Classical Music Interface

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Classical Music Interface
« on: 11 Jan 2018, 03:04 pm »
One complaint that I get often enough that I'm taking the time to post about it and asking for input is for an interface geared towards classical music libraries.  I'm not really a listener of the genre myself so I am a little lost regarding the subject.  There are a couple of things i'm asking for, your input on how you think a classical interface should function and if your ok with it a copy of your tag_cache file (assuming you have a BDP).  The tag_cache file is created by MPD and contains all the tag data related to your music collection that MPD can read, we can get a copy if you place the BDP into service mode and email us (or pm me) the service id.

An example taken from my own tag_cache file of whats stored in this file

Code: [Select]
directory: music_on_WD
mtime: 1506971497
begin: music_on_WD
directory: ABBA
mtime: 1497982512
begin: music_on_WD/ABBA
directory: ABBA Gold
mtime: 1489759007
begin: music_on_WD/ABBA/ABBA Gold
song_begin: 01 Dancing Queen.flac
Time: 232.199000
Artist: ABBA
Title: Dancing Queen2
Album: ABBA Gold
Track: 1
Date: 1993
AlbumArtist: ABBA
Disc: 1
Disc: 1
AlbumArtist: ABBA
mtime: 1488392572



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Re: Classical Music Interface
« Reply #1 on: 11 Jan 2018, 04:51 pm »

I'm fine with my own tags and how they show up on MPAD.
I don't want details and I don't like complexities.
Composer-Piece with movement #-Artist Name(Performer/Orchestra)

Examples of track labelling:
01 Michael Gielen & SWR - Symphony No.9 in D major - 1. Andante comodo
01 Mahler: Symphony #8 In E Flat, "Symphony Of A Thousand" - 1. Veni, Creator Spiritus

Folder containing a symphony would be named appropriatedly like:
Mahler-Symph 8-Bernstein VPO

Folder with multiple symphonies from a single artist:
Mahler-Symphonies 1-10-Gielen SWR Baden

There will be other users who will ask for much more.



Re: Classical Music Interface
« Reply #2 on: 11 Jan 2018, 05:43 pm »
Most classical music libraries are organized by Composer/Work not Artist/Album as are the popular music genres. Library management software that is built around Artist/Album (like Roon) often fails to satisfy classical music listeners. Classical music fans will put the composer in the Artist tag and Work in the Album tag to try to make the player software work. But this requires a lot of manual tag editing because auto-tagging is often wrong or inconsistent, even between 2 discs in a 2 CD album. So I just rip it to my custom directory system not caring what the auto-tags say.

Often classical listeners organize their libraries in a custom directory arrangement for manual navigation:

//Classical/Beethoven/Symphonies/9th Symphony/Bernstein/Vienna/1989/tracks1-4.flac

But some music players, like Roon, do not allow choosing tracks directly by Folder. Since the auto-tags for classical music are mostly crap Roon is not suitable for playing classical music.

I do prefer to use Artist/Album for some classical recordings, like those issued by big star performers who are more important to me than the multiple composers on the album. Like Julia Fischer's 'Poeme.' Glenn Gould, etc.

There are some music player software that supposedly caters to classical music libraries. Like Muso. I've not tried any of those yet. Being lazy and stubborn, I usually just wrestle with the Tidal search engine for a few minutes to find the recording I want to play in Roon. If I want to play classical from my own library and Roon will not find it because of bad tags, I switch to MPD and navigate my library directories manually.

Making use of the composer tag, or letting the user configure his own viewport for browsing library tags by whatever tag combination he wishes would be helpful. But that still requires editing and correcting manually all the bad tags that auto taggers put in the classical music tags. Sometimes Beethoven is the Artist, or AlbumArtist or Composer, or some combination of these.

I don't use Bryston equipment, so no tag_cache file.


