Referencing Music in the Twenty-First Century: Encyclopedias of the Past, Present, and Future

By Fruhauf, Tina | Fontes Artis Musicae, July-September 2016 | Go to article overview

Referencing Music in the Twenty-First Century: Encyclopedias of the Past, Present, and Future


Fruhauf, Tina, Fontes Artis Musicae


In September 2013, after working for over a decade as an editor at Repertoire International de Litterature Musicale (RILM), my work at the International Center in New York took a new turn. A year earlier RILM had partnered with EBSCO Publishing to develop a global online reference repository of core music encyclopedias and dictionaries, including seven of the most important general music encyclopedias in each of the major European and English languages, and sixteen encyclopedias with a national or subject-specific focus (as such more narrowly focused than the general music encyclopedias). As the curator of what has become RILM Music Encyclopedias (RME), my job has been to select, license, and technologically develop this collection.

Released in December 2015, RME is a full-text compilation with an inaugural forty-one titles, published from 1775 to the present and currently comprising nearly 80,000 pages (in the years to come new titles will be added annually). Encyclopedic coverage is deliberately broad in scope to include important disciplines, fields, and subject areas, among them popular music, opera, instruments, blues, gospel, recorded sound, and women composers. RME's content spans multiple countries and languages--English, German, French, Italian, Dutch, and Greek. As such it is conceived as an extensive global resource that meets the teaching, learning, and research needs of the international music community. Available via EBSCOhost (https://www.ebscohost.com [accessed 10 June 2016]), RME is fully equipped with the most advanced search and browse capabilities, allowing for cross-searches by title, author, person, place, and subject in multiple languages. Far-removed from my actual field of research, Jewish music in modernity, in which I am an established author and lecturer, the development of RME began to captivate my academic interest and provided impetus for chairing a double-panel at the joint IAML/IMS conference "Music Research in the Digital Era", which was held at the Juilliard School in New York City, 21-26 June 2015 (1).

Scrutinizing selected encyclopedias in greater depth, both in terms of content and technological development, is an important endeavor for music historians, lexicographers, and all those involved in disseminating knowledge in and for the twenty-first century. This is especially true as music encyclopedias provide the potential to reflect thoroughly upon musicological approaches. They traverse the disciplines of lexicography and musicology in the broadest sense, and thus facilitate interactive perspectives between these and other disciplines. Since the early nineteenth century (and to some extent before), a broad variety of terminological and biographical reference works have addressed internal disciplinary concerns and perspectives, contextualizing them within contemporaneous trends in the humanities. In pursuit of invigorating cross-disciplinary conversations, a group of distinguished academics and publishers who gathered at the IAML/IMS conference brought these discussions into the twenty-first century, reflecting and discussing lexicographical thinking with the goal to lay the groundwork for future encyclopedias and their representations. This present collection of essays offers a selection of the presentations delivered during two consecutive panels. In their expanded form, the contributions address two broad topics: the first concerns the content of music encyclopedias; the second their technological (re) presentation--though within the essays this division is virtual rather than real.

To begin, the authors introduce their respective works of musical lexicography, responding to widely held myths while sharing the realities of encyclopedic work and thereby explaining the nature and purpose of musical lexicography. Their philosophies of encyclopedic content reflect differing perspectives of editorial work as informed by the scope of their work. The authors write as editors and as music scholars, describing and defining working methods as well as analysing issues in music lexicography. …

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