[Smt-talk] General term for movements, acts, numbers

Charles J. Smith cjsmith at buffalo.edu
Fri May 25 09:39:37 PDT 2012

Dear Richard,

To my mind, the interesting question here is whether these concepts  
are similar enough that trying to find a single covering term is worth  
the effort. Movements are very different from both acts and scenes  
(the latter term being fairly close to "numbers"). The fundamental  
difference is that acts often have further subdivision into discrete  
and separable units while movements (except perhaps for the 4th of  
Beethoven's 9th) don't...usually. And "parts" and "sections" have been  
co-opted by form theory...

It's not surprising that you need a super-concept like this for a  
database (categories have to be called SOMETHING). If one word must be  
chosen, and "division" doesn't satisfy, why not use your own word 
—"component"? Either of these work as well as any, as far as I can  
see. But it's important to remember that any single term is going to  
be grouping together some not really very comparable things, and  
you'll need to allow for that.

If I were designing such a database, I'd try to design in some kind of  
hierarchy. Why not a super-category of Movement/Act, and then another  
smaller-scale category of Scene/Number/Division, to be used only where  
necessary and otherwise left blank? That seems an appealingly  
hierarchical solution.


> Collective wisdom,
> Is there any established term which covers the concepts of
> "movements", "acts" and "scenes", "numbers", etc., i.e. the components
> of musical works?
> I ask in the context of developing a thematic catalogue database in
> which I need to be able to capture this concept and therefore need a
> name for it.
> In previous similar work I've used "sub-work". But this not only
> sounds quite computer-oriented, it also has slightly denigrating
> nuances. "Parts" is problematic because the term is commonly used in
> music publishing for instrumental and vocal parts. A colleague
> suggested "integer" (as a neologism, I think), citing its root meaning
> something like indivisible. A problem with this is its
> well-established meaning in mathematics and computer science for whole
> numbers.
> Any thoughts?
> Best wishes,
> Richard Lewis
> -- 
> -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
> Richard Lewis
> ISMS, Computing
> Goldsmiths, University of London
> t: +44 (0)20 7078 5134
> j: ironchicken at jabber.earth.li
> @: lewisrichard
> s: richardjlewis
> http://www.richardlewis.me.uk/
> -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
> _______________________________________________
> Smt-talk mailing list
> Smt-talk at lists.societymusictheory.org
> http://lists.societymusictheory.org/listinfo.cgi/smt-talk-societymusictheory.org


Charles J. Smith
Slee Chair of Music Theory & Chair of the Department
Department of Music, 220 Baird Hall
University at Buffalo
Buffalo, NY 14260
716-645-0639 [direct line]
716-645-3824 [fax]
cjsmith at buffalo.edu

More information about the Smt-talk mailing list