What’s in a Name? David Galt



David Galt

Jazz—zydeco—bop—hip-hop—polka—r&b—folk—soul—Muzak…lots of musics have a handy reference name that brings a stylistic range to mind.

Wouldn’t it be fun if there were an inclusive and distinctive word or phrase for adventurous serious composers who embrace alternative tunings, instrumentations, presentations, or who like to test boundaries?

New Music has been tried and would be wonderful to keep on using, but it too easily applies and has been applied to innovations in a number of musical styles. Semantically, it is just too handy a phrase to expect to constrain in usage. The same is true of modern music, alternative music, and other such phrases.

Needed is a short appropriate word or phrase, clearly enough referring to music, and with something appropriate appended to be distinctive. X-music? No, too mysterious and unknown. Perhaps then something beginning with mus-…?

Musotica? Not bad, though it might well be read with a voiceless “s” sound. How about Musante—well, good, and it even looks international: with ante (before) or the ant of avant garde, and it is close to the French word amusant or amusante. But Musante could also be somebody’s name (I found four in the Manhattan phone book, for example).

Anyway, nowadays with so much searchable text, you want a distinctive appellation that’s findable without distraction from any rivals. This may not be easy. For example, I wondered about Muzix, but when I Googled it, I found it had already been deployed by a number of groups and individuals.

Then I came up with Numu. Seemed perfect—short and sweet and perhaps snarable for the term being sought. But, as with many a creative notion, it too has already been thought of: The University of Toronto sponsored a Numu Festival of “contemporary music” from November 18-24, 2001 at Massey Hall. The music of its programs ranged from 1979-2000, with an emphasis on the earlier portion of that time period, it appears.

Musotica, by the way, turns out to be (among other things) a Lingerie brand name, as well as a nightclub in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Meanwhile, still liking Numu, I extended it to Numusia—and Googling that turned up only five appearances. One is a little girl’s name in a photo caption on a French website for orphaned Asian children. The other four seem to be from Czech texts which don’t have an obvious reference to music, though this is a language I have no experience with. (While I was at it, I added one letter and searched for Numusica. Google returned only two finds, both associated with music. One, in fact, is Esteban Estevez’s email address on aol.com.)

Well, if the orphaned girl Numusia won’t mind too much, I recommend borrowing her name. It has a nice ring to it. Of course, after a time, any name will be subject to tradition and limitation, as new styles and efforts attempt to compete for recognition.

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David Galt is a NYC-based games expert as well as the owner of Games & Names, a consulting service in the areas of game design and name development. He also instructs and directs tournaments in bridge and poker. He earned a Ph.D in Education from Claremont Graduate University, and a BA and MA in Linguistics from Yale. For over 20 years, Galt has been a board member of the American Festival of Microtonal Music. He has performed in numerous venues on the valve trombone, ocarina, conch shell and didjeridoo. His father composed for television shows, films, and pageants.