Analytic and multilevel emphasis

Audio content on early sound recordings was of very short duration (usually not longer than 4 minutes, e.g. wax cylinders, discs of the coarse groove era). Often composed musical works were abridged to fit into such a short playing time or were spread over several sides with carefully planned breaks for changing sides or discs. Frequently recordings on cylinders and single-sided discs were coextensive with the physical item.

Later, with double-sided discs, two (and sometimes more) separate recordings were contained on the one physical item.

Traditionally, in discography and in early gramophone library catalogues, the individual recordings would be described separately, and each description would include some piece of key 'linking' information back to the physical disc (e.g. label and catalogue number). Record shops and some sound recording libraries and archives traditionally filed their collections of published sound recordings (discs) on the shelf according to size, label and catalogue number.

With the introduction of the LP and EP, and more recently the DAT and CD, a single physical item could contain several recordings, and this multiplicity is increased with today's audio mass storage systems, and digital jukebox systems.

There are three methods to describe multiple recordings on a single item:

1. A contents note may be used to list the recordings contained on the physical item, which in itself is described as a unit (see 7.B.25);

2. A multilevel entry may be prepared for each recording. Multilevel description potentially provides scope to give more information about a recording than normally may be entered in a contents note. The multilevel structure is hierarchical, and the descriptions for the recordings are presented in the same order as the recordings occur on the physical item(s) (see 9.2); or

3. A discrete analytic entry for each recording may be prepared and then linked to the host item(s). The hierarchical structure of the multilevel approach is not a requirement for analytic cataloguing. Sometimes the same recording will occur on more than one host item. Thus the one analytic entry for a recording may be linked to as many host items as contain that particular recording (see 9.1). Also the use of a discrete analytic entry for each recording potentially allows a full bibliographic description complete with access points for the recording; it minimises duplication of effort to describe the occurrence of the same recording on more than one physical item; and, when a computer is used for cataloguing it allows for flexibility in producing lists and other reports such as discographies, catalogues, listings and carrier contents listings for tapes, DATs or CDs. These items may be published, unpublished, or broadcast items, or in-house archival preservation copies, dubbing masters or reference copies. (Note that an in-house copy may be a one-to-one copy or a new compilation in its own right, depending on the policy and procedures employed by the archive or cataloguing agency.)

The traditional layout of discographies has pre-empted the analytic approach, e.g.


Clarence Williams, piano
New York City, February 16, 1923
80863-5 DOWN HEARTED BLUES Col. A3844; CBS CG 33
80864-3 GULF COAST BLUES Col. A3844; CBS CG 33

(In this example, the main artist Bessie Smith features as the heading. Clarence Williams provides piano accompaniment. The place and date of the recording session are shown as in New York City on February 16, 1923. Following are separate lines for each recording showing (left to right) matrix and take number, the title, and publication details given as the record label and catalogue number. Here, both recordings are shown as having been published twice, as two labels and catalogue numbers occur after each title.)

It is the cataloguing agency's or archive's choice whether to apply multilevel or analytic cataloguing or not, or whether to include contents notes or not. These choices will depend on matters such as the volume of material to be brought under basic control and/or catalogued in full; the human and financial resources available to do this work; the priorities, commitments and goals of the archive or cataloguing agency; and the information retrieval requirements of the institution and its clients.