Oxford History of Western Music

By Quist, Ned | Notes, December 2011 | Go to article overview

Oxford History of Western Music


Quist, Ned, Notes


By Richard Taruksin. Oxford University Press, 2010. http://www.oxfordwesternmusic.com (Accessed May 2011). [Requires a Web browser (Microsoft Internet Explorer 7 or higher, Firefox 2.0 or higher, Safari 3.0 or higher recommended) and an Internet connection. Pricing varies based on size and type of institution.]

Based on the revised 2009 paperback edition (the original hardback edition appeared in 2005), this new e-book edition of Richard Taruskin's monumental Oxford History of Western Music (OHWM) appeared in 2010. For scholars and students of music, this resource has, at my institution, been a tremendous boon. Our two print editions have circulated more than any other volumes in the music library (yes, we circulate them!). Thus, for any member of our community there is full online, 24/7 access to the most used book in the music library from anywhere one has an Internet connection. This is one of those cases when music library dollars have perhaps never been better spent in serving its users.

The text of the online edition is that of the 2009 paperback edition. The site itself is contradictory about whether all 500 illustrations from this edition are included, with the "Spotlight On" page claiming completeness and the FAQ suggesting some may be missing. The text, of course, is the value in this book, but because it has been so well evaluated by Leon Botstein, Charles Rosen, Gary Tomlinson, and others, it will not be the central focus of this review. Rather this review will focus on its value as an electronic resource. But having said that, if you read nothing else, read "Introduction: The History of What?" (1) to get a flavor not only of the particular brand of history that Taruskin writes, but a feel for his intellectually challenging yet highly readable style.

To "get under the hood" of this formidable project, Oxford has provided several useful tools. The "Spotlight On" page provides a brief overview of the work as an e-book and gives a brief description of some of the extra features--notably the inclusion of selected links to Oxford Music Online (formerly Grove Music Online). A "Guided Tour" page consists of an animated PowerPoint presentation that highlights the various links and their functions on the OHWM home page. It also explains the search options and results, the entry structure (i.e. how each volume, chapter, and subheading are displayed) as well as the links to Oxford Music Online and other related chapters within OHWM, how to save searches and results, and finally how to find help with using the site. In the FAQ one learns of the ability to export citation data from 0N14/14 to various citation managers including ProCite, EndNote, Reference Manager, RefWorks, arid Zotero. One also learns from this page that while the editors welcome corrections, notifications of broken links, and comments, the basic text is in effect frozen and will not "maintain an active update schedule." Technical and access issues addressed here include the availability of MARC records, Web accessibility standards (OHWil4 meets Priority 1 and 2 of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0), and the somewhat less-than-cuttingedge availability of the product to federated searching. One hopes that index data from OHWM will be made available to Summon, EBSCO Discovery Service, and other discovery services in due time.

On a simple toolbar running across the top of each article one finds function buttons for printing, e-mailing, and citing the article. Also, the ability to change text size is particularly useful if one tries to click on the very small superscript footnote numbers. The footnotes themselves appear to be OpenURL-enabled, allowing for instant access to the source in either one's library catalog or via the electronic resources (journals, journal packages, etc.

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