I think Why did Shostakovich not release his 4th, but did release his 5th symphony? is a question for Music Fans. Some people do think it's a good fit here. I think this is equivalent to "Why didn't Some Band ever release the songs intended for the record Watchamacallit", which would be shot down in flames here. What is the difference, except the age of the music.

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    I'd happily see similar questions about much more recent music; I don't think the era of music should be a concern. The Shostakovich question hints at a deeper, more interesting, aspect of cultural and social history. Many, many aspects of recent music history could elicit similar questions. Sep 1, 2014 at 14:21
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    I think there is always going to be a little bit of a grey area between MusicFans.SE and Music.SE. A very simple way to work out where a question would best be asked could be this: is the question simply asking for facts? (Eg. what year was this album released?) Yes - put it on MusicFans. Is the question asking for information which gives a greater understanding of the music or its context? (Eg. Has the rise of mp3 usage reversed the stylistic developments allowed by the use of the LP record?) Yes - put it on Music.SE. Sep 1, 2014 at 14:22
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    As one of the people that commented on and was interested in the Shostakovich question, I just wanted to say that my interest in that question does not constitute a lack of interest in questions about rock or pop or hip-hop or anything else. It's just that I'm not as equipped to answer those questions. I would never vote to close something just because it's about something "non-classical". Sep 3, 2014 at 17:50
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    @PatMuchmore: For clarity, I did not vote to close but just said in a comment that the question would be better suited for Music Fans SE. Some people seemed to disagree, hence this question. I am convinced that a similar question about more modern music would be closed post haste. Sep 3, 2014 at 20:32
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    Yeah, I suspect you're right. I'm all but totally on the sidelines in this particular debate. I just like answering questions if I know the answer or have something to add, regardless of which forum it should be on. Sep 3, 2014 at 20:39

4 Answers 4


We are, in fact, in very interesting territory here. There is a good argument for suggesting that a historical question like this is better suited to the proposed Music Fans site. But musical analysis and musicology are not restricted to the score (or recording); they don't take place in a vacuum. It is perfectly valid, and in many respects desirable, for analysis of a piece of music to be informed (and enhanced!) by a historical and/or sociological perspective.

However, it is true that music from different eras and traditions does lend itself more readily to different analytical and musicological approaches. "Classical" music (or "composed" or "art" music) is readily analysed by means of the written score; popular and folk musics often make greater use of related "extra-musical" information when analysed.

But I would point out that any kind of music is open to different analytical approaches: popular music can be analysed using the "notes-on-the-page" (even if this is the result of transcription); "classical" music can be analysed taking into account a historical/sociological perspective. Crucially, I would say that whatever the analytical or musicological approach, all eras and traditions of music are equally valid, and should be treated as such on this site. All existing music is part of music history.

This does, though, require the Music.SE community to judge as a whole which questions and answers genuinely explore an interesting aspect of a piece of music. I don't think specific eras, types of music, artists or composers can be used to judge what is on or off topic.

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    I agree, in particular with your last paragraph. This is an area where it seems best to take questions one at a time and let the line remain a little fuzzy so that a hard rule doesn't filter the good along with the bad.
    – user28
    Sep 2, 2014 at 3:44
  • A summary (caricature?) of this logic is that "interesting/useful/significant" questions are on-topic, but "uninteresting/non-useful/insignificant questions belong on Music Fans" -- This might be OK, but it has draw backs in terms of it being harder to provide objective, albeit approximate, guidance on where the line is.
    – Dave
    Sep 3, 2014 at 18:52
  • @Dave, that's not a caricature, it's a fair comment. You've picked up on the one main concern I had with my own post (and comments). I decided to leave it "as is" though, to see how it contributed to the ongoing debate about where musicological questions should be posted. I would point out though, that factual information need not be inferior; to many users it may seem more useful/interesting/significant. I realise, though, that my wording may suggest otherwise, but I'll leave it that way... Sep 3, 2014 at 20:22
  • I may have been a bit verbose on this page; my main point, from my answer and various comments is "all eras and traditions of music are equally valid, and should be treated as such on this site. All existing music is part of music history." Personally, I'm happy for both factual and analytical questions and answers to appear on either site... Sep 3, 2014 at 20:27

I would say again what I said on my comment: I think a question like "Concerning Beethoven's 9th ..." would fit here, but a question like "Who is Justin Bieber referring to in 'Baby'?" would not.

Like you, I'm not 100% sure what eras are being concerned in Music History, but I believe that musicians that actually changed the music as people then knew it, can be considered on topic on the .

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    Every conceivable question about Beethoven's 9th can't possibly be about musical practice and performance. It is also possible to pose a question about J. Bieber's songs that fits the scope here perfectly. It is quite clear to me that music from long dead dudes in wigs is considered Very Important here, and almost any question about it will do. This is one of those cases. Sep 1, 2014 at 9:19
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    Yes, it's not about what the music is; it's about whether something interesting is being asked about it… From this point of view, I kind of agree with both Shev and MU... Sep 1, 2014 at 14:15

Era should not be a factor when trying to decide if a question is on or off topic. Content should be as is with everything else on the site.

I think the bigger problem is there has not really been a lot of history questions asked on the site so what is on or off topic in this area seems to be somewhat unknown. For example, looking though the 71 history tagged questions we have I found this question "Vivaldi's “The Four Seasons”, Who Chose the Title?" which while historical seems more fitting on a fan site then here and in my opinion probably should have been closed. I also found another question which is more about modern music "What is the history of considering Rock 'n' Roll to be “the Devil's music”?" which seems right at home here in my opinion.

I think in general we should discuss what qualifies as a history here especial when the fan site goes into beta, but I don't think we should judge based on era.


Just a suggestion: Perhaps a line can be drawn between "Songs" and "Works"/"Opus".

Rebecca Black - Friday is a clearly just a song.

Shostakovich - Opus 43, 4th Symphony is a work.

Given that Rebecca Black up until this point, is not referring to her songs as, Opus 13 - Friday, this is probably a pretty decent line to draw in the sand.

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    This seems excessive. You would exclude virtually everything except modern orchestral music, basically? On what basis?
    – user28
    Sep 2, 2014 at 3:46
  • At least in the scope of Music History questions. Tis alright though; by the looks of my vote count; this suggesting is not going anywhere. Difficult to answer.
    – Anon
    Sep 2, 2014 at 3:48

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