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The Harvard Dictionary of Music: Fourth Edition [Hardcover]

Don Michael Randel
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Nov. 28 2003 Harvard University Press Reference Library (Book 16)

This classic reference work, the best one-volume music dictionary available, has been brought completely up to date in this new edition. Combining authoritative scholarship and lucid, lively prose, the Fourth Edition of The Harvard Dictionary of Music is the essential guide for musicians, students, and everyone who appreciates music.

The Harvard Dictionary of Music has long been admired for its wide range as well as its reliability. This treasure trove includes entries on all the styles and forms in Western music; comprehensive articles on the music of Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Near East; descriptions of instruments enriched by historical background; and articles that reflect today's beat, including popular music, jazz, and rock. Throughout this Fourth Edition, existing articles have been fine-tuned and new entries added so that the dictionary fully reflects current music scholarship and recent developments in musical culture.

Encyclopedia-length articles by notable experts alternate with short entries for quick reference, including definitions and identifications of works and instruments. More than 220 drawings and 250 musical examples enhance the text. This is an invaluable book that no music lover can afford to be without.

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From Booklist

Reverting to its original title, The Harvard Dictionary of Music continues under editor Randel as a revision of his 1986 The New Harvard Dictionary of Music, so named at that time to reflect its significantly expanded scope from previous editions. The focus remains "the tradition of Western art music," with greater attention to world and popular music. Dozens of contributing scholars are listed in the front matter and denoted by initials at the end of entries.

Entries range from one or two words to multiple pages in length, defining or explicating terms for musical styles, instruments, performance marks, concepts, and works (e.g., Blues, Consonance and dissonance, Koto, Largo, Moonlight Sonata, Percussion instruments, Suzuki method). Black-and-white illustrations identify instruments, and staves and other forms of notation aid understanding of concepts (e.g., Diminution, Mambo). Many longer essays retain most of the text of the last edition, with brief updates to each section where appropriate. For example, England is enhanced by a listing of important British composers born in the twentieth century under the heading "History." Others have been substantially reworked or replaced (e.g., Electro-acoustic music). Many short entries have been completely revamped to reflect greater cultural importance or changing use or understanding of the terms. For example, Reggae now emphasizes the influence of Bob Marley. The content occasionally seems a bit behind the times, omitting terms like MIDI and MP3 (though Compact disc is a new entry) and failing to mention significant technological advances in Notation and Score that enable new approaches to both representation and reproduction of musical ideas. Brief bibliographies accompany many of the articles, and these have been updated even if there were few major changes to the entry.

In comparison with other single-volume music references, such as the Oxford Companion to Music (2002) and Baker's Dictionary of Music (Gale, 1997), Harvard does not have biographical entries, is generally more scholarly in tone and content, and has many unique articles (e.g., Boston dip waltz, Ecphonetic notation, Lombard rhythm). Recommended for any comprehensive music reference collection. RBB
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved


From reviews of the previous edition: "May well be the indispensable one-volume reference work on the subject of music--classical, ethnic, pop or rock . . . If you must know the difference between the Lydian and Mixolydian modes, you can find that lucidly described, but not to the exclusion of a note on the practice and etymology of doo-wop."
--Herbert Glass (Los Angeles Times)

[From a review of the previous edition] This single volume [provides] as full a range of non-biographical information as most of us are likely to require.
--Peter Heyworth (Observer)

[Praise for the previous edition] A genuinely indispensable book, readable, accurate, and completely reliable.
--André Previn, Conductor, pianist, and composer

Easily the most useful of all musical dictionaries because of its accuracy, concision, and ease of reference.
--Charles Rosen, pianist, author, and critic

[Moves] impressively and easily between non-Western and Western music, integrating ancient theory and modern practice into a genuinely, and invigoratingly, global survey.
--Christopher Wintle (Times Literary Supplement)

Its discussion of complicated technical issues is admirably concise and clear (see the entry on 'twelve-tone music'), and some of its entries on pop music are both sensible and amusing...This book has proved of daily, error-free usefulness.
--Richard Dyer (Boston Globe)

When it appeared in 1986, The New Harvard Dictionary of Music was hailed in many quarters as the most valuable single-volume reference work on classical music in English. Now, still unsurpassed in the classical field, it has become even more valuable, with a new edition...The Harvard Dictionary now makes incursions into rock, pop and world music...This is all good news for music lovers whose tastes run to the traditional, the more so for any who might want to broaden them.
--James R. Oestreich (New York Times 2003-11-23)

The book--approximately 1,000 pages in length--is solidly accurate and refreshingly concise. Best of all, it provides a complete listing of all relevant terms, literally from A (Abendmusik, or evening music) to Z (Zigeunermusik, or gypsy music)...In short, the Harvard Dictionary of Music is amazing, wonderful, and highly useful.
--John A. Murray (Bloomsbury Review 2004-01-01)

