Academic journal article Notes


Academic journal article Notes


Article excerpt

But history can also be viewed as a series of adventures-hazardous, elective exploits undertaken for the chance of great gain but with their outcome always in doubt.

Richard Ford [1]

Music librarians have accomplished much--both individually and collectively--since the founding of the Music Library Association in 1931. Our profession enters the twenty-first century on a strong footing, and we are ready to build on our record of success. If history is a reliable indicator, we will make mistakes along the way but learn from them quickly and move on. These are admittedly times of great change and uncertainty, but change and uncertainty have always been with us and in fact seem to be one of the few things we can count on. We take risks, hoping for success but never being assured of it.

What has inspired us to take these risks? What has pushed us along? What is the gain? Something must cause us to hazard failure rather than to remain secure in doing what we have always done. If not, why then do we experiment with new technologies, why do we devote years of our lives to producing new reference works, why do we sit for hours on tiresome committees? We are not pursuing wealth and fame; no one becomes a librarian for the money or the glory. Perhaps what drives us is nothing more complex than the unspoken goal of making things better-both for those around us and for those who will come later. This goal of betterment, pursued with a spirit of altruism, lies behind civilization's great achievements, and those of our own profession are no different. Is it not the goal that underlies the building of a new library, the acquisition of a composer's papers, the claim of a missing periodical issue?

The authors of the preceding essays have celebrated our accomplishments, have explained what they see lying ahead, and at times have sounded notes of caution--even about the future of our profession. As we move forward, we must continue to think inventively, to take risks--with the hope that we will succeed more often than fail--and to keep our larger goal in mind, so that our place will be secure.

* * *

Dal centro al cerchio, e si dal cerchio al centro movesi I'acqua in un ritondo vaso, secondo ch'c percossa fuori o dentro.

Dante Alighieri [2]

I end on my own cautionary note. Several essayists have touched on a trend that only indirectly affects music librarianship today but is likely to play a larger part in our future. During the course of this century, we have seen a profound change in the idea of "music," both in the academy and in society. Most of our libraries were established to support the study of Western art music (commonly known as "classical music") in college and university music departments, and this music was the focus of early collection development and reference service. Whenever other musics (usually folk and popular) were also part of the curriculum, music libraries collected, sufficiently to support their study, but clearly the emphasis in most of our libraries was on classical music.

During the past few decades, the scope of musicological research has been extended to embrace many types of music that once were considered inappropriate for serious study, and traditional classical music has been reexamined through the glass of new critical theories borrowed from other disciplines. The field has broadened and diversified. Although Western art music is still central to academic music programs, the focus has become diffuse as researchers and teachers also consider jazz, rock, and other popular musics and introduce new analytical techniques into the curriculum.

In a development that is coincidental (if not causal), the role of classical music in society has evolved over the course of the century. During the early decades, attendance at the symphony and the opera was part of the weekly social ritual of the affluent and the educated, who saw the appreciation and support of music as a badge of distinction. …

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