Basso, Alberto, ed. Dizionario enciclopedico universale della musica e dei musicisti. Il Lessico, 4 vols. Le Biografie, 9 vols. Torino: UTET, 1983-90. Mus Ref ML 100 .D63 1983; Mus Ref ML 105 .D59x 1985
Uses: Provides information on music and musicians. Includes musical terms, instruments, and styles. Le Biografie contains strictly composer biographies. Useful also for locating works of individual composers, complete birth, death and composition dates, and bibliographies.
Coverage: International and historical in scope. Publication ceased in 1990 with Appendix for Le Biografie.
Organization: Arranged alphabetically into 13 separate volumes total. Volumes 1-4 if Il Lessico contain definitions of music-related subjects, and Vols. 1-8 of Le Biografie contain composer biographies, important dates, compositions and bibliographies. Vol. 9 is the appendix to the composer biographies, published in 1990.
Pros: Extensive information given on any subject. Contains some color illustrations and selective musical score examples. Bibliography included for cross-referencing. Most current information of Le Biografie set included in the Appendix (Volume 9).
Cons: Only in Italian.
Use: Provides information about musical terms and musicians. Good for preliminary research.
Coverage: Includes international topics, composers, and terms. Covers information not yet released in the second edition. (See Finscher, Ludwig, ed. Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, 2d ed. Sachteil and Blume Friedrich, ed. Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, 2d ed. Personenteil.)
Organization: Composers and terms are integrated. Entries on composers considered significant include a list of works. There is a bibliography at the end of each entry. Vols. 15 and 16 are supplements updating the work to 1987. Vol. 17 is an index to the complete work with composers and topics integrated. This index is helpful to locate subjects in multiple articles.
Pros: Contains detailed illustrations and thorough entries.
Cons: Somewhat outdated. Bibliographies are greatly abbreviated. In the process of being replaced by second edtion.
Coverage: Relatively current publication focused on well known performing artists.
Organization: Alphabetical; includes a list of operatic roles, chronology or music from 100 major composers, and recommended recordings.
Cons: Strong commercial bias. Preface reads like an advertisement. Lacks scholarly documentation.
Use: Identify detailed preliminary information on musical topics.
Coverage: Revises articles from the first edition, and includes some articles of new material. International in scope. This encyclopedia is divided into two parts: part one, volumes 1-9, which covers subjects (Sachteil), and part two, volume 10 on, which covers biographies (Personenteil).
Organization: Each entry has a brief outline of what the entry will cover. There is a bibliography at the end of each article. There is no index in this work. This makes it difficult to find references to composers and other topics that may be contained in several entries.
Pros: Every article is in outline form. Comparatively current. Substantial illustrations, including color prints.
N. B. This review covers only subjects (Sachteil)—for the review on the biographies see Dictionaries and Encyclopedias—Biographical Dictionaries, Blume Friedrich, ed. Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, 2d ed. Personenteil.
Use: Volumes 1-8 provide user with brief overviews on musicians, musical concepts, and musical terms. Works lists (alphabetical with catalogue numbers only) provided for entries on composers. Volumes 9 and 10 provide an overview of music history outside of Germany and in Germany respectively.
Coverage: Extensive international coverage with particular emphasis on German art music and musicians. Current through the 1970s.
Organization: First eight volumes in standard dictionary format. Volumes 9 and 10 are divided into five sections. Volume 9 contains the first three sections: Die Entstehung der Musik in Westasien und im östlichen Mittelmeeraum, Die Vorherrschaft Westeuropas, and Die Vorherrschaft Italiens. In the first of these sections, entries are organized by geographic region. In the second and third sections, entries are organized chronologically. Volume 10 contains the last two sections: Der Aufstreg der deutschen Musik, and Höhepunkt und Ausgang der Romantik. Within these sections, entries are organized by genre. Color plates with photographs and facsimiles interspersed throughout.
Pros: Volumes 9 and 10 useful for historical and genre studies.
Cons: Volumes 1-8 not as extensive in coverage as New Grove. Entries lack bibliographies.
Use: Helpful for finding American music and defining terms used at certain time periods in America.
Coverage: No set criteria used for information included. Covers a variety of serious music, jazz, folk music, popular song, the lyric theatre, film music, rock, etc. The decision on where to place certain composers was generally based on the addition of 30 years to their birth date with some exceptions stated in the preface. Does not cite popular performers because the emphasis is on the creative contributor, not the re-creator.
Organization: History of American music is broken down chronologically into seven periods. Each period (section) opens with a short historical introduction in which the general character of musical activity is indicated, certain key composers mentioned along with other important special currents. This is followed by individual entries, listing alphabetically the composers, organizations, certain works, publications and terminology in use during that time. Contains a mini discography for selected recordings with information on how to get them. The index helps you find composers or songs whose time periods are questionable.
Pros: Provides broad overview of composers, songs, etc. as well as an informative historical summary of each time period.
Cons: Information is all grouped together instead of arranged by composer, song, etc. Small biographies. Information in each entry is limited.
Use: Defines performance terms and terms found in musical scores or in literature about music.