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Re: Classical Music Interface
« Reply #3 on: 11 Jan 2018, 10:19 pm »
I listen to a lot of classical music and I have a separate workflow for ripping classical, as opposed to everything else.

iTunes has introduced a proprietary set of Work and Movement tags. To be honest, iTunes does a really elegant job of displaying Work/Movement within their library.

To emulate this with my FLAC library (for the BDP and my Sony Walkman), I use the nearly universal "Grouping" tag to emulate a work tag. Lots of people do this now.\

So, my rules are:

- Grouping works should be Composer: Work
- First titles should be Composer: Work: Movement
- Following titles: Movement
- Stand-alone titles: Composer:Movement (no grouping)

So, my classical tracks are tagged to look like this, as example:

This works well with the BDP display - you need the complete Composer: Work: Movement for the initial movement and then only Movement for the following tracks.

If you want to do something fancy for Manic Moose, I would look at the Grouping tag and then emulate what iTunes does, display-wise - which looks like this:


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Re: Classical Music Interface
« Reply #4 on: 12 Jan 2018, 03:00 am »
I've haven't found anything that does classical "properly" out of the box.  But I don't know a lot about classical myself.

I looked at the MPD source code and it doesn't do anything with tags other than the pop-oriented Artist/Title/Album etc fields.   So I gave up trying to get it to do anything with embedded tags.  MPD has the tags database but I couldn't figure out an easy way to copy tags from a file into MPD's database without too much scripting.  That and MPD not having any nice GUI clients.

I like the new iTunes tags in concept but I abandoned Apple stuff years ago because iTunes didn't do anything sensible with classical AND Apple doesn't do high resolution audio.

So, what I do is this (on a Mac).

I store all my music as FLAC.  If it's not FLAC to start with then I convert it to FLAC.  I find that I can do much more with embedded metadata with FLAC.

I use a program called Yate to fix all the broken auto-tagging stuff.  (Really, why do people put conductors into the Composer field? And so many other bad ideas...).  That can take anywhere from 10min to hours.  It takes hours sometimes to verify all the performers on a recording, to get the canonical name for a piece, or sometimes to get a good album cover.

With Yate, I have added some custom tags to the FLAC file for instrument, period, performer, composition and ensemble.  The instrument and performer fields can both hold multiple values.

Once something is tagged then I use MinimServer to present a navigable structure via the Kazoo UI on an iPad.

I have MinimServer configured to present the normal tags (artist, album, etc) as well as my custom tags (instrument, period, composition, etc) as a filterable tree kind of thing.  So, I can find a Composer, then drill down into all his Violin works, and then drill down into the Mutter performances, and other such things.

Kazoo can search over all the tags or do a folder-style navigation. 

Actually playing a song involves telling the BDP's MPD to load a file via http.

I'd love it if the BDP could interact directly with Kazoo.  I'd really love it if it could do everything MinimServer does.  I have a BDP-1, btw.


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Re: Classical Music Interface
« Reply #5 on: 13 Jan 2018, 03:22 am »
 I'm the nutcake that manually tags all my albums.  Classical has Artist and Album Artist as the composers last name.  The only other tags I bother with are Title, Album (specific to the composition not the actual album name), Track ( Track No. ), Year and Genre.

 The album cover resides in the same folder as the tracks and is named in the following manner [Artist], [Album].  For the BDP The cover is renamed folder.jpg.  The size of the art is kept under 600 KB for BlueSound compatibility. This tagging system works for all the software that has been used in my system so far.


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Re: Classical Music Interface
« Reply #6 on: 13 Jan 2018, 07:16 am »
Classical Tagging & the Bryston UI…


Your interest in tackling the problem of how classical music metadata is presented is laudable, as it’s a source of great frustration for serious listeners. There are a number of large problems affecting how classical music is handled… allow me to ramble/rant on a bit.

