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I am developing a website for a singer-songwriter. Among other sections, the website has a section for songs where the singer-songwriter has set his music on others’ poetry. (Unlike the majority of his songs where he is the author of both music and lyrics.) I look for a “keyword” that will mark this section in URLs, labels, directory names and other technical contexts, like http://www.example.com/songs/this_word/.

An appropriate English word is needed for I am worrying about both the visitors that will see this word in URLs and search engines that may stumble upon an inappropriate word.

Update. After receiving some helpful answers and comments, I came to a conclusion that actually I look for a word for “…on other people’s lyrics”, or “…on somebody else’s lyrics”. Important is not that a person is a composer (for the website’s visitors, he is by default), but that he is not the author of the lyrics (what is exceptional for this section only).

closed as off-topic by curiousdannii, tchrist Jan 31 '18 at 22:59

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You can use composer to indicate such authorship.

A composer (Latin compōnō; literally "one who puts together") is a musician who is an author of music in any form, including vocal music (for a singer or choir), instrumental music, electronic music, and music which combines multiple forms.
Wikipedia

The word seems to be commonly used in the sense that you mean. Take for example this article about John Lennon and Paul McCartney:

Unlike many songwriting partnerships that comprise separate lyricist and composer, both Lennon and McCartney wrote words and music. Sometimes, especially early on, they would collaborate extensively when writing songs, working "eyeball to eyeball" as Lennon put it.
Wikipedia

  • I suspect that an URL like example.com/songs/composer will be misleading: it suggests that a composer is the section’s content. Maybe it would be a good link for composer’s bio etc, but not for a volume of songs. – Hydrochoerus Hydrochaeris Jan 30 '18 at 22:01
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    Thesaurus.com offers tunesmith and melodist as synonyms for composer. Either of these could be used but, in your context, I suggest that melodist would be the better choice as "tunesmith" can sound a bit pretentious, – BoldBen Jan 31 '18 at 0:46
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    @HydrochoerusHydrochaeris It suggests that how? 'Composer' is certainly the correct term, and 'lyricist' the correct term for the author of the words. – user207421 Jan 31 '18 at 3:54
  • Although this is technically correct (the best sort of correct), I have a slight concern that people less familiar with musical terminology might read "composer" as implying authorship of both words and music. – Martin Bonner Jan 31 '18 at 13:19
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    Just to complete the thought, the equivalent for the lyrics - the author of the lyrics - is called a lyricist. – Jim MacKenzie Jan 31 '18 at 14:31
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I'd suggest composition for what you describe

i.e. http://www.example.com/songs/composition/blah.html

That would suggest that the contents are musical creations rather than (as has been suggested) web pages about different composers. Although I wonder if this kind of taxonomy is really necessary?

5

Settings has something of the meaning you want, though I am not sure how clear it would be to the visitor. "Settings of other people's words" would be clearer if longwinded.

A musical setting is a musical composition that is written on the basis of a literary work. The literary work is said to be set, or adapted, to music. Musical settings include choral music and other vocal music. A musical setting is made to particular words, such as poems. By contrast, a musical arrangement is a musical reconceptualization of a previously composed work, rather than a brand new piece of music. An arrangement often refers to a change in medium or style and can be instrumental, not necessarily vocal music.

Wikipedia

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    Settings has a lot of other meanings—from software configuration to fictional worlds of RPGs. I think, though, that a combination of songs + settings in URL should be interpreted properly. By the way, how do you think, maybe adaptations would work better than settings? – Hydrochoerus Hydrochaeris Jan 31 '18 at 16:05
  • @HydrochoerusHydrochaeris maybe adaptations, yes. – Alfred Armstrong Jan 31 '18 at 17:05
  • setting seems to much more precisely match the updated question, than adaptation. In context it is very specific. +1 – Qsigma Jan 31 '18 at 17:09
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I don't there is a word for exactly what you want. Compositions is probably the closest you can get, but it's not specific about referring to works where the website's subject only composed the music to lyrics by somebody else. It includes both those works, and works where the composer also wrote the lyrics.

But I'm not sure that what you're asking for is a distinction that it's important to make at such a high level. Most of the time you should be grouping songs in some other way, like the album they were released on or the year they were written, rather than if they were solo compositions or collaborations. While it's important (and possibly legally required) to credit other collaborators (such as a lyricist) on songs that have them, I don't think it would normally be necessary to segregate all such songs in a separate section.

The one exceptional category that might need its own section might be cover songs, where the performer has done no composition at all, and is just performing their own version of a song previously published by another artist. The exact boundaries of authorship for covers gets murky quickly, as some covers are very different than the original versions (and once you get into sampling and remixes, the legalities and necessary credits may be impossible to understand without a lawyer at hand).