Coverage: Deals primarily with Western music from its beginnings until the present (1994). It includes information on music history, notation, musical instruments, performers, composers etc.
Organization: The entries in The Oxford Dictionary of Music are alphabetized.
Pros: The information in this source is accessible and easy to use. It is understandable on a very basic level.
Use: An encyclopedia of musical terms, musicians, and musical works. Entries are brief and general in scope. Valuable for those with limited musical exposure.
Coverage: Entries consist of performers, composers, musical terms, and famous pieces from a broad spectrum of musical styles. Entries cover western European “classical” music and twentieth-century music styles from around the world, such as jazz, rock, reggae, hip-hop, and rap.
Organization: There is a brief section at the beginning entitled “Introduction to Musical Terminology”. This section includes basic information on topics including notation, intervals, keys, meters, tempo markings, and dynamics. The general section of entries follows. Entries are listed alphabetically. Entries that consist of musical terms from foreign languages provide a translation and pronunciation guide. There is an index of all the entries in the set of encyclopedias at the end of each volume.
Pros: Entries are concise and clearly written. The tone of the text is appropriate for the audience (amateur musicians).
Cons: Although the author’s goal is to be comprehensive across all styles and time periods of music, the inclusion of entries of very early and very modern music is sparse. There are practically no entries from the past two and a half decades. Additionally, there was only minimal inclusion of styles other than classical music, jazz, broadway, and early rock-and-roll. The index, which simply listed entries with their page numbers, seemed superfluous in an encyclopedia arranged alphabetically.
Use: Source of basic information about 20th-century musicians, music groups, record labels, and music
Coverage: The book covers the 20th-century, mostly in the United States and musically involved Western European countries. It is an attempt to synthesize the many different styles of and influences on musical development in the 20th-century. In English.
Organization: The book is divided into sections alphabetically, each section integrating all musical terms, composers, performers, and record labels in the 20th century. Begins with an author’s preface.
Pros: interesting bits of trivia
Cons: coverage questionable - it was compiled by a single man without the advantage of historical perspective.
Use: Definitions (reference) of terms, people, genres of music, events and basic musical knowledge. Serves to supplement general musical knowledge through “authoritative definition.” To augment general knowledge of a musical topic.
Coverage: As with all dictionaries, a great deal of information is covered over a wide span of time. Entries typically cover significant people, places, compositions, performers, instruments, genres of music and etc. Observed; some composers, performers, a few compositions, terminology, musical references and commentary to increase basic knowledge of music. Pictures, reproductions, charts, incipits and other graphical representations.
Organization: Typical dictionary format.
Pros: A newly updated and revised knowledge general reference covering a great variety of musical information. Entries are concise (see coverage).
Cons: Its general nature may produce scanty definitions. You must know what you are looking for in order for this reference to be of the most value to you, your projects or research.
Use: A reference source for those needing information on music from a specific geographic location. Not limited to European-based music traditions and culture. According to the preface, it “summarizes in one place major findings that resulted from the documentation of music from different regions of the world...for students and scholars.”
Coverage: Includes information from fieldwork, recording, and analysis documentation about music from all over the world. Contributed by anthropologists, linguists, dance ethnologists, cultural historians, folklorists, literary scholars, musicologists, composers, and performers “who have from the start defined the field of ethnomusicology.” The research is from 1960 on. Each volume covers a different geographic location.
Organization: Organized into 10 volumes, each of which covers a specific geographic location, except Volume 10, which is The World’s Music: General Perspectives and Reference Tools. Each volume contains a List of Audio Examples, a List of Maps, a List of Contributors, and a Guide to Pronunciation. The rest of each volume is divided into three large sections. First section: an introduction to the region, culture, and its music. Second section: discusses major issues and processes that link the musics of the region. Third section: detailed accounts of individual music cultures. Each section is divided into articles by different contributors, and each article has a bibliography. The last section contains articles about each country in the region, in order of location from west to east. There is a glossary and index at the back of each volume.
Pros: Up-to-date research and information. Great variety of information on each country, with a lot of interesting historical facts about culture and its link to different kinds of music. Heavily illustrated, including maps.
Cons: Articles in Issues and Processes section seem to be in a random order, and it is difficult to determine the subject of each article without looking each one up. It reads a lot like a textbook, not like an encyclopedia, making quick reference difficult.
Uses: Find commentary on various composers, music terms, works, objects and other individuals/topics of the western music tradition.
Coverage: Sporadic. Although major topics are referenced, the subject body seems to be selected somewhat at the author's whimsy. Many slang and modern terms listed.
Organization: Standard dictionary format. Brief histories include date, location, composer of famous work, and inventor of musical term. Lengthier discourses discuss topics of Music, Music Journals, Music Therapy, and Program Music from a singular perspective.
Pros: Trivial information not contained in many other dictionaries.
Cons: Less scholarly in nature. No pictures, illustrations or plates. No appendixes or indexes.
Review: Sommer, Susan T. Notes: Quarterly Journal of the Music Library Association, (December 1990): 408.