Weber, Jerome F. Discography. The New Grove Dictionary of Music Online

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WEBER, Jerome F. Discography. The New Grove Dictionary of Music Online ed. L. Macy, Consulta em 10/02/2005

Entry for 'Discography' by Jerome F. Weber, The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians [or Grove Music Online], 2nd edition, eds. Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell (London, 2001).


A systematic list of recordings. Despite its obvious association with the disc recording, the term is normally applied to lists of all types of recorded sound. Discography must be distinguished from cataloguing. Library catalogues describe the physical object, providing information found on the artefact and its accompanying printed material. Similarly, manufacturers' catalogues deal with the physical object offered for sale. The discographer goes beyond this information to establish all the facts that distinguish one recording from another or identify a recording issued in more than one format, and may also distinguish multiple recordings of a work by the same performer.

1. History.

The term seems to have first appeared in print in the Phonograph Monthly Review in January 1931, with 'A [Geraldine] Farrar Discography' by William Henry Seltsam. The list cited the singer's entire output of recordings by title, composer, manufacturer's issue number and (approximate) year of recording. Apart from the earliest recordings, made in Berlin in 1906, the list was divided into solos, duets, trios and quartets. In 1936 Charles Delaunay published Hot Discography, a list of jazz recordings arranged by performer, which appeared in several revised editions in Paris and New York up to 1948. The need for a systematic study of jazz recordings arose from the confusion caused by the reissue of recordings on various labels credited to different performers; the matrix number pressed into the shellac provided the key to establishing the identity of such discs.

