Question https://musicfans.stackexchange.com/questions/12245/in-which-of-his-works-did-mussorgsky-include-features-of-human-speech was migrated to MusicFans with the option "Not suitable for this site." I'd be curious to hear a bit more elaboration on why it didn't fit within our on-topic parameters. Granted, it could have been a bit more clear (the topic of speech-to-pitch imitation wasn't explicit), and the OP certainly could have done more homework (the question amounted to "wikipedia said ___, with a citation, and I didn't look up the citation, but I'd like to know more"). So the question isn't a great role model, but it still leaves me puzzled why it should be considered off-topic. One might imagine a better-worded, better-researched version of "I read in SourceX that ComposerY used TechniqueZ, [and for the purposes of this imaginary question I did my own research and came up empty]. Which works of ComposerY was the author of SourceX referring to? How did the composer use TechniqueZ?" This seems very different from your average "list" question, like "Can you give me some examples of Beethoven's works that are in A major." It's a narrowly-scoped question about a specific technique in the work of a specific composer.

  • Also, a very "meta" question: From meta.stackexchange.com/questions/10249/… it mentions a need for three votes to migrate. I'm guessing our SE allows one-vote migration? Sep 20, 2021 at 16:37
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    I came very close to voting to close that question, since it is just a list question asking for titles of some pieces. Since the question was pretty specific I ended up not voting to close, but it seemed borderline to me (barely), and I can see how others might have gone the other way.
    – user39614
    Sep 20, 2021 at 16:42
  • I guess what I'm getting at is "surely there can be a breed of 'good list question.'" Some of the worst things about "list questions" is that they engender many disparate answers that are equally valid. In this case, it sounds like maybe there are two works of Mussorgsky's that the source discusses in this context, and it would have been a mighty short list. Even "when did Steve Reich imitate speech inflections in instrumental pitches," which would be a longer list, would be objective and finite. Sep 20, 2021 at 16:47
  • (Man, now it's got me really wondering "Wait, in which pieces did Gesualdo and Monteverdi do so? And did they really do anything different than the way we normally inflect vocal melodies to match speaking inflections?" Dangit, I'm gonna have to get that book, aren't I...) Sep 20, 2021 at 16:48
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    Well, if someone asked for a list of Hendrix tunes featuring 7#9 chords, that would be a finite and shortish list, but I think that it would also be pretty clearly off-topic. Both of these questions are really thinly veiled requests to identify a song, in list form.
    – user39614
    Sep 20, 2021 at 17:00
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    While there may be "good list questions", Stack Exchange as a platform really doesn't work well with them, so generally they are off topic anyway. And as for your specifics like "which works of Beethoven are in A major" that's just not a useful question within our scope anyway - how does it help with practice or performance? It would fit much better on music fans.
    – Doktor Mayhem Mod
    Sep 22, 2021 at 9:13
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    @DoktorMayhem That was a (straw man) example of a bad question. I'm having a hard time actually imagining a good one... maybe a better-researched version of the question originally referenced here. Like, someone is researching a group of works, like "Scholar X says in passing that Beethoven used an extended coda in three piano sonatas, but doesn't say which. I found one. What are the other two?" That is, the answer happens to be a "list" of multiple items, but both the question and the answer show substantive thought and research and are (theoretically) of lasting reference value. Sep 22, 2021 at 12:31
  • Also, I can imagine that "list" questions could be redeemed by asking for elaboration. E.g., even the Mussorgsky question referenced here might have been saved if the question were "How did Mussorgsky use the 'Speech-to-song illusion.'" The answer surely would mention the works that did, but would elaborate. Sep 22, 2021 at 12:34
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    @AndyBonner I will point out that a list of works and how the techniques are used are two very different questions. Editing it to be on topic vs migrating it will yield two very different sets of answers. There is nothing stopping a question about the techniques being asked now, but we need to recognize it's a very different question the OP may not necessarily want.
    – Dom Mod
    Sep 22, 2021 at 14:07
  • @AndyBonner "surely there can be a breed of 'good list question.'" - there are certainly plenty we've allowed - see edit to my answer. Sep 28, 2021 at 15:40
  • @topomorto there are also very, very, very bad ones (the genre tempo list).
    – Dom Mod
    Sep 28, 2021 at 17:40

2 Answers 2


At the end of the day, this question was asking for a list of songs that fit a criteria which is explicitly off-topic under our general finding lists of songs close reason hence why it was considered for migration. As for how the migration happened, since we don't have direct migration paths to any site right now outside of meta the mods had to do it. In this case I migrated it after being alerted to it by a few flags from users.