The system of tags was developed with popular music in mind, and there is no standard way of tagging classical works. Proprietary solutions can work well, as long as you stay within a provider’s ecosystem (e.g. iTunes) and the way the provider has chosen to display/list works suits you, or you manually manage all of your own tags. However, anyone that amasses a large collection of recordings from diverse sources is going to have to deal with missing or erroneous metadata, and matching whatever scheme the user has chosen will require editing the metadata for almost every recording - and classical music has a LOT of metadata.

There are often many different versions of the same work within a collection, potentially hundreds (!), especially when you consider different artists, re-releases, remastering, inclusion in collections etc. The same recording might show up as disc 20 in a large box, as an individual disc in multiple releases, often under different label names etc. How do you differentiate between duplicates (with possibly significant differences)? Some recordings will get paired with different works on different releases too.

Partly due to the lack of tagging standards, individuals have varying requirements as to what information is critical to have in the database. A given work might be associated with a specific conductor, orchestra, recording date (e.g. the same conductor and orchestra recorded it more than once), different soloists, etc. A single disc might have tracks with a different orchestra or conductor for each, with each being a different work, or even the same work in different versions. Individuals have shoe-horned data into tags unrelated to the actual data, merely to have some way of sorting their collections that works for them.

The state of classical metadata is completely atrocious - there are no really good sources (i.e. authoritative) for classical metadata. I’ve often thought that the only hope is for the major labels and distributors to agree on a new common standard for classical metadata and to extend the current tagging scheme to accommodate it. Think Warner, Universal, Sony, Naxos (as a distributor), but don’t get your hopes up. I don’t think they are interested at all in facilitating ease of access to file-based collections. Ideally, there would be an app that would scan barcodes, or use other unique identifiers to definitively identify a recording, and sync authoritative metadata with our recorded files.

Classical music is presented with any number of linking themes… a recording, or group of recordings (e.g. a box set) might be based on the work of a specific composer, a group of related composers, music of a given time (period), music from a given locale, a specific orchestra, form of music (e.g. string quartets), performance style (HIP, avant-garde, baroque, romantic, etc.), a specific soloist, specific instrumentation, etc. etc. How a database manages the disparate ways of sorting this stuff will determine how effective it will be for the widest range of users.

There are a few “quality” streaming providers of classical music, but I haven’t seen how effective their databases are. I have dabbled with Tidal, and while there is lots of classical music available via Tidal, the service is definitely NOT aimed at serving the needs of the serious classical listener. Tidal is like Twitter for audio, for the most part… the only thing that makes it at all usable is searching, and that is far from great.

Many users have elected to use limited tags or simple tree-based file systems for practical reasons, but a large collection overwhelms those approaches quite quickly. The objectives with file-based music should be first, to present the music with best quality possible, and second, to enable quickly and easily locating a specific recording or group of related recordings. We are getting there with the first objective, but the second is nowhere in sight - at least as far as a standardized approach goes.

I have a moderately large classical collection, encompassing recordings from the last 70 years, and while I have a BDP-2 and appreciate its virtues and potential, I have not attempted to rip my full collection because the thought of manually finding/entering/correcting the metadata for many thousands of “tracks” is horrifying, especially given that whatever scheme I choose to use might end up needing to be completely re-done as “standards” for software and hardware evolve. I am very wary of the issues that will arise out of the normal lifecycle of digital replay systems. The more practical, but still daunting solution is a separate external and extensible database that includes a reference to individual files or physical media. That brings us back to the idea of an app, linking to an authoritative third-party database, likely with an ongoing subscription cost.


So, what’s practical for you to implement as part of the next major software release? A basic structure, such as suggested by a few posters above, ideally with some flexibility to edit/associate individual tags in order to accommodate the various schemes used by individuals. Easy to use and powerful searching, using multiple variables. Researching and providing the best-quality metadata lookup possible (which is still going to require huge amounts of manual massaging by users, so it needs to be easily editable.) The effortless ability to present the full range of accented/diacritical characters and common music notation, as used in titles of works, would be much appreciated. Sorting that preserves correct track order for movements and other ordered works. Gapless playback, while retaining functional "track" markers. I'm sure others will provide more core functions that are vital to the enjoyment of classical music.

