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MUHI 6335: Intro to Grad Studies: Uniform Titles

Instructors: Dr. Peter Kupfer and Dr. Laureen Whitelaw.

Distinctive Titles

Distinctive titles are titles that are unique — for example, there's only one Firebird by Stravinsky. However, the title appears in its original language. So Firebird appears as Zhar-ptitsa. Other examples:

  • Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus, 1756-1791. Nozze di Figaro.
  • Orff, Carl, 1895-1982. Carmina Burana.
  • Corigliano, John, 1938-. Fern Hill.

Form Titles

Form titles use the common genre names familiar to most musicians — particularly with instrumental music — like sonatas, masses, quartets, etc.

Form titles have several common pieces:

  • Genre
  • Medium (instruments or voices performing)
  • Distinctive number if one exists (opus number, thematic catalog number, etc.)
  • Key
  • Extra information

Here are a couple of examples:

  • Beethoven, Ludwig van, 1770-1827. Quartets, violins (2), viola, cello, no. 16; op. 135, F major.
  • Bach, Johann Sebastian, 1685-1750. Masses, BWV 232, B minor

"Extra information" can be used for a variety of useful bits of information. For example:

  • Purcell, Henry, 1659-1695. Fairy queen. Vocal score
  • Palestrina, Giovanni Pierluigi da, 1525?-1594. Masses, book 3. Missa brevis.
  • Orff, Carl, 1895-1982. Carmina Burana. Libretto. English and Latin

What Is a Uniform Title?

A musical work might be known by many different titles

A uniform title (or preferred title) is the version of a title standardized by catalogers.  Books, scores, and recordings of a particular musical work can be searched more quickly by searching by uniform title. 

Uniform titles come in two flavors: Distinctive titles and form titles.

Collective Titles

Uniform titles can also be used to show groups of pieces put together in a published work (like 3 sonatas in one volume). Examples:

  • Quartets, strings
  • Chamber music, selections
  • Works

That last one is important. If we have a complete works edition of a given composer, you'll find it listed under "Works." The same would be used for an edition of CDs of every single work by a given composer.