The year 1936 also saw the publication of The Gramophone Shop Encyclopedia of Recorded Music, edited by R.D. Darrell, embracing composers of Western art music represented on electrical recordings since 1925 (a few acoustic recordings of unique interest were also included). A systematic arrangement and precise identification of each composer's work brought some order to the recorded repertory. In his preface, Darrell cited in detail the problems encountered in resolving the identification of certain composers and works not consistently identified on record labels. A second edition by George C. Leslie appeared in 1942 and a third by Robert H. Reid (with performer index) in 1948, but previously released records not available at the time of publication were omitted from all three.
In 1937 Roberto Bauer published Historical Records, a list of operatic singers and their output before 1909, and in 1946 James Dennis founded a monthly periodical, Record Collector, which from its first year included articles and discographies about singers. Other publications to appear during this period include Julian Morton Moses' Collectors' Guide to American Recordings, 1895–1925 (1949) and, from 1953, John Bennett's Voices of the Past, a series of label discographies with indexes, primarily devoted to classical vocal recordings. Some volumes of this series were limited to the pre-1925 acoustic period, but several embraced the entire 78 r.p.m era and included non-vocal entries.
The World's Encyclopaedia of Recorded Music, a compilation begun in 1940 and published in 1957, built on the foundation of Darrell's encyclopedia by listing most of the recordings of Western art music issued throughout the world from 1925 to 1950. This time current availability was not a criterion for inclusion. A bound-in supplement and two supplementary volumes continued the listings to early 1956. While the composers and titles of works were the subjects of extensive research, the performers were identified in abbreviated fashion, giving only surnames, and secondary participants were often omitted. The absence of dates eventually became a problem for users. The compilation of data continued on index cards at the National Sound Archive until 1987, but several efforts to arrange for the publication of additional volumes proved fruitless.
Early discographers were interested in performers; indeed, they focussed largely on performers of the past. Enrico Caruso was an early subject of discographic attention, both for his supreme celebrity in his own time and for the comparative ease with which discographies of recordings by his issuer, the Victor Talking Machine Company, could be made. As early as January 1934 Canon H.J. Drummond published a chronological list of Caruso's recordings in The Gramophone. Other discographers subsequently pursued the subject, but even the discographies of Aida Favia-Artsay in 1965 and John R. Bolig in 1973 (both books still indispensable) had still not resolved the dating of the handful of recordings made in Milan for the Gramophone and Typewriter Company and the Anglo-Italian Commerce Company.
From about 1951 many record review magazines began to publish discographies that focussed on individual composers, generally as part of a critical evaluation. Consequently, the lists were limited to recordings currently available in only one country. In the USA, High Fidelity and Stereo Review published critical discographies of many composers. Similarly, The Gramophone (Gramophone from March 1974) in the UK, Fono-Forum in Germany and Diapason in France have regularly published discographies of single works and individual performers.
From 1961 the British Institute of Recorded Sound (now the British Library National Sound Archive) published in its quarterly review, Recorded Sound, with many discographies devoted to individual modern British composers and performers, and, from 1966, the Danish Nationaldiskoteket and the Finnish Institute of Recorded Sound published series of discographies. From 1970 J.F. Weber edited the work of several contributors in the Discography Series, consisting of monographs devoted to composers. The ARSC Journal has published discographies of many types since 1973. In 1979 the Greenwood Press established a continuing hardcover series, Discographies, which considers labels, performers, composers and other categories of recorded sound. Some of the label discographies fill several volumes.
The inclusion of a discography as appendix to a book-length biography of a composer or performer was exceptional until the late 20th century. Among the few early examples were Cesar Saerchinger's biography of the pianist Artur Schnabel, which appeared in 1957 with a discography, albeit without dates, and Emile Vuillermoz's biography of Gabriel Fauré, published in the USA in 1969 with a complete discography compiled by Steven Smolian that included approximate dates.
As the number of published discographies grew, so too did the lack of uniformity in their content, accuracy and completeness. Some questioned whether a list of recordings that lacked label names and issue numbers could be called a discography at all. A number of attempts to define discographic standards evolved, and both David Hamilton and Steven Smolian wrote on the subject in the ARSC Journal. Two jazz symposia that included discussion of discographic requirements, in 1968 and 1969, were published in book form in 1971. Panel discussions were held at the annual conferences of the ARSC in 1971 and the IASA in 1975, and subsequent conferences of both organizations have continued to discuss the issues. A number of important articles on the subject have been published, such as those by J.F. Weber, Alan Kelly and others and William R. Monroe printed in Recorded Sound during 1975. Reviews in Notes, the ARSC Journal and elsewhere have pointed out the deficiencies of published discographies.
As discographies proliferated, bibliographic control emerged. Recorded Sound published a bibliography of discographies of classical music in 1962. Lewis Foreman supplemented it with Discographies in 1973, and this was followed in 1974 by David Cooper's International Bibliography of Discographies, which included classical music and jazz. The ARSC Journal began publication of a bibliography of current discographies of all types in the same year, eventually embracing the years from 1972 to 1985. It laid the groundwork for the three-volume Bibliography of Discographies (1977–83) and its supplement, Classical Music Discographies, 1976–1988 (1989). Vincent Duckles listed selected discographies in his Music Reference and Research Materials in 1974 and subsequent editions.