There is no way you’ll be able to “solve” this problem for everyone. Running MinimServer or something similar customised for Bryston may be attractive, but I'm assuming you're looking to improve the native interface, and many users won't be prepared to delve into complex solutions. Perhaps Bryston can partner with a classical streaming provider, tagging software company, or other entity to gain access to better quality metadata and tag management, but I’m not going to hold my breath - this is classical music, which is seen as a niche market in the industry. As the world shifts to streaming, there will be even less interest in accommodating the needs of people with large collections of physical or file-based media.

Enough for now...


P.S.  -  I may dig out some worthwhile links to discussions about classical tagging & library management...


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Re: Classical Music Interface
« Reply #7 on: 13 Jan 2018, 04:59 pm »
That's a terrific analysis Syncytial - totally agree ! :D



Re: Classical Music Interface
« Reply #8 on: 13 Jan 2018, 11:07 pm »
Syncytial, you've really summarized the current state of affairs well! All the issues you mention have stopped me from any serious interest in moving my thousands of  classical recordings to a server based system. When and if a good solution for managing metadata emerges, then I'll be persuaded.


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Re: Classical Music Interface
« Reply #9 on: 13 Jan 2018, 11:40 pm »
Do you Know this?

Is it useful or possible to apply to Bryston's BDP?


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Re: Classical Music Interface
« Reply #10 on: 14 Jan 2018, 08:11 pm »
Classical Tagging & the Bryston UI…

The state of classical metadata is completely atrocious - there are no really good sources (i.e. authoritative) for classical metadata.


Hmm... well, I have found to be just excellent. Even obscure discs that I've ripped from my collection, that don't have an entry in Gracenote are fully outlined in AllMusic.

You can look at the released album and click on a particular work, for example, and see everything: work, movements, conductor, orchestra, performance date & location, featured artists & conductor.

I don't think I can characterize that as "atrocious". Yes, you may have to put some of this this stuff in manually - usually not all of it, but if you want everything (e.g. time/place of recording), then you have to add your custom tags. If you are worried about custom tags later being replaced with a standard, the nicer tag editors will allow you to swap one tag for another, en masse, across your entire collection.

And, it *is* possible to retrieve the AllMusic information programmatically, as this is exactly what Roon uses for their own meta data.

I know folks on the Roon community voice concerns about classical meta data, but I am impressed with what they do, so far. Yes, box sets are still a challenge, but that's not because of a lack of data on AllMusic - it's more how Roon currently handles box sets.

However, I can click on a particular Work and see every example of that same work from different recordings - from both my personal collection and what's offered from Tidal.

As one example, if I click on a Work from my box set of Mari Kodama's recording of the Beethoven's Complete Piano Sonatas - say, No. 26 in E flat major - I can browse 2 local alternatives and 64 TIDAL alternatives of the same work. One click and it's playing.

I can do something similar with a given conductor, orchestra, soloist and composer.

And, just about everything from AllMusic is shown on the Roon UI - either under tracks or credits - so you can skip the whole tagging nightmare, if you are happy with what is automatically provided. If you are not, you can tell Roon to read your own tags.



Re: Classical Music Interface
« Reply #11 on: 15 Jan 2018, 03:10 am »
I apologize for my ignorance -- what is meant here by the term "tag?" 


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Re: Classical Music Interface
« Reply #12 on: 15 Jan 2018, 04:00 am »
I apologize for my ignorance -- what is meant here by the term "tag?"

Metadata is what describes your music (song title, artist, etc).  A tag holds a piece of metadata.

There are several standard ways to have metadata on your ripped file depending on its format (alac, flac, wav, diff, etc).  The set of tags is not particularly standard.  Sure, everything has a song title but does everything have a movement?


