Interlude: Ensembling!

Hi everyone! As you might remember, our last post was the end of a series of entries meant to summarize everything that had happened in instrument-land so far. So now that catching up is done, here’s what has happened lately!

This post is rather large, so if you only read one thing about instruments today, make it our new guide for requesting instruments! (More details about this in the last section below.)

Ensembles and families

While working with GCI and other tickets from the “Let’s get serious” version we kept seeing issues related to instrument families and groupings.
This wasn’t new. In fact, the first seeds that would eventually lead to the Ensemble type had already been sown while working with one of the earliest instruments I dealt with: the tamburica ensemble! Back then I ended up removing this ensemble and adding the specific instruments instead. Later I came back to similar ideas several times, for example when thinking about how to implement the information that instruments are sometimes related as “families” (like the violin family or the viol family). We had some talk about it in the forums, but while it led to some interesting conversations, it still wasn’t clear how to move forward.

The same issue came up again with the work on Taonga pūoro. We already had the ability to indicate that instruments had parts, so the Taonga pūoro already had its parts (the individual instruments) linked, but something was still missing. Then, a while later, I ran into bateria, which was something I really wanted to add, but couldn’t, because it wasn’t really an instrument in and of itself.

After many productive (and occasionally silly :​​D) talks with reosarevok (Nicolás, our Style Guy) I came up with two new types of instruments (or rather, instrument groupings): “Family” and “Ensemble”. We discussed it between ourselves before we took it to the forum. Even people who weren’t fully on board seemed to think it was an improvement, so reosarevok went ahead and added them!

And the tamburica ensemble? Alas! I ended up having to re-add it again now that the Ensemble type was in place!

Problems with drums and guitars

Attentive readers and editors might have noticed that the instrument previously known as “guitars” is now “guitar family”, and that our old “drums” is now “membranophone”. What happened? Was MusicBrainz hacked? Has the instrument inserter gone mad?! The answers are no, and well… no! The story is as follows:

Waaaay back, in the dawn of time (ok, maybe not that long, in the early days of relationships), instruments were simply attributes organised in a tree, and as such there where some idiosyncrasies that carried over when instruments became entities. One of these was that guitars and drums where simply wrong! They were always meant as the upper grouping of families and types (guitars meaning “every single guitar”, including things like the ukulele, and “drums” meaning “every kind of drum ever“. However, everyone had been using them wrong since the very beginning (yes, even us) and selecting wrongly when releases just said “guitars” and “drums”, despite those generally meaning regular “guitar” (acoustic or electric) and “drum set/kit”.

This had been a source of annoyance for both of us (and plenty others) for some time, so in the spirit of actually fixing things now that we had the new family instrument types, I changed them to be much clearer. It’s worth mentioning that this was already different in other languages where “drums” and “drum(set)” are not usually called the same: all “drums” credits would show in Spanish as “tambores”, which makes little sense in, say, a heavy metal album.

To make sure everyone knew what was going to happen and had a chance to have a say, we posted in the forums, spoke about it in the meeting and entered the changes as open, votable edits. However, and as is usually the case with big changes, many people only noticed this after it had happened, and weren’t quite pleased. This is understandable, and since almost all uses of “guitars/guitar family” and “drums/membranophone” should have been “guitar” and “drum set” respectively, it was agreed we would change the existing ones with a bot to make sure they get assigned to what’s most likely to be correct. Unfortunately this has taken quite a long time, and is still not done, but we’re hoping to get it done in the near future. In the meantime, many diligent editors have slowly been moving incorrect “membranophone” and “guitar family” relationships to their correct instruments—a round of applause for them!

Ensembling and mini-ensembling

I am now working on ensembling!
However, as this is a very huge version, I corralled reosarevok to mess around the Jira settings to make this more manageable. He created a new status (decision required) and a new ticket type (mini-versions), plus got rid of some statuses that we weren’t using.

The idea of mini-versions is to subdivide a large version like this into smaller sections that are easier to work with. Same as each ensemble is made of parts, the Ensemble version itself is also made of parts! Each “mini version” ticket works as a master ticket, where the general information can be stored, with every smaller (per-instrument) part each being a sub-ticket.

Our new guide and GCI

There’s something I had wanted to do for quite a while: to use the experience from GCI 2017 (and from a lot of work on general instrument requests) to write a guide on how to request new instruments. This is meant as both a set of instructions to help people suggest new instruments for addition and as a tool for myself, so that I can be more consistent and make decisions based on an open and clear set of guidelines.

With GCI 2018 approaching, I decided it was time. There was a mad rush just before GCI started to have this guide in place so all the students could use it, so we unleashed it on the community; as expected the “Novelty Clause” got the most discussion, but there were few actual complaints about any of it, so the finished result was up and running in the documentation section by the time the first students arrived.

As part of GCI several instrument tasks relevant to ensembles and instrument families were created, leading to our students researching a fair amount of them and new instrument tickets being added! Notable ones are the clappers (and by extension idiophones), the Indian veenas, and the Indonesian gamelan.

Initially I started working with the veenas, but due to various reasons (more about this in a later post!) I ended up switching things around, so the next Mini-version will be about idiophones! So look forward to the Soon™ upcoming post about it!

Author: CatQuest

boff! I like music, cats, lego, colouring, cooking and daaataabaseees (and Instruments)..

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