The essential one-stop reference has been newly updated, making it even more essential. After all, how else are you going to find out what euouae are (the vowels of the words 'seculorum Amen' sung in Gregorian chant) or that you just missed Berlioz's 200th birthday?
--Mark Swed (Los Angeles Times 2003-12-18)

Readers will not be disappointed with the fourth edition of the Harvard Dictionary of Music, long known as the essential single-volume music dictionary. Existing articles have been fine-tuned, and additions and deletions reflect new developments in musical scholarship as well as the changing world and its political boundaries.
--K. A. Abromeit (Choice 2004-04-01)

The Harvard Dictionary of Music (Fourth Edition) is a resounding success...I can't imagine how Harvard University Press can offer such a detailed and meticulously produced volume for $40, but that being the case there is no reason it should not become a much-thumbed part of every serious music-lover's library.
--James M. Keller (Symphony 2004-05-01)

[The Harvard Dictionary of Music] manages...to live up to a sentence from its own entry on 'Dictionaries and encyclopedias': 'The success of a dictionary is judged mainly on its factual details, completeness of coverage, and clarity of presentation.' On all these counts, this volume scores very highly.
--Hugh Wood (Times Higher Education Supplement 2004-05-14)

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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars well worth the price Nov. 11 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Well written reference/ guide for any musician, teacher or music student.
I will be using this for years to come.
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Useful for everyones Feb. 1 2004
This book is usefull for eveyone , specially music stdudents.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.9 out of 5 stars  52 reviews
72 of 74 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful production values Feb. 1 2005
By M. Osborne - Published on Amazon.com
This is a joy to read, hold and behold. The first thing that struck the bibliophile in me was that lovely quality paper. It gives the book heft but is a pleasure to read. I got this as well as the Groves/Norton. Why? Because I set out to buy the Oxford Companion but saw that I could get 2 reference books for the price of the Oxford. The Harvard omits all the biographical entries so the 2 are complementary. The Harvard uses all that space to provide great in-depth articles. If I had to go for one I would choose the Harvard - nowadays the Bios can be had in an instant on the net, whereas the Harvard assimilates a lot of learning in its entries.
39 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wasn't sure at first... June 14 2005
By CM - Published on Amazon.com
I received this book as a graduation gift from my high school and junior high band directors. I knew it would come in useful since I am starting as a music education major in the fall, but I wasn't sure exactly how often I would use it.

Right away, I found myself able to find answers to little things I didn't know. I also have a violin student who asks questions about anything and everything. This has definitly come in useful with teaching him!

This book has everything, some times a little more than I wanted, but still has the answers I look for.
34 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Indispensable Sept. 26 2004
By MARGARET& PETER - Published on Amazon.com
One has to appreciate the thoroughness and range of this new edition of the well-known reference source for all things musical save biographical data which this dictionary has traditionally excluded, but then it is not a biographical dictionary of which there are many that can be consulted. This dictionary is not just for information, but also primarily for education. Therefore, don't stop reading just because the information you are looking for is getting too detailed; try to learn from it.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Explains difficult concepts remarkably clearly Aug. 8 2008
By Phil Rogers - Published on Amazon.com
Back around 1987 (or so), I walked into a local mega-bookstore to find a music dictionary that would help me navigate a couple of Renaissance and Medieval music books I was trying to read through. I'd written down various terms that I would use as the litmus test to gauge how effectively (clearly, concisely and thoroughly) each dictionary would be able to tell me what I needed and wanted to know, and/or how well it defined things I already knew well. So once I'd entered the store, I grabbed their three or four music dictionaries off the shelf and started comparing their enties for each of 8 or 10 musical terms/ideas. I found that the Harvard version was unsurpassed, and in fact rarely equaled in the quality of its entries. Oftentimes the other dictionaries flung around jargon; or their explanations were superficial, or would skirt some of the issues, assuming that I, for one, would already know what THEY were supposed to be explaining to me.
I remember after having bought the book, that whenever I needed to find out something, it would give me what I needed almost without fail. One example of this occurred on the day I wanted/needed to learn how to read and understand figured bass (having never looked into this before). I was doubting that the Harvard would give me what I needed, as it seemed on the surface to be so very complicated. Was I ever wrong! After reading the Harvard entry, I was reading through and playing Corelli on my keyboard sequencer (albeit slowly) within about 15 minutes. Although I had also conversed with a friend who was a composition major, that was for no more than a minute or so.
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Resourse! July 9 2006
By C. Irish - Published on Amazon.com
A dictionary isn't really that exciting, but this is truly a great resource. I'm a music education major getting my masters degree, and this book has really helped me to get a grasp on some of the information I'm studying. If you are a musician at all, especially a music teacher, invest in this book, you will use it!
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