to be added to the MARC format within 2 of the possible fields to enhance searchability is included.

In order to optimize retrieval of medium of performance data, the following elements should be provided for in the MARC record:

  1. The name of each instrument, vocal part, other participant (e.g., narrator), and ensemble
  2. The number of each medium named
  3. The total number of performers required (often the same as the total number of instruments, but not necessarily)
  4. For works with alternate instrumentation(s), a separate sequence for each alternative
  5. Specification of soloists (as in concertos, solo singers, etc.) separately from the accompanying ensemble
  6. Specification of doublings (one player plays more than one instrument; a singer also plays one or more instruments, etc.)
  7. Indication that only part of the medium of performance is recorded (should the entire medium not be available)
  8. A code source field and a linking field

None of the existing fields for recording medium of performance data provide this level of granularity.

2.1. Choice of field

2.1.1. Field 048 – Number of Voices or Instruments Code

Field 048 uses a fixed-length code to indicate the medium of performance, followed by a two-digit number indicating the number of parts for each instrument. Most existing data in this field uses the two-character MARC21 code ( With this usage, the number of parts may be omitted if none is specified. For a large ensemble, the number designates the number of ensembles (e.g. 2 orchestras) rather than individual instruments. The codes may be put in either of 2 repeatable subfields: $a indicates a performer or ensemble; $b indicates a soloist. The entire 048 field is repeatable in the case of multiple separate compositions described in one record.

However, it does not currently provide sufficient granularity to distinguish all eight of the elements detailed above, so additional subfields would need to be defined. Using this field for the new medium of performance terms would require defining the field in the Authority Format, allowing for recording terms in lieu of codes, and removing the restriction for field repeatability (currently five occurrences).



2.1.2. Field 382Medium of Performance

The creation of Field 382 in the Authority and Bibliographic formats arose out of the work of the RDA/MARC Working Group in accommodating RDA granularity in the MARC Formats (see Proposal No. 2010-04). As currently defined, subfield $a contains both the medium of performance and the number of performers; the lack of additional subfields does not satisfy the requirement to distinguish among the eight elements detailed above.

In Field 382, terms for medium of performance are not coded, but may be drawn from controlled vocabularies, such as LCSH. Since it was primarily developed based on attributes for naming works in RDA, Field 382 is currently very simple. Presumably, numbers associated with the instruments would currently be encoded in subfield $a, without further content designation. This practice would create the same granularity problem as in the current use of the codes used in Field 048.

Adding subfield(s) to identify the numbers of performers would improve the situation; this was not addressed in the original proposal since this is not a specific attribute in RDA.



Issue: MLA may, in the future, have the opportunity to influence RDA’s vocabulary for medium of performance. In this case, the disadvantages for using the 382 field might disappear.

2.1.3. A New 6XX (or similar) Field

Given the drawbacks of the 382 field, and the precedent set by having both a 655 and 383 field for form, another solution would be to create a new 6XX field for medium of performance.



2.2. Recording Number of Performers

In moving the LCSH medium of performance vocabulary to a new field, MLA would like to enhance the searchability, through greater granularity and indications of number of performers. As mentioned above, both the 382 and 6XX fields would need further subfields to accommodate this data. Options for additions are given below.

2.2.1. Option 1. Define subfields for number of performers (related to content in subfield $a) as well as for the total number of performers. Put all of the information related to the medium of performance in a single field; repeat the field when an alternate medium of performance is identified.

$p – Number of performers of the same instrument/voice in preceding subfield $a (R)
$n – Total number of performers (NR)


            AAA ## $a trumpet $p 2 $a trombone $p 2 $n 4
            A work for two trumpets and two trombones

            AAA ## $a violin $p 2 $a viola $p 1 $a violoncello $p 1 $a double bass $p 1 $n 5
            A work for string quintet: 2 violins, viola, violoncello, double bass

            AAA ## $a flute $p 1 $a violin $p 1 $a piano $p 1 $n 3
            AAA ## $a flute $p 1 $a oboe $p 1 $a piano $p 1 $n 3
            AAA ## $a flute $p 1 $a clarinet $p 1 $a piano $p 1 $n 3
            A trio for flute, violin (or oboe, or clarinet), and piano



2.2.2. Option 2. Define new subfields for number of performers and for the total number of performers. Put each instrument/voice in a separate AAA field. Encode alternate instrumentation in a repeatable $a subfield.

$p – Number of performers of the same instruments/voices (NR)
$n – Total number of performers (NR)


            AAA ## $a trumpet $p 2 $n 4
            AAA ## $a trombone $p 2 $n 4
            A work for two trumpets and two trombones

            AAA ## $a violin $p 2 $n 5
            AAA ## $a viola $p 1 $n 5
            AAA ## $a violoncello $p 1 $n 5
            AAA ## $a double bass $p 1 $n 5
            A work for string quintet: 2 violins, viola, violoncello, double bass

            AAA ## $a flute $p 1 $n 3
            AAA ## $a violin $a oboe $a clarinet $p 1 $n 3
            AAA ## $a piano $p 1 $n 3
            A trio for flute, violin (or oboe, or clarinet), and piano



2.3. Identifying Soloists

Define a subfield for soloists, following the pattern used in Field 048.

$a – Medium of performance (R)
$b – Soloist (R)


            AAA ## $b flute $p 1 $a orchestra
            A work for flute accompanied by orchestra

            AAA ## $b soprano $p 2 $b alto $p 1 $b tenor $p 1 $b bass $p 2 $a chorus (mixed
            A work for SSATBB soloists and SATB chorus

2.4. Identifying doubling instruments

Define a subfield for doubling instruments.

$d – Doubling instrument (R)


            AAA ## $a flute $p 1 $d piccolo $p 1 $d alto flute $p 1 $d bass flute $p 1 $n 1
            A work for solo flute, doubling piccolo, doubling alto flute, and doubling bass flute.

            AAA ## $a soprano $p 2 $a mezzo-soprano $p 1 $a tenor saxophone $p 1 $d bass
            clarinet $p 1 $a trumpet $p 1 $a piano $p 1 $a violin $p 1 $d viola $p 1 $a double
            bass $p 1 $n 8
            A work for 3 sopranos (one mezzo, two sopranos), tenor saxophone (doubling bass
            clarinet), C trumpet, piano, violin (doubling viola), and double bass

Issue: Subfield order determines which are the doubling instruments in the second example. Are there clearer ways of conveying this relationship?

2.5. Indicating partial medium of performance

Define an indicator value for partial medium of performance. This would be especially useful when describing sound recordings and folk music, when it is not always possible to identify all the instruments, but the cataloger may wish to bring out prominent soloists or unusual instruments in small ensembles.


            AAA 0# $a didjeridu $p 1
            A sound recording of didjeridu music, in which the didjeridu is prominent, but other
            instruments are not identified

            AAA 0# $b soprano $p 1
            A sound recording of a prominent soprano, accompanied by various and unidentified


3.1. Which field is the best option for medium of performance data currently recorded in subject headings?

3.2. Which option is the better way to record the number of performers? How much of a problem is it to have some subfields dependent on their placement in relation to other subfields (2.2 Option 1) versus having a multitude of 382 or 6XX fields (2.2 Option 2)?

3.3. Are there other alternatives to consider for identifying soloists?

3.4. Are there other alternatives to consider for relating doubling instruments?

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