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anonymous vs. traditional for composer name?

  • Posted by: Vaarky 22:44, 26 October 2008 (UTC)

Has there previously been discussion of whether the composer entry Traditional should be changed to Anonymous? My opinion is that Traditional denotes a category of music and is not appropriate in the composer field. The composer is either unknown (Anonymous) or someone's name. That will also not artificially divide in two the number of compositions by unknown composers just because some songs are believed to be Traditional while others are not.

Reply by: Chucktalk Giffen 13:38, 27 October 2008 (UTC)


I'm very much inclined to agree with this viewpoint. Isn't a "tradtional" work "anonymous" (at least to us)? To me, "traditional" seems more of a music genre than a music source.

As an added point, why on the Traditional page are there two columns - one with sections apparently for titles from A to Z, the other with a single section "Hymn tunes" which only has a single entry (Slane)? It seems that a better use of two column format could be found.

I wasn't aware of this discussion, but I tend to agree with you both on this. Is there still interest in merging the pages? I should note, however, that some changes made by me to the {{Composer}} template in 2012 may have partly solved the problem cited by Vaarky, since it now displays:
Composer: Anonymous (Traditional)
Composer: Anonymous (Gregorian chant)
and so on for the other "chants" regarded as composers. —Carlos Email.gif 16:57, 3 August 2014 (UTC)
"Anonymous" works are from written sources; "Traditional" works belong to (or originate in) oral tradition. A very useful distinction, it seems to me. I wouldn't mind though if Anonymous were rearranged Composer:Source|Anonymous (source) or even Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach (spurious works)|Circle of JSB; "anon." is bound to become unmanageably large at some point otherwise. Richard Mix (talk) 20:06, 3 August 2014 (UTC)

Multiple arrangements

I can't see that we have a pattern (let alone a policy) on lumping or splitting harmonizations & arrangements of folksong: The text page Down by the Salley gardens lists a deleted Down by the Salley Gardens (Willem Verkaik), now merged with the first of:

Should the general information field really read:
Number of voices: various Voicing: see individual edition notes above
Instruments: ditto?

In this example I can see a case for Down by the salley gardens (Traditional) redirecting to the text page listing the various Down by the Sally Gardens (Arranger). Richard Mix (talk) 04:08, 17 September 2019 (UTC)

You're going the right direction in the last paragraph of your analysis, Richard. Certainly the page as it stands is confusing. To answer your question, I think Anonymous compositions should be grouped under the tune, not the lyrics. That seems to be a trend in compositions with known composers.
Since I am not a collector of oral traditions (though some editors are, I think), I rarely deal with "Traditional." There is nearly always a published source for the tune – which makes it "Anonymous" by your definition, right? Actually I tend to agree with the discussion above, that "Traditional" should not be a composer, but a Category (which already exists, Folksongs – though I would rather say "Folk songs" or better, "Folk music"; also see Folk hymns). Some of the tunes considered folk songs turn out to have been composed by somebody. (An American example is Home on the range[1].)
And according to the Wikipedia article, there are a number of published examples of the various tunes for this poem. The arrangements on this page belong to the same tune, The Moorlough Shore, famously published by Herbert Hughes in 1909 (depending on what 55144 sounds like). So I think it would be better if the page were like the current one, but titled The Moorlough Shore (Herbert Hughes) or The Maids of Mourne Shore (Herbert Hughes), with LinkText to the Yeats poem, and with Category:Folksongs. — Barry Johnston (talk) 00:34, 18 September 2019 (UTC)
Incorrect as it stands, not just confusing, but that can be dealt with locally. For Hymn tunes there has been some progress toward standard names, which I'm not so sure is the case here, and in any case THE MOORLAND SHORE is not by Herbert Hughes at all but a folksong of 'traditional' authorship.
Folksongs is a supercategory with named and unnamed arrangers thrown together, as at Early one morning. I wasn't aware of Folk hymns! Next we'll have folk chorales, maybe ;-) Richard Mix (talk) 11:28, 18 September 2019 (UTC)

What was explained to me several years ago: when the tune doesn't have a composer (for whatever reason), and the arranger is well-known, then Title (Arranger) makes more sense than Title (Anonymous), where it will get lost. On the work page the arranger is in the {{Arranger}} template, and the Description contains explanation of the situation. Good examples can be found in Thomas Ravenscroft and William Walker, both of whom took folk music and popularized it, Walker sacred music and Ravenscroft both secular and sacred.

Folk hymn is a well-established concept after George Pullen Jackson's five books and many more recent studies. Here is more reading on the subject:

Barry Johnston (talk) 15:51, 18 September 2019 (UTC)

And did you notice, the Wikipedia link on this page redirects to Folk music? — Barry Johnston (talk) 21:43, 18 September 2019 (UTC)