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Preface to The Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments, second edition (2014)


The Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments aims to present basic information about the most important instruments worldwide, and a broad, representative selection of lesser-known ones of particular significance. Along with instruments and their makers, we discuss subjects of related interest in order to provide a fuller picture of the cultural role of instruments throughout the world, in terms of their musical and symbolic uses and many other, less familiar functions. By addressing salient issues of contemporary organology (the systematic study of the history, design and technology, and functions of musical instruments of all times and places), the dictionary seeks also to map the directions in which this field is growing in the 21st century, and to encourage further investigation.

This second edition generally follows the methods and approach of The New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments (London: Macmillan Press Ltd, 1984) as outlined in Stanley Sadie’s Preface to that work, reprinted here. However, developments during the past 30 years have prompted a shift in emphasis. Whereas the first edition, derived in part from The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (London: Macmillan, 1980), included many articles on performance practice, this area of study has grown so large, especially with regard to non-Western musics, that it is impossible any longer to do it justice in a reference work devoted to instruments. Therefore, with a few exceptions, aspects of performance such as tempo, dynamics, articulation, expression, improvisation, ornamentation, conducting, musica ficta, and ensemble groupings are no longer treated in separate articles but are mentioned, if at all, only in connection with particular instruments. On the other hand, playing techniques (e.g. bowing, tonguing, fingering), pitch, and tuning, are given due attention as they are crucial to understanding how instruments work and sound. Where a practice might be considered both an ornament and a technique (e.g. glissando, pizzicato, vibrato) it has been included. To provide helpful context for other entries, articles on the band, orchestra, gamelan, and a few other major instrumental groupings have been retained.

The first edition’s lengthy discussions of repertory, both within instrument entries and in separate articles (e.g. keyboard music), have likewise been curtailed; like performance practice, repertory is properly the domain of the much more extensive New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, now readily accessible through Grove Music Online (GMO) at www.oxfordmusiconline.com. Reference throughout this dictionary to GMO directs the reader to the regularly updated online edition of Grove, where articles on repertory, composers, performers, and other topics not discussed here appear together with current discographies and other resources.

By excluding material more appropriately treated elsewhere by Grove, we have been able to expand considerably the coverage of instruments themselves and to focus on the specific concerns of organology, a discipline that, like performance studies, has expanded enormously in scope and sophistication over the past generation. Every article in the first edition has been reviewed, most have been revised and their bibliographies refreshed, and many have been extensively rewritten or replaced. Numerous entries have been added in order to present a more comprehensive global view of instruments and their functions, although gaps remain in geographical areas where reliable scholarship is scant or lacking. This edition pays substantially greater attention to electronic and experimental instruments and to instrument design and manufacture, and discusses more persons—acousticians, collectors, curators, dealers, as well as makers—whose work has shaped our understanding of instruments and thus of music in the 21st century.

Coverage has been further enlarged by considering the human body as an instrument in itself; relevant topics include the voice, whistling, body percussion, and other aspects of ‘corpophones’, a classificatory term new to Grove. Furthermore, issues of increasing practical concern, among them instrument archaeology, authentication, conservation, copying, faking and forgery, found instruments, virtual instruments, player-instrument interfaces, makers’ marks, occupational hazards, and sustainability of resources, are addressed more fully than before, or for the first time by Grove. Notably, articles entitled ‘Musical instrument’ and ‘Instrument making’ as well as ones dealing with such issues as gender attribution, status, and zoomorphism have been introduced in order to suggest ways of approaching these overarching themes. Some information is presented here for the first time in print.

Although expanded in many ways, this second edition, like the first, makes no claim to being exhaustive. It is impossible to include every instrument and maker believed to have existed; hundreds known only by name or from unreliable accounts are not entered here. Those subjects considered by the editors and advisors to be most useful have been chosen for discussion. While the dictionary is intended to provide authoritative, objective treatment, controversial views are presented where they promise to be enlightening. Living makers, including some from developing countries who might be known only locally, have been included as representatives, mainly in order to display the range of present-day instrument production, and no endorsement is implied. Some makers and collectors about whom information was sought proved elusive and have regretfully been omitted.

We have not attempted to cite all the names by which various instruments are known in different languages, or to include many alternate spellings of names; the versions most commonly encountered in English-language sources or in the scholarly literature are preferred—in most cases these will be native names. Various directories cited in entry bibliographies will guide the reader to lists of more obscure instrument types and makers and to locations of historical instruments preserved in collections, of which only those of special significance are noted here.

