Introducing International Classical Music Database

A symphony must be like the world. It must contain everything.

Gustav Mahler

For some of us, classical music is just like the world: not only beautiful, rich in details, somewhat mysterious, but also comes with unsatisfying realities for us to fight against.

Classical Music Metadata

The issue of chaotic classical music metadata is what we're trying to bring an end to. In case of we're not on the same board, see one of below articles:

Rather hot topic, ah-hah?

We start pushing the limits of classical music metadata platform since 2005. I'll publish my 10 years of research in separate articles later. To save us some time, let's start from some popular misconceptions:

1: Blame Apple and Spotify

I empathise with your situation. Your precious collection (vinyls, CDs, and downloads) needs to be organized. As a Mahlerian (Wagnerian / Horowitzian, only list a few), you dream of a classical music experience directly integrated into your music app.

But iTunes can't! Lots of complainings and workarounds target iTunes and Spotify directly, but we shouldn't blame them for:

  • Many recordings released between 1940s - 1990s are not likely to be licensed by Apple or Spotify (some labels are gone). But that's an invaluable portion to us classical collectors.

  • Companies serve their business models, rather than a minority of their users. In order to have a WOW classical music experience, let's tart from something new.

  • Some respected labels are designing their own apps, which is a big step forward. But fragmented islands of information does not belong to the future definitely (organize classical collection by labels is not always optimal).

2: It's All about 3 Missing Tags

Some people believe it's 3 missing tags (composer, performer, ensemble) that make the experience sucks. Unfortunately, that's not the case.

The design of a perfect classical music model is applying ontology engineering to the discourse of hardcore musicology. Not only these missing infos, but also the missing structures make our experience sucks.

Quiz time: can you identify these structures?

  • Multiple catalogues of a composer:
    • Bartok (BB, Op, Sz, DD);
    • Liszt (LW, S, R, C);
    • and, Richard Strauss (Op, TrV, AV);
  • Arrangement on original works:
    • Pictures at an Exhibition;
    • Bach's Chaconne;
  • Multiple takes of the same work:
    • Gould (1955 and 1981);
    • Karajan's 4 Beethoven cycles;
  • Performing editions:
    • Bruckner (Nowak and Haas);
    • Mahler 10th (Wheeler and Cooke);
    • Le Sacre du printemps;
  • The semantics of a search query
    • Pletnev plays Prokofiev;
    • Fischer-Dieskau sings Schubert.

I hope it makes sense. They're just few of the many desired capabilities of a well-crafted classical music metadata engine.

It's not 3 missing tags. It's sophisticated structure supported by 476 information fields (at the date of writing) in our schema.

3: It's All about a Missing App

That's also not true. The 1st significant factor affecting classical music experience is the quality of the metadata. Without a high-quality metadata content, a well-designed classical music app is like a Mac with a Mac OS. The top 3 factors are:

  1. The quality of metadata content;
  2. The quality of metadata schema;
  3. The quality of design and engineering of the end application.

No such ready-to-use high-quality content exists. The most promising one is Grove / Oxford music online. Classical music metadata curators are George Grove and Stanley Sadie in the 21st century. It requires:

  1. Knowledge on specific entries (be it a composer, performer, or a classical work);
  2. Ability to conduct original research (Oxford music online, journals, web pages in different languages);
  3. Quest for state-of-the-art perfection;
  4. Collaboration in the information era.

Only collective knowledge based on decentralized online collaboration can make this happen, no single company can (sorry Rovi).

4. It Only Has Something to Do with Streaming

No. We study, compose, publish, perform, teach, collect, talk and read about music, which is the ontology (nature) of the art form. Lot of us will benefit a lot from a much more improved standard of classical music information:

  • Music collectors
  • Libraries of conservatories
  • Classical labels
  • Music teachers and students (which we always are)
  • Musicologists
  • Sheet music Publishers

For those who haven't fall in love with classical music yet, metadata enable them to explore the magic world, in a well-guided manners.

What We Do

Powering the definitive classical music experience is our mission, which includes:

  1. Design and develop a top-quality, modern classical music metadata core engine;
  2. Curators compile high quality metadata under common creative license on a super-efficient app Classical Music Metadata Curator;
  3. Publish API to power streaming apps, digital music distributors, publishers, labels, and anyone want to integrated a high-quality classical music experience into their product / service;
  4. Release a reference app tonal utilising the above API to enable classical music lovers to manage their own classical collection in the cloud on a paid subscription model with a free tier.

Call to Action

We're asking you do something to help us:

  • If you're a classical music lover: help us spread the word and subscribe to our newsletter to be notified when our reference app is released.

  • If you're a musicologist or hardcore classical enthusiast, join the curator program today. Compile metadata on topics of your interest. We'll ensure the content always be attributed to you. The compiling experience is the best we can imagine. With the painstakingly designed tool, your productivity is maximized. An editor in chief is also wanted.

  • If you're a collector, label, or score publisher, share your catalogue to ensure they're well-catalogued for public access.

  • If you're a designer / developer would like to take part in the crafting of the definitive classical music experience, drop a message;

  • The initiative is unfunded. If you happen to be in the same industry, agree with our mission and believe in the business model, consider invest on us to accelerate the evolution process.

Continue Reading

Don't miss below (work in progress) posts if what we're doing really matters to you:

  1. Our roadmap
  2. Selected researches in classical music metadata
  • Modelling fuzzy dates for classical music
  • Domain language for efficient compiling classical music metadata
  • Relational schema proposed for classical music metadata modelling
  • Review of classical music metadata vendors
  1. Full list of concepts modeled
  2. Tonal app
  3. Content Licensing

Baoshan Sheng

I have a strong background in product and service design and development. I am determined to bring contemporary experience to classical music through metadata innovation.

Beijing, China