Classical Music: Capitalization and Punctuation

I am looking for an authoritative guide to writing, punctuating, and capitalizing titles of classical music—not an anecdote, blog, zine, or fluffy lifestyle article!

Any ideas?

The request in itself is open to debate. This is more of a personal decision to make in your case.

There is some direction here already if you search for Grammartron.

But for some perspective outside of this forum on the modern ideals for structured capitalization of titles, there is some guidance that follows standard practice here regarding APA and MLA title rules.

One more aspect. Titlle Capitalization is used only in English, and only in the last 1-2 centuries. This practice arose from increasingly loud and outbidding each other's advertisements, otherwise it is linguistically unfounded. This is the opinion of many non-english native speakers, myself included.

Alas, no such guide exists. There are only conventions and style guides, which vary by language, institution, and music genre. You have to choose among these as best you can.

Although scripts can be helpful with capitalization, they are limited because they cannot distinguish parts of speech. For example, an Mp3tag script may be written to lower case a list of short prepositions like "to", but what if "to" precedes a verb? Then in a title it should be "To" because it is part of an infinitive.

To make matters worse, composers are free to use whatever capitalization suits them:
where have classical music's uppercase letters gone?

My suggestion is to choose a style guide that looks right to you, and then try to apply it consistently. I capitalize by applying my script (some of which was incorporated into Grammartron) but I still have to review the results and correct manually when needed.

For classical music, this excerpt from the widely-used Chicago Manual of Style is a good place to start:
Basic Guide to Program Formatting

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As other already stated: There is no such guide.

You have to decide if you want to use some of the mentioned sources or if you build your own rules for your collection, your preferred syntax and your requirements.

IMHO there is no right or wrong. Every composer or music label or user can write the tracks as they want. If you want to see the tracks for "Don Giovanni" in correct original Italian spelling: Fine.
If you think, the composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was Austrian, so the tracks have to be spelled in correct (old) German: Fine.
If you want to see an english translation of this tracks its fine too.

This isn't geopolitics.

My Chicago Manual of Style does not address the formatting of file names, nor does it address the ways in which titles of classical music are formatted, let alone which parts are capitalized in various languages.

One is not generally born knowing German, Dutch, Spanish, French, Italian, Latin, and English. However, one would well imagine that most classically trained musicians are taught the skills necessary to parse various structures and titles, and it would then stand to reason that this information isn't a state secret, that it is instead available in some form designed to guide and remind the student as he progresses through his studies.

One might well imagine that when using tagging software to . . . oh, maybe apply tags to classical music . . . that some basic guidelines and rules could be considered by reasonable people as something more practical and less inciteful.

Sorry to bother anyone in their corner of the Internet.

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There are no special rules for titles or filenames, so here is a Wikipedia article about German grammar:

The rules described there apply to any data in lyrics, title, album, artist etc.

E.g. for Mozart it would be:

  1. Akt: Der Vogelfänger bin ich ja
  2. Akt: Dies Bildnis ist so bezaubernd schön
  3. Akt: Ach, ich fühl's, es ist verschwunden
  4. Akt: Alles fühlt der Liebe Freuden

which shows the rules: capital letters for nouns and capital letters at the beginning of sentences.
Other languages will have different rules.

For an overall correct representation it would also require a deeper understanding of the language structure, e.g.
Ich habe genug: IV. Rezitativ: Mein Gott! Wann kommt das Schöne: Nun!

where "das Schöne" is "the beautiful" and a noun. But in "das schöne Mädchen" "schöne" would be an adjective and therefore not get a capital letter.

I found an example for a title with 2 languages in it:
Mignon II 'Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt' - 'Solo quien añora'
I know that the first part follows German rules, I think the second part is Spanish.
Filenames may have other restrictions, e.g. the colon will not be accepted for Windows filenames.

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Well, you haven't found it and we haven't found it, so one might well imagine that no such reference exists. However, the UW-Madison guide that I gave you is based on a much longer reference book that is indeed used by music students:

Writing about Music: A Style Sheet by D. Kern Holoman
(ISBN:9780520958814, 136 pages, 3rd edition, 2014)
Scroll down in the above link to see the complete table of contents.

I have not looked at this book but Amazon has both new and used copies.

[Personal opinion] I think the format of "filenames" is more or less irrelevant, as these are key to the OS only, and perhaps for those that still feel it necessary to browse by folder.

This really comes down to your personal taste for how you want it to look. I myself still cannot wrap my head around the newer concept of the rules for APA and MLA for example. I was always taught in school (in 1980's English Canada if that matters) that all words in a title were capitalized. Makes for a pretty simple rule. I see "What to Capitalize in a Title" and think it just looks wrong. So in my library, I follow my rule, with the only exception being words that are intentionally stylized by the artist, as listed on the cover.

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