To reduce redundancy in descriptions and bibliographies and to clarify connections among topics, many brief, formerly separate but related entries have been combined into longer, richer, composite treatments, often representing multiple authors. Throughout, articles have been edited for conciseness and stylistic consistency. A topical index, a new feature, serves further to connect disparate subjects and to facilitate finding many more names and terms than could be accommodated as entry headwords. Another new reference tool, a list of collections sigla that parallels the previously established international system of library sigla, has been introduced in cooperation with the International Committee of Musical Instrument Museums and Collections (CIMCIM, a committee of the International Council of Museums) to identify major instrument holdings briefly and precisely. An annotated list of instrument collections can be found under the headword ‘Collections’.

The basic system of instrument classification adopted by this dictionary remains that of Hornbostel-Sachs, still the most prevalent among scholars, collectors, and museums, but in a form recently modernized especially with regard to electronic instruments, and not dogmatically applied. Some awkward terms have been changed; for example, ‘conch-shell trumpet’ is now designated ‘conch horn’, and the term ‘horn’ has been used in preference to ‘trumpet’ when an actual animal horn or shape obviously based on one is described.

Transliterations generally follow current English-language academic practice, which in some instances differs from official government styles and is by no means uniform; for example, orthography herein of Indian names often differs from that in The Oxford Encyclopaedia of the Music of India (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2011). Diacritical marks conform generally to current Grove usage or to contributors’ expressed preferences. Names of countries are those most commonly accepted at the time of this writing. Often, bibliographic citations use forms and spellings that differ from those in the entries. Article headings and structure aim for clarity and convenience, so in some cases different meanings of the same word are explained in one entry rather than partitioned among several. Some Eurocentric terms that might no longer seem appropriate, such as ‘non-Western’ and ‘Middle East’, are nevertheless retained, as is the term ‘jew’s harp’, because they are ubiquitous in academic and popular discourse.

The tremendous proliferation of online search engines, databases, and other electronic finding aids challenges users to pick out significant and reliable information from the rest. This dictionary aims to refine the overwhelming mass of material on musical instruments available from online sources, targeting subjects judged to be of most concern to general readers while also including some topics not adequately explored elsewhere, such as instruments that might have disappeared since being mentioned in ancient texts or by explorers and missionaries long ago. On the other hand, while mindful of the urgent responsibility to document instruments of societies either extinct or imperiled, the editors have excluded some secret, sacred instruments of certain peoples out of respect for their religious beliefs.

The online archiving of earlier editions of Grove makes it unnecessary as well as uneconomical to provide exhaustive, repetitious bibliographies here; peer-reviewed publications are preferentially cited, and marginal or outdated works have been largely purged. Website addresses, audio and video recordings (increasingly available online), and other non-print resources likely to be transitory, obscure, or relatively inaccessible have generally been avoided in bibliographies, which for the most part are intended only as convenient guides to further readings (many with their own extensive bibliographies), not necessarily as lists of works consulted by the entry authors.

I am grateful beyond measure to the contributors to this dictionary, whose names are listed separately. Unsigned entries and revisions are the work of the editors. It is fitting to acknowledge again with thanks the contributors, consultants, and editorial staff of the first edition, as well as those responsible for The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition (London: Macmillan, 2001), from which some content has been adapted. The Grove Dictionary of American Music, second edition (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013) is the source for many entries here concerning American instruments and makers—material mostly adapted rather than directly reprinted, and considerably amplifying the first edition’s coverage of American topics.

Specific fields and instrument types have been the responsibility of members of an editorial team comprising Anne Beetem Acker (keyboards, electronic instruments), Carolyn Bryant and James B. Kopp (winds), J. Richard Haefer (Native America), and Jeremy Montagu (non-Western and folk instruments). For generous advice in areas requiring special expertise we thank Robert W. Pyle (acoustics); Jack Bethards, Nicholas S. Prozzillo, and Timothy Tikker (organs); Peter Bavington, Michael Latcham, and Stephen Birkett (stringed keyboards); Allison A. Alcorn, Philip J. Kass, Thomas G. MacCracken, and Gregg Miner (strings); Leon Gruenbaum and Jesse R. Moffatt (electronics); Sally Sanford (human body); Arnold Myers (winds, instrument collections); Albert R. Rice (winds, American instruments); Malena Kuss (Latin America); and Charlotte Heth (Native North America). Other scholars, museum curators, collectors and dealers, and instrument makers too numerous to thank individually have kindly answered endless questions and offered guidance in their respective realms; the help of all is greatly appreciated.

The preparation of this edition has benefitted at every stage from the skillful and patient guidance of Oxford University Press staff, who also selected and arranged the illustrations and captions. Thanks are due especially to Mary Araneo, Jessica Barbour, Jenny Doster, Amber Fischer, David Ford, Jennifer Keegan, Tanya Laplante, Laura Macy, Lucy McGee, Peter Pickow, Tim Sachs, and Anna-Lise Santella. Essential production support was provided by Jessica L. Wood, bibliographer, and Katharyn Dunham, indexer.

Laurence Libin
New York, 2014

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