3rd International Conference on
Music Information Retrieval
IRCAM – Centre
October 13-17, 2002
METADATA SESSION –
is a famous dialogue in Molière’s play “Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme”, between
the proverbial Mr Jourdain and his philosophy master, from whom he requires
help in writing a little note to a lady of great quality with whom he is in
MONSIEUR JOURDAIN: No, I don't want either prose or
PHILOSOPHY MASTER: It must be one or the other.
MONSIEUR JOURDAIN: Why?
PHILOSOPHY MASTER: Because, sir, there is no other
way to express oneself than with prose or verse.
MONSIEUR JOURDAIN: There is nothing but prose or
PHILOSOPHY MASTER: No, sir, everything that is not
prose is verse, and everything that is not verse is prose.
MONSIEUR JOURDAIN: And when one speaks, what is that
PHILOSOPHY MASTER: Prose.
MONSIEUR JOURDAIN: What! When I say, "Nicole, bring me my
slippers, and give me my nightcap," that's prose?
PHILOSOPHY MASTER: Yes, Sir.
MONSIEUR JOURDAIN: By my faith! For more than forty
years I have been speaking prose without knowing anything about it, and I am
much obliged to you for having taught me that.
have been “speaking” metadata for more than forty years, much before the word
was coined. The first metadata records must have been written on sumerian and
akkadian clay tablets - there are two primitive catalog tablets dating from
around 2000 BCE at the temple of Enlil at Nippur.
the “One-Two-Three-Infinity” title of George Gamow’s famous book illustrates,
we may reach intractability when dealing directly with contents of large
collections: the induced complexity relates not only to accessing the items
(the search and retrieval phase) but also to managing their immediate use and
their life-cycle, to handling the rights of their owners and their associated
costs (and hence their market value) in compliance with a multiplicity of
national and international laws and regulations.
is why the need to list, describe and index the objects themselves arises:
by selecting some characteristic
traits of the constituents – a title, an incipit, a shape, a color…;
by attempting at providing its
“perceived essence” as if it were, e.g., by summarizing it.
whence the emergence of catalogues, which have been
the domain of expertise of librarians for millenia.
that collections of metadata become themselves computer-accessible and can
constitute vast collections, the need to organize them in other ways than
purely sequentially in card-catalog boxes arises and raises a host of
intellectual, technical and financial issues: their structure (just a title
and name, or a deep structure description?), their production (manual or
automatic) and maintenance through time (the question of evolving standards
and preservation), their identification and organization, their protection,
their value... in other words, how to deal with them as data, in addition to
dealing with them as “mediators” to data.
is (in my view) more complex for music than for written text:
it is easier to describe words with
words (and so for instance it may be easier to produce text summaries that
make “textual” sense than music summaries that make musical sense);
the authorship/ownership issue (from
the composer to the publisher);
the multiple possible “incarnations”
of music (scores and interpretations).
When you add to this the digital capacity to derive other works
(by summarization, by linking) from original works, this becomes quite mind
relatively recent work on metadata as emerging from the digital world (the
internet, really) has had an important impact on the “librarian” view of
metadata. But conversely, the knowledge accumulated by librarians through the
ages has also fed the research and development of metadata for digital objects.
of the music which is “traded” on the internet can be viewed as “consumer
music” which probably has no need for deep metadata structure, authority
records [listes d’autorités], and so on. But immediate money and universal
usability should hopefully not be the only reasons for intellectual (and
artistic) pursuit – there is other food than McDonalds and other music than
this afternoon, we shall have a glimpse of the variety of perspectives on
metadata, as they relate to music. Before the break, we will hear Leonardo
Chiariglione and Chris Barlas speak on MPEG as an intermediary between the
author and the consumer; then Harriette Hemmasi will show the evolution of
the “library” view of music metadata as reflected in a real, musical digital
library, system, followed by David Datta who will describe another real
musical metadata system, in the entertainment world. This session will end
with a talk by Eric Scheirer on the issue of the business value of music
October 16, 2002