I tend to also look at questions like this as if they were asked about different musicians/artists if they would fit on this site and to me, I though of a question I think is in a similar footing which would be "Which Beetles songs include non musical sound clips in them?". To me make it pretty clear the music fan's site is more appropriate and how that "Finding pieces" close reason would make sense otherwise.


Perhaps there's a couple of issues here...

Whether it's a question about music history or composition, or a bit of 'trivia'

There's probably always going to be a bit of a fuzzy line as to whether something is about music history or composition, or just a piece of artist trivia. Some things could be either: Pacific State - Is this out of tune, or is it a sophisticated performance playing with temperament? springs to mind as something that is an illustration of a compositional (or production) technique, and is also a bit of trivia. That question could probably live on musicfans, and it's probably fine here too.

Going back to the Mussorgsky question, Perhaps the brevity of the OP makes it hard to see how it relates to music history or composition in a substantial way.

Related: What Music History questions are on- and off-topic?

Whether it's a prohibited 'list question'

I'm not really sure I can see why this question is a 'list question' in a way that makes it off topic.

https://music.stackexchange.com/help/dont-ask states that users should "avoid asking subjective questions where you are asking to list something" (emphasis mine). But it's entirely possible that answers to this question can be quite objective, if the historical documentation is there.

https://music.stackexchange.com/help/on-topic states that questions should not be about "recommendations of pieces to listen to, study, or play, or that meet particular criteria". But I don't think this question falls under "recommendations" in the sense that I understand it there.

Note that there many examples of questions asking for examples that fit criteria that have been well-received and remain open - here are just a very few examples, that took seconds to find:

Are there pieces that require retuning an instrument mid-performance?

Are there J.S. Bach pieces that do not start with the tonic chord?

Classical examples of a 'fifth voice' or 'ghost soprano'

What are the earliest examples of using the circle of fifths in western music

Examples of jokes by Mozart

Are there any pre-20th century examples of an augmented 6th chord with a leading tone?

Popular examples of the ♭III in modern rock music?

Those are just a few examples, that took seconds to find. The point is often made that finding the odd example of a question that has remained open doesn't necessarily mean that such questions are generally seen as on-topic, but there are so many of these questions that this doesn't seem a relevant point here - we can see that list questions can be fine, as long as the request for a list is made as part of a substantial on-topic question (which is perhaps where the Mussorgsky question falls down).