2. Sources.

Sources of discographic information may be primary or secondary. Among primary sources the most valuable are the archives of record companies. Recording sessions are invariably documented in detail, dating back as far as May 1889 in the case of Edison, although some companies' files no longer exist. William R. Moran and Ted Fagan obtained access to the files of Victor and RCA Victor in order to compile a detailed discography based on the matrix numbers of every recording from 1900 to 1950, though only two volumes of this have been published.
A large quantity of recording logs of the EMI labels were microfilmed and deposited in the British Institute of Recorded Sound. Alan Kelly used them, as well as other files found at EMI's offices, to compile label discographies of His Master's Voice from 1898 to 1929. He arranged his work by issue number, however, rather than the more precise chronology of matrix numbers, which he also cited. His work supplanted John Bennett's series Voices of the Past, which was based on secondary sources.
Some performers have kept detailed accounts of their recording activities. These are particularly useful in the case of orchestras. The American Federation of Musicians and unions in other countries have kept files of contracts affecting their members. Discographies of the Philharmonia Orchestra, the LPO, the Cleveland Orchestra and the Cincinnati SO have been published using primary sources. Discographies have also been compiled for many other orchestras.
Secondary sources of information include catalogues published by the record companies, national catalogues and other publications. Even the record label and packaging constitute a secondary, if not entirely dependable, source. Victor De Sabata's Mozart Requiem, which provided the date and place of recording on its original issue, was reissued on Heliodor as an LP with those details printed incorrectly. Clemens Krauss's Schubert 'Great' C major Symphony was reissued on a Teldec CD with a stated recording date somewhat later than the published reviews of the original issue.
Before about 1955, the principal record firms published annual catalogues and monthly supplements. Several major record archives and libraries have sizable collections of these catalogues. Since then, company catalogues have been published less regularly, while the proliferation of record companies has complicated the task of collecting them. National catalogues published independently of any record company have become a principal source of information. The USA, the UK and Germany have seen continuous publication of such catalogues since the beginning of the LP era, while national catalogues for France, Italy, Spain, Japan and other countries have appeared more or less regularly. Like company catalogues, these catalogues list only records currently available.
Record reviews provide much more information than any catalogue. Monthly magazines have been published in all major countries, starting with The Gramophone in the UK in 1923 and Phonograph Monthly Review (continued by its successors) in the USA in 1926. Most magazines have annual indexes, while Gramophone, Disques, Diapason and Harmonie (the last three in France) have been indexed in the national catalogues published by each magazine. The Rekōdo-geijutsu and Stereo geijutsu, published monthly in Japanese, are a dependable source for detailed information on all new issues. K. Myers's Index to Record Reviews has indexed a large number of reviews of Western art music published in the USA and other countries; nine volumes were devoted to reviews from 1948 to 1997.
Similar to record reviews are buyers' guides, which evaluate the recorded repertory comprehensively. B.H. Haggin, David Hall and Irving Kolodin each compiled such a treatment of Western art music between 1938 and 1941, and each published several revised editions. By 1955 the publisher Knopf required three authors to cover the same repertory on LPs alone. Similarly in the UK, Edward Sackville-West and Desmond Shawe-Taylor compiled The Record Guide annually from 1951. Later Edward Greenfield and others compiled The Stereo Record Guide annually from 1960. Arthur Cohn in 1981 was the last compiler to attempt to organize the entire body of serious music into one critical survey.

