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David Hall, Gary-Gabriel Gisondi, and Jim Farrington

Although there are no standards for discographies, the key elements given for each recording in nearly all discographical listings are the name of the record label, issue number, and program contents; the physical characteristics of the recording itself, such as type, size, the number of channels, playback speed, and type of groove, are also considered important features of true discographies. The complex catalogs that have come to be known as “systematic discographies” include such further details as master numbers (or matrix numbers for the earlier galvano-processed discs); take indicators (or transfer numbers for discs processed from tape sources); the date and location of, and the key participants in the recording session; the date and place of publication, and publisher of the various issues and reissues (with label names and numbers). Before the development of long-playing (LP) recordings, a unique matrix number was etched, embossed, or stamped onto the surfaces of most discs, near or under the label. However, early cylinders often bear no markings, making identification difficult if the recording has been separated from its container. Since it was a common practice for several versions of a performance to be made (in case of mishap, or with many cylinder recordings because producing multiple copies from the same master was difficult), each of the versions (or “takes”) was customarily assigned an additional number or letter, which was placed immediately after the matrix number. The convention of matrix and take numbers was abandoned with tape mastering, in which a fully edited master tape could be developed from all the material recorded during the sessions; successive modifications of a given master tape may be identified on the finished disc by the transfer numbers. (...

Article

Edward Berger and Jim Farrington

Accurate information about recorded performances is essential in jazz, where recordings rather than scores or sheet music are the principal sources for study. Take numbers are particularly important to the study of jazz, since two versions of the same piece, recorded only minutes apart, may differ significantly. With the advent of the LP tape mastering in the late 1940s (and subsequent elimination of unique disc masters), the discographically convenient use of matrix and take designations was lost; an LP may contain many unrelated performances of diverse origins (even within the same track), the identification of which poses particular problems for the discographer. These difficulties are often compounded by insufficient or misleading information supplied by record manufacturers.

The first extensive discographical works were devoted to jazz. The term “discography” itself was introduced in the 1930s as growing numbers of jazz enthusiasts sought to establish accurate information about personnel and recording dates. Early researchers also had to contend with the pseudonymous issuing of numerous recordings by well-known jazz bands. The field of jazz discography has been dominated from the start by Europeans. Two pioneering discographical works were published in ...