Brooklyn College—American Musicological Society and Music Library Association Translations Center

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American Musicological Society and Music Library Association Translations Center*

A Translations Center for musicological studies and documents has been established as a joint enterprise of the American Musicological Society and the Music Library Association. Personnel, facilities and space for the Center are being provided by Brooklyn College of the City University of New York. It is planned that the Translations Center should serve as a national repository of unpublished translations of a musicological nature. Chief among its functions, therefore, are to be the following: (1) to receive translations, (2) to clarify and file them, (3) to copy them and distribute them upon request, and (4) to disseminate information about the translations received. It is anticipated that the manuscripts received will consist of translations of treatises and primary documents, standard musicological studies, librettos, articles of various kinds (from periodicals, yearbooks, collective volumes, congress reports, etc.), speeches, research reports, etc.

The first step necessarily demands that scholars and students communicate with the Translations Center in regard to materials they have translated, or are in the process of translating, which they are willing to make available to others for use in the classroom or in research. During the past few months the Committee has sent letters to all members of the American Musicological Society and the Music Library Association, informing them of the existence of the Center and inviting them to participate in its activities. Additional plans include the sending of notices and reports, such as the present one, for publication in selected scholarly journals in this country.

The procedures for participation are not complicated. A contributor simply mails to the Center a copy of his translated material. At the center the manuscript is classified and filed. When a request comes in for the translation, it is copied (generally Xeroxed) without editing or any form of evaluation and supplied at cost. While the Center obviously is interested in translations of the highest quality, full responsibility in this regard remains with the translator.

The translated material at all times remains the sole property of the translator. In gathering translations and supplying copies the Translations Center is assuming a strictly clerical and informational role. It does not obtain copyrights or provide clearances for the use of the copies. Its aim is to provide the convenience of a centralized source to which one may write for copies of translations or for information about them. In summary, the primary task of the Translations Center is administrative, reproducing the translations received and making them available. The great value to the potential user is that he will have knowledge of and quick access to translations not obtainable in print.

For so new a venture, the initial response to the Translations Center has been good, though not overwhelming. Congratulatory letters and letters requesting information have come in, as well as letters informing the Committee of translations submitted for filing and of translations in progress. Some of the questions have proved to be very helpful to us, since we are still in the process of preparing guidelines for procedures. For example, upon being asked whether we preferred material permanently-bound or in snap-binders, we realized that the latter form would be easiest to Xerox-copy and was, consequently, to be preferred whenever possible. A question in regard to the most desirable format for libretto translations reminded us that parallel-column translations (or similar side-by-side formats) would certainly be the most useful to scholars, enabling them to compare the translations with the original material. To questions of whether the Center will accept short articles or treatises, we have replied emphatically that we are interested in everything of a musicological nature, regardless of its length.

For each translation received at the Center a form is filled out that includes the following information:

  1. Name of translator, address, occupation and affiliation.
  2. Author and title of original work (in English and original language) and other relevant information such as the place and date of publication.
  3. Form of original work.
  4. Format of translation.
  5. Remarks (purpose for which the translation was made, information about the background of the original material, etc.).
  6. The translation is then filed.

On the basis of the translations received to date, a few generalizations can be made with regard to the information being recorded about each translation. Without exception, contributors have been associated with universities, either as music faculty or graduate students. This is to be expected. We hope the circle will widen, eventually, to include scholars affiliated with other kinds of institutions and in related disciplines. Materials received to date include translations of librettos, treatises, articles from journals and encyclopedias, and contemporary research studies and reports. The very first contribution, for example, came from Howard Brown at the University of Chicago—a translation of the libretto for Peri's Euridice. It had been prepared by Professor Brown for a performance of the opera by his Collegium Musicum at the University in 1967.

Most frequently, contributors have indicated that their translations were made in the course of doing a class project, writing a thesis, or pursuing independent research. The Committee realizes the need to persuade scholars that the usefulness of the Center will be increased to the extent that more contributions come in from linguist-musicologists, that scholars might submit translations to the Center just as they submit essays to scholarly journals, without concern for immediate practical use but for the purpose of making available to others musicological literature of importance and significance.

The Committee anticipates that the greater portion of the material received will be translations from French, German, Italian or Latin into English, as has been the case so far. But it is important to emphasize that the scope must be broadened to include the translating of musicological literature in the Slavic languages and other less available languages. The musicological activity in areas other than Western Europe and the United States was vividly brought home to those of us who attended international congresses in Poland or Yugoslavia. While English translations are preferred, the Center will accept translations in any of the more familiar European languages.

It is planned that the first Bulletin of the Translations Center will be issued in the Fall of 1968. Members of the Music Library Association and the American Musicological Society and contributors to the Center will receive Bulletins automatically. Other interested scholars may request that their names be added to the mailing list. The present plan is to list items in three categories: (1) Translations received and, therefore, available for distribution, (2) Translations in progress and the probable completion dates, (3) Cross references to bibliographical information about translations or related materials. For each listing in Category 1, the information obtained in regard to items 1-4 on the file form will be included. To the extent that space allows, information about item 5 ("Remarks") also will be included.

Scholars and students are cordially invited to communicate with the Translations Center concerning their activities and interests in the area. Suggestions for improvement of procedures are most welcome. Our correspondents have informed us that the idea of a national Translations Center is "praiseworthy," "superb," "a wonderful undertaking." The reality of a useful Center, however, will be successful only to the extent that there is active collaboration from students and scholars throughout the country.


*The members of the American Musicological Society-Music Library Association Translations Center Committee are Walter Gerboth, Sherman Van Solkema and the present author (Chairman). We should like to express our appreciation to Eleanor Kavanagh, Music Department Secretary, for her supervision of the numerous clerical jobs involved in the launching of this project.

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