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What’s a duplicate?

March 15, 2011 2 comments

As we are going through the boxes, we are identifying duplicates, the idea being that we do not need two identical copies of the same item. But what is ‘the same’? It may seem obvious at first – if it is the same piece of music it is a duplicate. But what if it is a different edition, where some changes (may) have been done to the music? Well, then it is not an identical copy and thus not a duplicate. But what if the music is the same but the cover differs?

We have taken the view here that if the cover is different, the items are not duplicates, even if the music would sound identical irrespective of what copy you play it from. The reasoning behind this is that these items are not only music scores. The actual physical copies are interesting, and variations there can very well be of interest to someone researching the genre or period.

The differences between two versions of a score can be quite obvious, like the Valentine Galop pictured here.Different covers for Valentine Galop The covers look different – one has an illustration while the other uses different fonts in a decorative way – which may make it less obvious that this is actually the same music. It is the same composer (although called M Relle on one cover and Moritz Relle on the other), but the title is slightly different (St Valentine’s Galop vs Valentine Galop). It is only by looking at the actual music notation that we will know if it is the same piece. In this case it is easy to motivate scanning both copies, since there is so much to look at and compare for someone researching the area.

In other cases, duplicates may be less obvious. It may be that the cover looks very similar, but a closer inspection reveals small differences, for example that the advertisements on the back are different or that the list of titles in the series contains different number of items. If these were to be considered duplicates, which one should be scanned? Who should decide that one set of adverts is more important or interesting than another? We have refrained from making that decision and are instead scanning both copies in cases like these. This will allow different kinds of research on the material. The actual number of near-duplicate scores is fairly low, so seen in the grand scheme of things scanning the near-duplicates it is a small extra. Having them does however also allow a further interesting use, namely for quality assurance. Having the same title described twice will allow us to make comparisons between the different descriptions and see in what way they differ (if at all). That will help us understand how much variation we should expect in the descriptions that we are getting. There are other ways this quality assurance can be performed, and we will be using various methods to get material that is truly useful for those who wish to make use of it.

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