Academic journal article The Hymn

Historical Dictionary of Sacred Music

Academic journal article The Hymn

Historical Dictionary of Sacred Music

Article excerpt

Historical Dictionary of Sacred Music by Joseph P. Swain. Lanham, MD: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2006. 299+xxx pp. ISBN: 0-8108-5530-5. U. S. $75.00.

Although this title is not strictly speaking a hymnological reference source, I bring it to your attention simply because the publication of any dictionary or encyclopedia on sacred music is rare. Swain's vision for the book is grand: "This Historical Dictionary of Sacred Music provides in one volume basic information about the most important traditions, persons, places, technical terms, and documents of sacred music. . . . The dictionary covers the most important aspects of the sacred music of Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and certain other smaller groups"(p. vii). He does admit in the next paragraph that "the great majority of entries concern Christianity and Judaism." I would estimate about 85-90%.

About one third of the entries are biographical, the part of the book about which I have the most reservations. I question the merit of including biographies of Bach (5 pages), Handel, etc. when that information is already available in so many other resources. There are entries for a number of hymnwriters up to the early 20th century, but post-WW II coverage is almost nonexistent. …

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