The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition. Edited by Stanley Sadie; executive editor, John Tyrell; Grove Music (

October 1, 2001

Grove DictionaryThe New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition. Edited by Stanley Sadie; executive editor, John Tyrell. London: Macmillan; New York: Distributed within the United States by Grove's Dictionaries, 2001. 29 volumes.  Grove Music ( Washington, D. C.: Grove's Dictionaries of Music, 2000- .

 When the first edition of The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians finally appeared on our shelves in 1980, its long-awaited appearance was met with a special kind of reverence. After waiting over twenty-five years since the publication of the nine-volume fifth edition, having access to twenty new, shiny volumes devoted to music was remarkable. Over time, as reviews begin to appear and as discussion ensued, some of the bumps and blemishes became known. There were even bogus entries, but that was, in its way, charming. The New Grove was not perfect, but how could a work of such magnitude be perfect? It still packed more up-to-date information on music than any other reference work on music at the time. Errors and spoof articles aside, this was the GROVEThe NEW Grove. It was where we sent our students to begin to explore any number of topics. It was the first place to look for the answers to a myriad of reference questions. It was also the starting place for research—a kind of threshold that opened the way to further exploration and study.

The publishers began tantalizing us with bits of information about the second edition of The New Grove as the last century drew to a close. The facts and figures were astounding. First of all, there would be not only the paper version, but an online version. The new edition was going to be significantly larger: 25 million words, over 29,000 articles, 5,623 of which are completely new. There are over 20,000 biographies, nearly 700 articles on printing and publishing, and a healthy representation of around 2,500 articles on world music, popular and light music, and jazz. The print version of this edition has expanded to twenty-nine volumes, including a volume of appendixes and an index volume, included for the first time since the first edition appeared a century ago. Gone is the favorite volume heading, "Back to Bolivia" but with the second edition, there are "Monnet to Nirvana" and "Taiwan to Twelve Apostles." The set is approximately five feet long. The second edition was even given a variety of nicknames: The New NEW Grove, and the Really New Grove, among them, but NG2 (or II?) seems to be winning favor.

Several biographies have been rewritten to include research introduced since the 1980 edition. Topics that reflect current trends in scholarship, e.g. Feminism, Gender and Sexuality, Deconstruction, Postmodernism, Gay and Lesbian Music, Women in Music are included as are new articles on the psychology of music, the philosophy of music, Marxism, and Nazism. There is even an article on "music" by Bruno Nettl. A significant number of the new entries deal with composers from Latin America, Asia, Africa, Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Non-Western cultures receive much more attention in the NG2 than even in NG1.

When the highly anticipated online version of the NG2 first appeared on music library computer screens across the country (about a month before the print version arrived), it was met with an entirely different reception from the 1980 edition. Almost immediately, e-mails began bouncing around with disparaging remarks about what this new online version was NOT. Critical discussions erupted on the listserv for the Music Library Association (MLA-L) on virtually every aspect of the product. Was it because anticipation was so great the reality was destined to be a disappointment? Living in an Internet world has conditioned us to expect to find everything on a topic once we hit the Enter button and this product didn't deliver everything. In the push to make the product available to clients within a reasonable amount of time, the online Grove might not be all it could be—at least to some. When the print version arrived, more errors began to surface. Almost immediately, it was discovered that the works list for Stravinsky was incomplete, the article on Jean Mongredien was out of order, appearing before the article on Mongolia, and the man in the photograph that accompanies the article on Mauricio Kagel is really György Kurtág. Other errors will undoubtedly crop up as time passes, but errors are inevitable in a work of this size. As with the online product, the push to get the paper version out as close to the original deadline as possible ensured the existence of errors.

So while those of us who are information specialists may not be completely satisfied with either product, it is extremely important to acknowledge how happy the end-user is, especially with the online Grove. In a totally unscientific and non-structured poll, I have asked many of my faculty and students their opinions of it and the response is an overwhelming "I love it!" Accessing the NG2 from office or home is a remarkable thing. Again, the dictionary offers a threshold—only this threshold ushers the user to a much larger amount of readily available information and it delivers the information right to the user's desktop. In keeping with the concept of threshold, this review strives for much the same idea. It is impossible to thoroughly review a work of such magnitude in 2500 words; rather, my hope is to point out features, characteristics, and differences that will entice readers to go delve into the NG2 on their own.

