We interviewed three project members. Gerda Arendt "came to Wikipedia to fill the red link for a composer and cellist, then proceeded to related articles." When not editing Wikipedia, she sings in three choirs and plays piano. She likes Bach and rues the fact that about 100 of his cantatas are missing from Wikipedia. Melodia is a (bass) clarinet and former piano player, among other instruments. She listens to a lot of classical music, but if she had to pick just one composer, it would be Sibelius. Ravpapa is an amateur violinist and violist who plays a lot of chamber music. He is also interested in the music of Israel.
The talk page at WikiProject Classical Music is very active. What attracts people to discussions at the project? Do you have any tips for projects that might have a less social atmosphere?
Gerda Arendt: I raise questions there and get answers most of the time. That's the secret.
Melodia: I think it's just a matter of people needing to start discussion when it needs to be started, instead of keeping issues to individual talk pages when there's overlying issues that could affect many others.
What are some of the challenges of finding media for classical music articles?
Ravpapa: I have found finding media samples one of the most challenging tasks in preparing an article on classical music for the Wikipedia. In my view, an article describing a composition – take, for example, String Quartets, Op. 20 (Haydn) would be much less valuable to the reader without the snippets of the pieces to illustrate the points made in the article.
However, Wikipedia's very strict rules on using only free media make finding these sound bites very difficult. In the case of the article on the Opus 20 quartets, I had to get my quartet – amateur and not very good – to record them. That is why, if you listen to them, a lot are out of tune and choppy. In other articles, I tried to use excerpts from recordings with a Creative Commons license (that allows everything except commercial use), but the excerpts were removed because the media was not absolutely free.
I hope that other players joining the project can provide their own recordings to illustrate some of the articles.
The project does not assess articles, instead relying upon daughter projects to provide assessments. Why was this decision made? How has it impacted the project's goals and direction?
Gerda Arendt: I don't know why, but I see that the quality of articles is improved by peer editing rather than assessments. I like that.
What are the project's most pressing needs? How can a new member help today?
Gerda Arendt: Fill red links, improve referencing, participate in discussions.
Melodia: The majority of articles on individual works stink, yet are probably very often easy to find info on. CD liner notes, nowadays often available free online from Naxos, Hyperion, Chandos, and others are a gold mine of info about pieces. More popular composers tend to have large 'fan' websites with huge amounts of info as well. Another one, one that's hugely in my interest, is the works lists. There's very little standard between them, and the problem with "notable" or "important" ones only compounds it. (Disclaimer: I admit I don't do much grunt work like this, but for those who are willing, I'll glady help out where I can).
Ravpapa: I think Melodia is being a bit extreme when he says these articles stink. But I do want to reemphasize the point I made above. The greatest added value of an online encyclopedia is that it is multimedia – you can not only read about a work, you can hear it at the same time. Far too few of our articles have illustrative sound clips. That is something I would love to see new members work on.
Next week, the Signpost will chat with the women of Wikipedia. Until then, visit the archive.