3. Classification.

There are three basic types of discography. One organizes a group of records by the intellectual content of the recorded sound. Composers and their works are a significant part of this type, but the content may be music, speech, public events or sounds of nature. Another type, the performer discography, organizes the records according to individuals and ensembles; a third is organized by record label. There are also general discographies.
From as early as the preface to R.D. Darrell's encyclopedia of 1936, the uniformity of citations has been recognized to be a problem, and an element as simple as the form and alphabetical listing of a composer's name can easily cause discrepancy. Josquin des Prez, for example, has been listed under the letters J, P and D, and Shostakovich will be found in French catalogues under C. It is the discographer's task to address these issues, as well as more common problems such as that of distinguishing between individuals who may have similar or identical names.
The titles of works, too, are not always cited uniformly. Certain symphonies by Haydn, Dvořák and Schubert, for example, have undergone a change of numbering systems since they were first recorded. As in the case of Schubert's lieder, some works have been identified incorrectly because the same texts were set more than once. Darrell aptly described the inconsistent ways in which operatic arias are identified on record labels. Some works, such as the Bruckner symphonies and Musorgsky's Boris Godunov, have been performed and recorded according to several different editions. Other works have been attributed to the wrong composer; the Toy Symphony once appeared in a Haydn list, though is now attributed to Leopold Mozart or to Angerer.
The second type of discography treats performers. The identification of performers was the first problem faced by jazz discographers, who found that recordings were sometimes reissued pseudonymously. Even the first issue of a recording may be pseudonymous; in such cases the performer may have been contracted to another firm, or the recording may have been issued without the performer's knowledge or consent. It is then, of course, necessary for the discographer to ascertain the performer's identity.
Another problem is the incomplete listing of performers. On early recordings, performers were not always identified by full name; and accompanying musicians, if mentioned at all, were often cited merely as 'piano' or 'orchestra', and the orchestra's conductor might not be mentioned. Subsequent citations in catalogues of various kinds may truncate the identification of the performers even further.
Two systems of arrangement have been followed in performer discography. A chronological listing of the recordings says much about the performer's career, but indexes, at least of composers or works, must be supplied. If the recordings fall into several categories, such as studio recordings and public performances, the compiler may decide to divide the recordings into several separate lists. Alternatively, a performer's work may be listed by composer and title, facilitating comparison where there is more than one recording of any single work. If precise dates are lacking, this may be a more manageable format.
The third type of discography focusses on the producing organization and its trademark label. Commercial record issues invariably bear a trademark on the label and an issue number. In the 78 r.p.m. era, a master disc was made from which all subsequent discs were pressed; after 1902, these were stamped with a matrix number between the label area and the grooves. If a performance was recorded more than once, a take number would be added to the matrix number (although a few firms used a different matrix number for each take). In some cases more than one take was issued. The combination of numbers, letters and signs that made up a matrix number varied greatly from one firm to the next. Victor continued the series of take numbers with the same matrix number even if the performer recorded the same work again many years later. The Gramophone Company assigned letters to each recording technician so as to distinguish his series of numbers from others. Apart from establishing the unique identity of a recording, matrix numbers as a series make up a code that can help to establish dates of recording.
Rarely, a mistake might be made in reading the matrix number; RCA Victor issued an album of Renaissance music in which one side was pressed containing a Wagner aria, the result of misreading a single digit in a six-digit matrix number. The take number might represent more than merely an alternative performance. After Sir Adrian Boult recorded Vaughan Williams's Sixth Symphony for the first time (1953), the composer revised the scherzo. HMV made a new recording of the two sides occupied by that movement and supplied the revised version of the scherzo in all subsequent pressings, but the different music was identified only by higher take numbers given to the same matrix numbers. Jazz recordings show distinct differences in improvisation between successive takes.
From about the beginning of the LP era, master recordings were made on tape, allowing an issued 'performance' to be edited from different takes. Consequently, although LPs bear tape transfer numbers in the same position on the disc as matrix numbers, these numbers do not necessarily identify unique performances. Luckily, this is not always the case: Argo recorded an album of music by Britten in 1964, but then recorded the work on one side, A Ceremony of Carols, again in 1966; the same issue number and sleeve design were retained, but the newly recorded side bore a higher tape transfer number.
A label discography organized by sessions or matrix numbers depends more heavily on primary sources than does a discography organized by issue numbers. One recording may appear on a variety of labels in various countries with issue numbers that may be the same or different. Over the years a recording may appear in various formats, including 78 r.p.m., 45 r.p.m., LP, CD, open-reel tape, cassette tape and others. Sometimes the issue number assigned to a new format will be a recognizable variant of the original number. Secondary sources often cite only the substantive part of an issue number, but the prefix is often necessary to distinguish one series from another on the same label.
The label name or trademark that appears on commercial records has been a source of confusion on two counts. One problem is the use of the same trademark by separate firms that have split from a parent company. For some decades the Columbia name and 'magic notes' trademark were divided worldwide among four firms that descended from the pioneer US firm. In 1987 Sony, successor to the US firm, bought out the rights of the other three companies. In the interim, collectors coined such terms as 'American Columbia' that did not appear on any record label.
The other problem is the changing or otherwise diverse identities of record firms. Copies of a single record, if kept on the market for long enough, might be found with labels such as Victor, Victrola and RCA Victor. Similarly, a single record, bearing a single number, might be found with the labels His Master's Voice, La Voix de son Maître, La Voce del Padrone and other translations, and even with the name Electrola and a trademark different from the celebrated dog listening to a gramophone. Collectors have referred to all of these as HMV, regardless of whether any such logo or trademark was ever printed on the label.
On most records the issue number consists of a prefix and a serial number; there is sometimes a suffix. The prefix and suffix may be alphanumeric. It is not uncommon for secondary sources to cite a record by the number alone, but the omission of the prefix and suffix may fail to distinguish it adequately. Unlike the matrix number, which is used for control in manufacturing, the issue number is used for marketing control. Whereas a series of matrix numbers, even if assigned in blocks, will in general correspond closely to chronological order, issue numbers will correspond less closely.
One of the most difficult aspects of discography lies in establishing dates of recording. A company's files are the ultimate source of this information, but until recent times this data was not published and the files were not open to researchers. About 1953 Deutsche Grammophon's Archiv Produktion began the first consistent effort to publish the precise date and place of recording on each issue, a practice that has become commonplace in the CD era for both new recordings and reissues.
Often classified separately, a general discography is simply a more comprehensive discography of one of the types already described. The Orchestra on Record, 1896–1926 by Claude Arnold, for example, is a general discography of orchestral music recorded by the acoustic process. It provides both recording and issue dates as far as they are available, as well as LP and CD reissue data. The Discopaedia of the Violin by James Creighton (especially in its greatly enlarged second edition) is an exhaustive treatment of violinists and their recordings, despite its omission of dates. General discographies are of great utility to specialist discographers, especially if they give details of primary sources such as matrix and take numbers.