There are several avenues of searching available: full text, biographies, bibliographies, contributors, and links. There is also an article search window at the top of the screen. Most users (myself included) will go straight to that article search window, which is fine as long as one understands that the hits will appear in a relevancy-ranked order. In other words, the hits are listed according to the number of occurrences of the search term in an entry, from highest to lowest. The percentage indicated reflects the number of times a particular term appears in an article. While this means that one might need to scroll down the list to find the needed article, it also means that the user will be presented with articles that might have been missed otherwise.

In the online version, the search mechanisms are in some ways unclear. Clicking on "biographies," for example, does not offer a window to type in a name, just pertinent dates, nationalities, and occupations. Moving on to "explore" produces an area that is still under development and looks puzzling. The categories listed at this time coincide with the extracted lists included in the index volume of the print edition, but there is no explanation to be found. There is a statement regarding its early stage of development and a request for patience. Unless the user is already aware that these lists match those in the index volume, this area appears to be just a random set of lists. Early on, there were server problems; however, a move to a new host in mid-April 2001 hopefully will have improved this situation. Minor problems and omissions have appeared: a missing "fig. 5" in the illustrations linked to the article on "violin," for example.

But the beauty of the online version is that it is repairable. It can be added to, revised, expanded, and updated. Thanks to listservs and the ability to send messages to the editorial staff at Grove via a feedback button on the main page, it provides the kind of discussion that allows nearly instant conversation between the editors and their clients. Once we agree to accept this online Grove for what it is—a work in progress—it changes things. In April 2001 the first quarterly update brought a variety of additional improvements and additions to the online product, including most significantly the incorporation of The Grove Dictionary of Opera, along with fully searchable works lists, a browseable index, updated obituaries, new works lists and bibliographies, and more illustrations and over 1000 new links (this latest batch of links brings the total number to 6,300).

The product will only continue to improve as further additions are incorporated. The second edition of The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, for example, will be added for no extra charge, before the end of this year. Discographies will be added over time as well, according to the editors. Updates of factual materials will continue to be made quarterly, with theme-related updates to be made annually. The editors have provided this information on the website, along with information on the history of the dictionary, and information on both the online and the print versions, and a comparison between the first and second editions.

Each article includes a hyperlinked table of contents along the left side, making it possible to jump to a specific sub-topic. There are also links across the top of the page for the article, illustrations, sound, related articles and links. The illustrations, including some three-dimensional, animated ones, are quite informative. Looking at the articles on violin and timpani offer good examples. Sound links are harder to find right now. It is hoped that this will improve with the updates. An easy way to find examples of sound links is by searching on the "links" screen and specifying "sound links" in the pull-down window. Searching "voice" as a sound link brought up a wide variety of sounds and images including everything from early trumpets to gamelan to Marvin Gaye and Merle Haggard. Some of these links are part of the Grove database while others go to outside websites. This will continue to be a welcomed feature as long as it is kept up to date.

Clicking on "Related articles" can prove to be extremely valuable. With the addition of the complete index, browseablility is enhanced quite nicely when incorporating both the index and the "Related articles" function. For example, moving to the related links for "Puccini, Giacomo" leads to articles on the aria, the composer Boito, Italy in the nineteenth century, the publishing house Ricordi, and verismo, and it provides a link to the Centro studi Giacomo Puccini. The article on John Coltrane is linked to "Free jazz" and "Jazz, mainstream, third stream and emerging avant garde."

The article on the clarinet is linked to a healthy list of other related articles, including biographies of over forty performers, although the link to a site entitled "Clarinet bibliography" led to a blank screen. Annoyances such as this do creep in, but opportunity for feedback is provided so you can transmit reports of errors and annoyances back to the editors.