Re: Classical Music Interface
« Reply #13 on: 15 Jan 2018, 05:23 am »
So, does an audiophile have any control over what goes into a "tag?"


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Re: Classical Music Interface
« Reply #14 on: 15 Jan 2018, 05:39 am »
I don't have Bryston player.  Only a Bryston amp (4B-ST).  I don't know if the following will be helpful or not.

I use JRiver on my music server.  It allowed me to build my own section and I named it "Orchestra".

I have it set up as  Orchestra -  Composer - Conductor - Work - AlbumName and all work on the data as filters.

That way,  if I want to hear Chicago Symphony or Berlin Philharmonic,  they're easy to find.  I can also search on any of the 4 and filter to the smaller subset of tracks.  Most of my classical library has multiple recordings of the same work by different orchestras.

JRiver had a bunch of default tags and actually had more tags than I ended up using.

For a huge amount of data in a database that has decent filtering,  take a look at Digikey's search capability at

It took me around 6 or 7 weeks, every night during the week (5-6 hours per night) and day/night on the weekends to get my CD library ripped to the server.   I did a number of test rips and settled on FLAC.



Re: Classical Music Interface
« Reply #15 on: 15 Jan 2018, 07:08 am »
I share the experiences of others who’ve discovered the challenge of managing tags in classical music.

I’ve ripped a few hundred CDs (everything in FLAC), and during the process, I couldn’t/didn’t bring myself to include every bit of data.  On a single CD, different works (by the same composer) would have different musicians, vocal performers, or conductors.  I entered much, but not all, of such information, though I didn’t omit the conductors.  Sometimes there would be two conductors (e.g., in the case of a composition with a choral component).  Entering the tempo markings was tedious, but I certainly wanted to have them, and the information that would come up in dBpoweramp was variable.  I’d read the CD liner notes to fill in or correct what I could.  Other relevant information (at least for me) is the year of a work’s composition.

Something as simple as having compositions listed by the composer’s last name is what I’d like, but sometimes matters arose such as different spellings of a composer’s name, depending on the language used (e.g., Tchaikovsky–anglicized–v. Tchaïkovski as transliterated in French; Bartok is another example, with the presence-absence of diacritical marks being at issue).  Opus and catalogue numbers are other items I found myself adding, and use of upper- and lower-case in titles varies by language.  My list could go on, but my general feeling here is that there was no easy way for me to manage all the conditions involved with tagging Classical works.

Syncytial’s post (Reply #6) captures well the matter of managing metadata in classical music, and wise is the advice not to hold one’s breath.


Re: Classical Music Interface
« Reply #16 on: 15 Jan 2018, 07:59 am »
"I share the experiences of others who’ve discovered the challenge of managing tags in classical music."

This is what's confusing me.  What means do you have to enter "tags?"  I'm using Foobar 2000 to create FLAC files.  I can fiddle with the names of the resulting files, but I have no way -- that I know of (but please enlighten me) -- to enter tags.


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Re: Classical Music Interface
« Reply #17 on: 15 Jan 2018, 06:43 pm »
 I believe JRiver tags are only stored in a JRiver data base and cannot be seen by other software.  So it may be necessary to tag your albums with software such as dBpoweramp at which point the tags will be shown when the tagged tracks are added to JRiver or any other software.  I use JRiver to stream and play DSD to a headphone DAC/Amp but the Albums and tracks are tagged using dBpoweramp first.

 Prior to ripping with dBpoweramp I change the Artist and Album Artist tags to the composers last name using the most commonly spelled version.  The Album name is changed to say... Symphony No. 5 instead of Bartok. Symphonies Nos. 5 and 7.  the reason for the album name change is because the two symphonies will each have their own album folder.  I also like to get rid of any accent markings that may cause issues with some software.  Apostrophes seem OK unless you have Sonos where the track will not play if one of those is in the track name...Weird!!