  • Maybe the "subjective" point is where I was holding out hope for the notion of a "good list question." Even a list question with a rock-solid objective answer is not a terribly helpful one to posterity, but it's very different from "What are some pieces I should play next" or "What are Beethoven's best works?" Sep 27, 2021 at 14:05
  • @AndyBonner yes, there are a number of quite different types of questions that could be said to ask for or elicit lists, not all of them problematic. I'm not even sure that the advice on the dont-ask page as it stands is very helpfully-worded for this site; many questions asking for advice on technique or methodology could be open to answers containing multiple suggestions, some of which may be subjective. Sep 27, 2021 at 14:17
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    Right, thus the whole last bit about the notion of a "good" subjective question. I've answered several questions about "the best way to practice for X purpose," where my answer is definitely opinionated, but is substantive, not capricious or off-the-top-of-my-head, and is not a unilateral opinion unique to me. But I'm not sure there's any overlap in the Venn diagram of "good list questions" and "good subjective questions." If there's any redeeming the notion of the list, IMO it can only be when the list has one right answer. Sep 27, 2021 at 14:35
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    @topomorto In our close reason we lump recommending and finding pieces together for a reason as these question are very similar in nature and have the same problem. Take the example I listed "Which Beetles songs include non musical sound clips in them?" which I think clearly demonstrates the focus on a list of songs over the techniques, theory, and practice. We are a site about making and preforming music not finding or recommending it . As Andy pointed out, a question about the how to use techniques with examples is much more inline with the goal of the site.
    – Dom Mod
    Sep 27, 2021 at 14:42
  • @Dom yep, what you say here agrees with my answer, I think. As we both say, the focus of the question is important: a question eliciting a list of musical examples as illustrations may still be a substantial question about music history or composition, but it's harder to see it as such if (as here) the request for the list is all there is in the question. Sep 27, 2021 at 16:15
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    @topomorto If we agree, I don't think it's very clear from your post. We can come up with finite objective lists that touch on music history and composition, but they aren't very useful to the site as a whole and once you get into that territory, the moderation of the content needs to be well defined. To quote you: " Perhaps the brevity of the OP makes it hard to see how it relates to music history or composition in a substantial way." a list of pieces is just a list. There's no deeper understanding to it and no explanation behind what the list means to practice, performance, or theory.
    – Dom Mod
    Sep 27, 2021 at 16:23
  • @Dom yes, that lack of depth is exactly what I am referring to when I say "the brevity of the OP makes it hard to see how it relates to music history or composition in a substantial way". Sep 27, 2021 at 16:30
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    @topomorto I still don't think we do. The OP could write a novel about this in the question and I'd still feel the same if the question itself just asked for a list. I think of it as an XY problem described on SO. When someone asks for a list if there's a deeper source of knowledge there, then it's best to ask for that over this list itself. Asking about how to use a Speech-to-song illusion in a piece would be a great question. Asking for a list of works that do it doesn't really give anybody anything but the songs and that's what I want to hammer home.
    – Dom Mod
    Sep 27, 2021 at 16:36
  • @Dom the wording regarding list questions in my answer here isn't my own - it's from our on-topic and don't ask. Are you saying that you don't think the wording there regarding the types of list questions that are allowed should be so tightly qualified? Sep 28, 2021 at 8:35
  • @topomorto I think you are looking at the wording a bit too deeply and making an argument that doesn't actually get to the heart of the issue here. This is a request for a list of songs that fit a criteria which we always close and have an explicit close reason for (finding pieces). I don't think anyone is making the argument that it is subjective, trivia, or a recommendation, It's finding a list of pieces which we have a specific close reason for and we've closed question in the passed based on it.
    – Dom Mod
    Sep 28, 2021 at 14:33
  • @Dom It's certainly not the case that we always close requests for examples that fit criteria - see edit to my answer. Sep 28, 2021 at 15:39
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    @AndyBonner "we've done so before" has less weight when there are just a few examples, but that isn't the case here - there are plenty of examples of allowed and well-received list questions from all through the site's history. I think one possible description of the SE model is to become a knowledge base over time through the mechanism of being a reference desk - I don't think it's healthy to ignore either function. Sep 28, 2021 at 15:58
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    @topomorto you are getting very close to those old meta posts that want an explanation for why 20+ questions are open. I don't think many are actually comparable to the "Finding pieces" especially since few of the answers are just that. Even the last question which IMO should still be closed, the answers don't give examples but explanations. This is what we need to talk about. Just giving a list doesn't offer the same quality and use to future users. And to add to your comment to andy, there have been very, very bad quality list questions in the past including the genre tempo question.
    – Dom Mod
    Sep 28, 2021 at 17:27
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    @Dom interesting, I had no idea that close reason was intended to relate to 'finding examples of'-type questions - perhaps because of the wording in the singular, I always thought this close reason related only to situations where the OP wants to get the name of a single, particular song from the audio, or some partial information - which is a common off-topic request, but (I would have thought) of quite a different type and often with quite a different motivation to the kind of questions we're discussing here. I wonder how other users interpret that close reason... Sep 28, 2021 at 23:06
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    I personally dislike broad generalizations like "does X ever happen in music" as you can pretty much guarantee yes and feels more suited for discussions than Q&A. All those questions as worded though would lead to a yes and an example which for many reasons, They don't work well due to link rot and people always being able to find another example. This is a similar reasoning to list questions being as you can always tack on to them and no answer is complete. How many examples of 'Does music from the period Y ever include feature X?' make sense as an answer and what does the site get from it
    – Dom Mod
    Sep 28, 2021 at 23:58

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