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
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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)