EOL 7 Review

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New Grove Dictionary
of Music and Musicians, 2nd ed.
online and in print


Edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan Publishers, 2001. 29 volumes. Print edition: $4850. Subscription price for online version: $295/year (single user).

The new millennium is bringing a remarkable bounty of music encyclopedias, including the second edition of New Grove, the somewhat populist Garland series, UNESCO's forthcoming Universe of Music set, which promises to be engaging, if uneven, and a number of more specialized productions, such as the 1999 Diccionario de la música española e hispanoamerica. Among these publications, New Grove maintains a certain pre-eminence, not only for its sheer size, but also, and more importantly, for its generally high level of rigor and intellectual engagement.

The new edition is some forty-five percent longer than its 1980 predecessor, filling twenty-nine rather than twenty volumes. The coverage of world music and folk music (a term the editors seem to have irregularly discouraged) is roughly doubled (to two million words), and that of commercial popular music is exponentially increased. New entries are included on such topics as diasporas, feminism, gender, narratology, Marxism, postmodernism, hermeneutics, and post-structuralism. Even if it contains an entry for “arabesque” but not “arabesk,” the second edition cannot really be accused of displaying a narrow Eurocentric, or classicist bias. In general, there is no doubt that the new New Grove is a remarkable achievement, and it owes much of its ecumenical breadth and vision to the supervision of editor Stanley Sadie, who--as I can attest as a contributor--involved himself in an extraordinary number of details as well as broader guidelines.

I should disclose that I am the author of “popular music--world popular music II,” and “popular music V--non-Western cultures”; and also shorter entries on “chutney,” “Suriname (East Indians),” India (“film and popular music”; “semi-classical genres: thumri, ghazal, tappa, dadra IV”), and “bhangra.”

As most readers may know, the New Grove is available in hard copy and on-line, either via annual fee or for shorter periods (including hourly rates). It is unfortunate that financial considerations prevent it from being issued in CD-ROM format, which could be easily pirated; I suppose that in the real world, a publication costing $33 million to produce must attempt to pay for itself somehow. Although I find the hard copy immeasurably easier to use than the scroll-resistant on-line version, the latter features various links, digital sound files, and other attractions; further, it is to be continually updated and revised, such that it will increasingly differ from its printed counterpart.

In a short review such as this one it is pointless for me to attempt to comment on the content of individual articles. As might be expected of any specialist, I found a certain number of minor errors, quite a few typographical and bibliographic irregularities (which may be corrected in the on-line version), and what I would regard as rather idiosyncratic approaches to certain subjects (notably in certain parts of the entry on “ethnomusicology”). I have heard more substantial complaints from colleagues who regard numerous articles and bibliographies as outdated or insufficiently updated. Nevertheless, I find the caliber of most entries I perused to be consistently high, in many cases reflecting the most rigorous and recent scholarship on a given topic. The editors do not shun contemporary “academese,” such as the use of “other” as a verb.

The New Grove editors have employed various strategies to update the new edition. Perhaps most commonly, authors of prior entries, if living, have been prevailed upon to update their articles. Thus, Owen Wright's lengthy 1980 article on Arab art music is substantially expanded and revised, with a bibliography thrice as large. In some cases, such as the entries on Mexico and Greece, the updating is arguably inconsiderable and insufficient, giving short shrift, for example, to commercial popular musics.

Alternately, other authors supplement or otherwise update given entries. Thus, for example, much of Harold Powers' 1980 “mode” article is retained and supplemented by portions written by area specialists. His magisterial 1980 entry on art music in India reappears in a form moderately updated and revised with the collaboration of Richard Widdess. The “India” entries are further enhanced by coverage of commercial popular music and other topics; the weak 1980 article on folk music is replaced by an entirely new entry (on “local traditions”) by Edward Henry which, while considerably stronger, still leaves many regions and much recent research unmentioned, perhaps due to space limitations. Some of this data may be found in other entries, such as “Bengali music.” Only a portion of William Sparshott's concise 1980 article on “aesthetics of music” is retained (under “philosophy of music”) and developments since 1750 are covered in new entries by other authors.

In other cases, articles by new authors or sets of authors replace those of the first edition. Thus, Mantle Hood's core entry on Indonesia is replaced by contributions of a team of writers better able to cover that country's ethnic and regional diversity. The entry on Cuba is also entirely new, and considerably improved. The exclusively Western-oriented 1980 article on “composition” is replaced by a masterfully erudite and inclusive essay by Stephen Blum. Of similar caliber is Mark Tucker's article on jazz, which serves, among his other works, as a testimony to this late scholar's excellence. (The short “Latin jazz” entry falls well short of this level, misidentifying, for example, the habanera rhythm.) The new edition also features a few thousand new shorter entries, such as “gangsta rap” and “Iggy Pop.”

Production of a comprehensive encyclopedia such as this involves difficult and in some respects insurmountable organizational challenges, especially in the case of transnational genres or music regions. In many cases, such topics are covered in the form of regionally or conceptually layered entries. Thus for example, an enquiry into Andean Indian popular music might start with entries on Bolivia and Peru, but should also proceed to “Andean music,” Gerard Béhague's longer article on “Latin American music,” and Anthony Seeger's more general but informative and insightful entry on “the Americas.” A counterpart to this is Philip Bohlman's short and general entry on “Middle Eastern music,” which directs readers to the far more substantial article on “Arab music.”

The reader interested in commercial non-Western popular music generally finds that specific genres are covered in the country entries rather than the broader regional ones. Thus, there is little on popular music in the “Arab music” entry, but more coverage in entries for “Egypt” and “Algeria.” However, Gerard Béhague's more inclusive entry on Latin American music does cover popular music, as does the multiple-authored entry on Indonesia. Treatment of that category also varies in the individual country entries. Pop music is given some coverage in country entries on Brazil, Cuba, and (unevenly) Colombia, but little or none in those on Mexico and Jamaica. Coverage of some regions and genres is consequently uneven. The article on “reggae” is short and dated, and cumbia--arguably the single most internationally widespread Latin American music genre--is mentioned only in passing in the entire set. (There was some editorial debate as to whether my “world popular music” entry should attempt a descriptive survey of all genres; for better or worse, I opposed this approach, and my article remains more thematic in orientation, paralleling that of Richard Middleton on Western popular music.)

Topical articles reflect varying approaches. Blum's aforementioned “composition” entry covers both Western and non-Western areas, but the lengthy article on “dance” surveys only mainstream Euro-American culture, leaving “the rest” to a short and sketchy “ethnochoreography” entry. Such compartmentalizations make me particularly receptive to the problems concerning the prefix “ethno” raised in the “ethnomusicology” entry.

Several of the long entries in the 1980 edition (e.g., “Bach,” “Brahms,” etc.) were published separately as booklets, and it is regrettable that none of the world music entries--such as Powers' “India” article--were issued in that format. Perhaps in this edition the editors will acknowledge the demand for such reissues, especially in view of the otherwise intimidating price (and in the case of the hard copy, the size) of the new dictionary.

Peter Manuel

finalized 30 August, 2001

Review Editor's note: Given the vast size and all-encompassing scope of the New Grove Dictionary, 2nd edition, it would be exceedingly difficult to find a reviewer who is an active and established ethnomusicologist, with a sufficiently broad background to be able to write a meaningful review, and who is not already a contributor or in some way involved in the project. Indeed, it is a tribute to the editors of the NG2 that so many senior ethnomusicologists have been tapped as contributors. Therefore we have invited Peter Manuel, a contributor and an established ethnomusicologist with a broad research background, to review the dictionary. 

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