M. Gray and G. Gibson: Bibliography of Discographies: Classical Music, 1925–1975 (New York, 1977)

D. Allen: Bibliography of Discographies: Jazz (New York, 1981)

M. Gray: Bibliography of Discographies: Popular Music (New York, 1983)

M. Gray: Classical Music Discographies, 1976–1988 (Westport, CT, 1989)

critical studies

G. Stevenson: 'Discography: Scientific, Analytical, Historical and Systematic', Library Trends, xxi (1972), 101–35

L. Foreman: Systematic Discography (London, 1974)

J. Perkins, A. Kelly and J. Ward: 'On Gramophone Company Matrix Numbers, 1898 to 1921', Record Collector, xxiii (May 1976), 51–90

M. Gray: 'Discography: its Prospects and Problems', Notes, xxxv (1978–9), 578–92

G. Roig: 'M3–M6: Datons les disques de Chatou', Sonorités, no.17 (1987), 29–42; no.18 (1987), 61–70

D. Hall: 'Discography: a Chronological Survey', Modern Music Librarianship: Essays in Honor of Ruth Watanabe, ed. A. Mann (Stuyvesant, NY, 1989), 173–84

B. Kernfeld and H. Rye: 'Comprehensive Discographies of Jazz, Blues, and Gospel', Notes, li/2 (1994), 501–47, li/3 (1995), 865–91

J. Bowen, ed.: Guide to Discography (Berkeley, forthcoming)

comprehensive discographies

R.D. Darrell: The Gramophone Shop Encyclopedia of Recorded Music, i (New York, 1936)

G. Leslie: The Gramophone Shop Encyclopedia of Recorded Music, ii (New York, 1942)

R. Reid: The Gramophone Shop Encyclopedia of Recorded Music, iii (New York, 1948)

F. Clough and G. Cuming: The World's Encyclopaedia of Recorded Music (London, 1957)

V. Girard and H. Barnes: Vertical-Cut Cylinders and Discs (London, 1964, 2/1971)

A. Koenigsberg: Edison Cylinder Records, 1889–1912 (New York, 1969)

F. Karlin: Edison Diamond Discs (Santa Monica, CA, 1972)

R. Wile: Edison Disc Recordings (Philadelphia, 1978)

B. Rust: Jazz Records: A–Z, 1897–1942 (New Rochelle, NY, 4/1978)

R. Spottswood: Ethnic Music on Records (1893–1942) (Urbana, IL, 1990)

J. Creighton: Discopaedia of the Violin (Burlington, ON, 2/1994)

R. Dixon, J. Godrich and H. Rye: Blues and Gospel Records, 1890–1943 (Oxford, 4/1997)

C. Arnold: The Orchestra on Record, 1896–1926 (Westport, CT, 1997)

K. Myers: Index to Record Reviews (Boston, 1978–89)

P. Cauthen and M. Palkovic: Index to CD and Record Reviews, 1987–1997 (Boston, 1999)

label discographies

J.R. Bennett: A Catalogue of Vocal Recordings from the English Catalogues of the Gramophone Company (Lingfield, Surrey, 1955)