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    Compositions seem suitable to me, but see the update in the question. Concerning website’s sectioning, there are several taxonomy schemes in parallel for different use cases. The main sectioning is made by albums, but there is also sectioning by years, and by some criteria that are important for particular visitors’ goals. One of these special sections is covers, as you have mentioned, another one is parodies (or they’d better be renamed to skits?), and one more another one includes songs where the person is not the author of the lyrics. – Hydrochoerus Hydrochaeris Jan 31 '18 at 11:41
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I would call that section or tag collaborations, if the composer were working with the poet. It's not usually an important distinction that someone did only the music or only the lyrics for a newly composed song. What's typically important is that there are some songs of which they are the sole composer and some songs that were jointly composed.

If you choose collaborations as your section name, that also allows for songs where there isn't a clear line between who wrote the music and who wrote the lyrics.

Each song entry can indicate who wrote the music and who wrote the lyrics if there is a clear separation. For example, the Wikipedia page "List of songwriter collaborations" has entries like this one:

Morrissey (lyrics) and Johnny Marr (music) of The Smiths

If the poem exists, the process of adding music is often described as "setting a poem to music." There is an interesting article in the Guardian about the process, but it simply calls the people responsible for the music "composers", so that isn't helpful in finding a distinct word. You could refer to the section with songs solely authored by the musician as "composer and lyricist" and the other section as simply "composer".

The Wikipedia list of songs based on poems suggests "art song" as an English description:

In the classical music tradition, this type of setting may be referred to as an art song. A poem set to music in the German language is called a lied, or in the French language, a Mélodie. A group of poems, usually by the same poet, which are set to music to form a single work, is called a song cycle.

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    But is the word collaboration suitable when it comes to a song on Shakespeare’s poems, for example, or on Petrarch’s ones? “A collaboration with Shakespeare” sounds a little queer to me. – Hydrochoerus Hydrochaeris Jan 31 '18 at 15:10
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    @HydrochoerusHydrochaeris No collaboration wouldn't be appropriate if the composer set some existing poem to music without interacting with the poet. I think there is a way to describe that situation, but I'll have to think on it. – ColleenV Jan 31 '18 at 15:14
  • I think you have the answer regarding a song based on Shakespeare's words in your 2nd Wikipedia quote, the noun setting – Qsigma Jan 31 '18 at 17:15
  • @Qsigma Yep and I've up-voted Alfred's answer. – ColleenV Feb 1 '18 at 4:24
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In this context I would use http://www.example.com/songs/arrangements/. Setting lyrics to music falls within the scope of constructing an arrangement, and suitably differentiates these works from full (lyrics+accompaniment) compositions.

Some might argue that it is ambiguous between composing music for given lyrics, and (re-)arranging a fully composed musical piece. To that I say so what? If the artist were to do the latter, I would just put them within this category; the fact that he/she has not done so yet doesn't mean that arrangement isn't the correct term for what he/she has done.

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Depending upon a lot of factors (particularly whether the audience is professional or public) you might consider Orchestrator and orchestration.

For professionals this would imply that someone else may have written the main Melody ideas. But the public in general may or may not make this inference.

Combining with @BoldBen's comment, Melodist and Orchestrator covers the territory and has a nice sound, IMO.

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Songs combine words and music. A 'singer-songwriter', describes the circumstance when one person makes both the words and the music. If you are told that so-and-so 'composed' a song you would normally assume that they had made only the music and that someone else had made the words.

So, on your website you might say

http://www.example.com/songs/ composer/

This would do. If you are wanting really to spell it out then you might say

http://www.example.com/songs/ composer (only)/

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    I apologize if I misunderstand something (I’m not a native speaker), but for me example.com/songs/composer looks like a link to a webpage about the composer of the songs, whereas the page actually contains a list of songs. Do I get it wrong? Will the average native English speaker correctly understand the destination of this link? – Hydrochoerus Hydrochaeris Jan 31 '18 at 1:14
  • @HydrochoerusHydrochaeris As a native English speaker, I agree with you. – JAB Jan 31 '18 at 3:57
  • @HydrochoerusHydrochaeris - I think it is me who should apologise. I (mis)understood that your website is for a specific singer-songwriter and that you seek a word for those songs where they composed only the music. – Dan Jan 31 '18 at 8:51
  • A songwriter who composes the music is credited with the music, in my experience. "The Christmas Song" was written by Mel Tormé and Bob Wells, with the music by Tormé and both of them working out the lyrics, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Christmas_Song – Greg Lee Jan 31 '18 at 11:55
  • A "singer-songwriter" describes someone who writes the songs (usually, both words and music) and sings them. The OP is after the distinction between a composer (who writes the music) and a lyricist (who writes the words). – Martin Bonner Jan 31 '18 at 13:17
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Instrumentalist, perhaps.

Where there might be a more obscure word that exists and provides the definition you are looking for, if most are not familiar with the word, does it even matter? It would be best if the page itself had a description of what the songs in this category were.

A musician who plays a musical instrument is also known as an instrumentalist. Wikipedia

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