Grove's Dictionary

Korea Times (Seoul, Korea), April 9, 2001 | Go to article overview

Grove's Dictionary


To say that Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians is the world's foremost authority on all aspects of music around the world is comparable to saying the Bible, the Dhammapada, the Torah, or the Koran are the world's most important works on world religion. Few people are going to doubt you.

When George Grove edited the first edition of the Dictionary of Music and Musicians in 1878, it consisted of two volumes (it would later become four). From those humble beginnings, Grove's has become synonymous with excellence in the field of musical research and would set the standard for musical study and reference. From A to Z -- Claudio Abbado, an Italian conductor to Frank Zappa, an American composer and Rock musician -- Grove's runs the gamut of musical history and lexicon.

``It's the most comprehensive reference work on music anywhere in the world,'' explained Ian Jacob, Managing Director of Macmillan Reference Ltd. who was in Seoul last Friday to launch the 7th edition of the dictionary in Korea. ``It covers all kinds of music and all aspects of music. It's a benchmark for the way that music is studied.''

By the numbers, this new edition is in a word -- impressive. It runs an amazing 29 volumes, which would take up 1.3 meters of shelf space. There are 25,000 pages and 25 million words (nearly 2 million words on world music alone). In addition, there are 29,499 articles (20,374 articles on biographies of composers, performers and writers on music) with over 6,000 contributors from 98 countries. Also included are over 5,000 photographs, diagrams, drawings and maps.

And if that's not enough to grab you, it also weighs a backbreaking 68 kilograms.

Grove's has been famous since it was first edited by Grove in 1878 for its impressive coverage of Western classical music, albeit the history of music, the instruments, the composers, the works and even such areas as theoretical subjects like pitch and harmony. According to Jacob, pretty much anything that you want to find out about music you can find an answer to in Grove.

However, it's not all just classical music. This latest edition has much to offer in other areas, as well.

``Since the last edition, we have included more coverage of world music, popular music, jazz, the works,'' said Jacob.

The new edition covers such areas as the history of indigenous popular music like the history of Korean music and Buddhist music. Contemporary thinking and the merging of musical parameters are also reflected in various articles on the psychology and the philosophy of music, with such new topics as Deconstruction, Postmodernism, Gender, Feminism, Women in Music, and Gay and Lesbian Music. Coverage of contemporary popular genres such as Rock and Roll, the Blues, and Jazz also figures prominently in the new edition.

The last time a new edition of Grove's came out was in 1980. (It was 20 volumes then.) This latest edition, according to Jacob, took eight years and a ton of money -- 20 million pounds. In order to revise something as extensive as Grove's required the expertise from a special team of experts, advisors, as well as the input from scholars around the world. Starting off with their team of music specialists in Macmillan's office in London who are specialists in all areas of the field of music, the new edition was planned using the expertise of these in-house advisors and specialists.

The most difficult area, according to Jacob, is popular music.

``Since Grove is a book of record, we don't aim to reflect a kind of fan club-type enthusiasms,'' pointed out Jacob. ``The dictionary doesn't include all the latest, hottest artists on the charts in all the major countries in the world because they may not be on the charts next week. And maybe in another month nobody has ever heard of them.''

Nonetheless, if you were to peruse through the new Grove, you're going to find people from the world of rock and roll rubbing shoulders with Bach, Dvorak, and Verdi. …

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