 My ripper is dBpoweramp which also has a separate tagger.  After I download an album, the tracks and or album may require tag modification.  If the tracks require a tag modification I right click on one track at a time and choose Edit ID-Tag then change the track name and or track number ( track number is 01, 02, 03 etc...).  After all the tracks have been modified I highlight all the tracks and right click, choose Edit ID-Tag again and change Artist, Album, Year, Genre, Album Artist and Album Art.  In the case of the Album Art a cover resides in the Album folder with the tracks.  So while the Edit ID-Tag screen is up I remove the art that the download service may have added and then add the one from the Album folder.

 If I wish to know more about the composition I'm listening to there are plenty of sites that can show information or with some software the liner notes can be called up on a table to read; MPAD for the BDP allows this.  Often the album cover alone tells the story. 


Re: Classical Music Interface
« Reply #18 on: 15 Jan 2018, 07:01 pm »
For Calypte:

I’m attaching screen shot images from Foobar2000 (taken from Foobar2000's website).

Metadata may be understood as information associated with a file, in this case, a piece of music (song, movement, etc.).  Individual bits of that information are tags (see artur9, Reply #12).

In the first screen shot, “Artist”, “Album”, “Year”, and “Genre” are fields for tags.  If you enter 1995 for the year field, “1995" is the tag for the year.  All the information is metadata for the file (piece of music).

In the second screen shot, the “Value” column is for entering the tags (values) for the fields listed in the “Name” column.  You can see an additional example of this in the third screen shot.

The information that populates the fields (i.e., tags; “values” in the case of the attached Foobar2000 properties screen shots) comes from databases the application accesses ( in the case of Foobar2000, see first screen shot).  Database information is variable and may be incomplete or inaccurate.  Examples include  misspellings, errors in use of case (upper- or lower-case), wrong titles, using a conductor’s name for the “Artist”–where one might expect the composer to be the artist, or for the performing group or person(s) to be the artist–or other incongruities in information for a composition (or part of a composition).

One can add or modify the tags (values in the Foobar2000 properties dialog).  Given the range of information and variation in styles of citing or cataloguing classical music, managing tags is a bit unwieldy.  I trust that any errors or confusion in what I’ve written will be corrected or clarified by others in this thread, but I hope this post helps a bit in answering your question.

For MoPac:

I follow your practice for the Artist and Album Artist tags in dBpoweramp.  As for accents, I’m hoping that any I’ve not removed will not be problematic for when I start using my Bryston BDP-3 (on order and awaiting its arrival).  I don’t use Sonos, but it’s good to know about the apostrophe issue.

« Last Edit: 16 Jan 2018, 05:51 am by Ilkatze »


Re: Classical Music Interface
« Reply #19 on: 15 Jan 2018, 11:28 pm »
I was curious about Krutsch’s reference to (Reply #10) and decided to have a look at the database.

Assuming I didn’t use the site incorrectly, I was unable to find information for seven of eight CDs.  I stopped searching after eight, as I wanted merely to see what would come up after a quick run.

I got information for my CD of composer Connie Beckley, but for composers Bob Ostertag, Louis Karchin, and Allen Anderson, information was not available for my particular discs.  There were 13 titles listed for Ostertag, and one title each for Karchin and Anderson.

Nothing came up for composers Deborah Drattell, Ursula Mamlok, David Chaitkin, or Allen Sapp.

During the ripping process, other databases provided information (e.g. SonataDB) for my discs.  I didn’t notice any one database that provided fully complete/error-free (e.g., spelling, names of compositions, etc.) information, but from the ones that came up (during use of dBpoweramp), I had to enter data for only two disks that did not seem to appear on any database (I don’t remember which two discs they were–I’m just glad there were only two).  In other instances, I was able to add or modify anything I wanted to whatever populated the tag fields.

Still, it’s nice to know of another database.  For all I know, Allmusic came up in dBpoweramp, but I don’t recall.  Different databases would come up as I went through my discs.
« Last Edit: 16 Jan 2018, 01:54 pm by Ilkatze »