M. Smith: The H.M.V. 'D' and 'E' Catalogue (Lingfield, Surrey, 1961, 2/1971)

J.R. Bennett and E. Hughes: The International Red Label Catalogue of DB & DA His Master's Voice Recordings, 1924–56 (Lingfield, Surrey, 1961)

M. Smith and I. Cosens: Columbia Gramophone Company, Ltd.: English Celebrity Issues (Lingfield, Surrey, 1972)

M. Smith and F. Andrews: His Master's Voice Recordings, Plum Label 'C' Series (12 inch) (Lingfield, Surrey, 1974)

J.R. Bennett: A Catalogue of Vocal Recordings from the Russian Catalogues of the Gramophone Company Limited (Lingfield, Surrey, 1977)

T. Fagan and W. Moran: The Encyclopedic Discography of Victor Recordings (Westport, CT, 1984–6)

A. Kelly: His Master's Voice/La voce del padrone: the Italian Catalogue (Westport, CT, 1988)

A. Kelly: His Master's Voice/La voix de son maître: the French Catalogue (Westport, CT, 1990)

A. Kelly: His Master's Voice/Die Stimme seines Herrn; the German Catalogue (Westport, CT, 1994)

W. Shaman, W. Collins and C. Goodwin: EJS: Discography of the Edward J. Smith Recordings (Westport, CT, 1994)

R. Taylor: Columbia Twelve-Inch Records in the United Kingdom, 1906–1930 (East Barnet, Herts., 1994)

P. Charosh: Berliner Gramophone Records, American Issues, 1892–1900 (Westport, CT, 1995)

A. Kelly and J. Klöters: His Master's Voice/De stem van zijn Meester: the Dutch Catalogue (Westport, CT, 1997)

T. Brooks and B. Rust: The Columbia Master Book Discography, 1901–1934 (Westport, CT, 1999)

W. Shaman, W. Collins and C. Goodwin: More EJS: Discography of the Edward J. Smith Recordings (Westport, CT, 1999)

subject and performer discographies

for additional discographies see articles on

individual performers

J. Coover and R. Colvig: Medieval and Renaissance Music on Long-Playing Records (Detroit, 1964–73)

A. Favia-Artsay: Caruso on Records (Valhalla, NY, 1965)

J. Smart: The Sousa Band: a Discography (Washington DC, 1971)

J. Bolig: The Recordings of Enrico Caruso (Dover, DE, 1973)

A. Jefferson: Richard Strauss Opera (Utica, NY, 1977)

R. Sears: V-Discs (Westport, CT, 1980–86)

T. Croucher: Early Music Discography: from Plainsong to the Sons of Bach (Phoenix, AZ, 1981)

S. Pettitt: Philharmonia Orchestra: Complete Discography, 1945–1987 (London, 1987)

T. Day: A Discography of Tudor Church Music (London, 1989)

J. Weber: A Gregorian Chant Discography (Utica, NY, 1990)

R. Shoaf: The Schoenberg Discography (Berkeley, 2/1994)

P. Fülöp: Mahler Discography (New York, 1995)

M. Gray: 'Discography: Commercial Recordings by Otto Klemperer', in P. Heyworth: Otto Klemperer: his Life and Times (Cambridge, 1996), i, 435–41; ii, 394–460

J. Hunt: The Furtwängler Sound (London, 5/1996)

P. Stuart: The London Philharmonic Discography (1997)

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