Discussion of the related links and index searches in the online version offers a logical segue to discussion regarding the paper version of the NG2, most notably regarding the index volume. Margot Levy is the first person to index the dictionary since 1890, when Mrs. Edmond Wodehouse tackled that project for the first edition. Although the index itself is very useful for quick reference, the reader is advised to take the time to read Levy's introduction that explains the rationale behind this thematic (rather than conventional) index to the NG2. This is not a full-text index, but rather a guide that links together broad topics, as in the Puccini and Coltrane examples mentioned in the preceding paragraph. The editors at Grove should be applauded for seeing that this index was incorporated into the online product as quickly as it was.

Further reading of this introduction explains the existence of the initially mysterious lists of composers, performers, and writers that follow the index. These are lists extracted from the index for easier reference and to avoid long lists of names appearing throughout the index. A perfect example cited by Levy is the list of composers, which is nearly eighty pages in length. The lists are divided by period and then by country, and include those persons involved only in Western art music. There are additional lists found within the body of the index. Those extracted from the index are cross-referenced.

The Appendices volume includes a section of topical lists, an appendix for illustrations and musical examples, and a third listing the contributing writers which, unfortunately, does not include access to their articles. The bulk of this volume does offer helpful lists, providing extensive additional material to corresponding articles in the dictionary. Somewhat surprising is the realization that these are not available in the online version; rather, the reader is directed to volume 28 of the print version. "Collections (private)" is a companion listing to "Libraries" (publicly owned collections) and "Sound Archives" (those collections with substantial musical holdings). "Congress reports" lists published musical congresses from 1860 to 1998, omitting those dealing with acoustics, the psychology of music and music education. "Dictionaries and Encyclopedias of Music" provides a chronological list and an accompanying index that includes 1650 works dating from 1800 BCE to the end of the 20th century. "Editions (historical)" offers a comprehensive list for single composer editions, other collected editions and anthologies. "Libraries" and "Sound Archives" provide information on holdings, but most importantly, updated names and addresses, including URLs. "Periodicals" covers this topic from 1722 through the end of the last century and includes yearbooks, almanacs, and annual reports of musical institutions. The information to be gleaned from this volume alone is fantastic. The section on historical editions is invaluable in light of the fact that Anna Harriet Heyer's two-volume set, Historical Sets, Collected Editions and Monuments of Music: a Guide to their Contents, third edition (ALA, 1980) is twenty years out of date. We are still awaiting completion of Hill & Stevens' massive bibliography, Collected Editions, Historical Series & Sets, & Monuments of Music (Fallen Leaf Press, 1997).

It is unsettling to think that with the first quarterly update of the electronic version in April 2001, the print version was out of date. Of course, if there was not an electronic version available, it would still be outdated as soon as it is published, but it smarts a bit more for those institutions that do not have access to at their libraries. This issue was addressed with the publication of NG1 twenty years ago by John Milsom and his co-reviewers in the October 1981 issue of Early Music: "The difficulties of compiling a dictionary of music and musicians in these days of sophisticated learning are immense, and necessarily its content will date dailyPerhaps what we need now is a journal devoted to 'Grove Studies,' so that all subscribers can make fine adjustments to their copies" (p. 513). In a way, listservs such as MLA-L have fulfilled the need for a journal of that sort.

The paper edition will still fulfill the needs of the user and, just as the previous editions have done, it will stand as a reflection of the world of music at its moment of publication. The online version appears to some to be a work in progress and perhaps to these individuals, we are the beta testers for it. Considering the riches contained in the online version, in my opinion, this is not a bad thing. Careful and traditional readers will continue to make those fine adjustments (in pencil, of course) to which Milsom refers in our new midnight blue volumes and the editors will continue to develop and refine the online product. As scholars delve more deeply into the various subject areas, more detailed reviews of those areas will appear. It is hoped that the editors will pay heed to these reviews as they develop and load the updates. Meanwhile, we should celebrate the century-long tradition begun by Sir George Grove and the achievement that the publication of the second edition of The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians represents.


2522 Last modified on October 22, 2013