Letter from the Editor

December 2017

Throughout Grove’s history, its editors in chief have prefaced each new published edition with remarks on the aims, scope, and particular circumstances of the enterprise. The twenty-first-century electronic preparation of Grove Music Online still entails the planning, commissioning, writing, and editing of new and revised content, but the newer medium obscures the very notion of “edition,” by eliminating that single instance of printing, binding, and shipping that necessarily concluded the preparation of printed editions. No longer does the editorial work reach a moment of culmination cum stasis before the reference work can be placed in front of its readers; rather, the multivalent work of publication flows on in an imbricate, synchronous process. Readers—it is to be hoped—will experience no caesura and will little note the gradual updating and addition of information in the database as a whole, but will feel that the reference work maintains a relationship with the research of the past generation while refitting itself for future scholarship. And because readers no longer view the dictionary arranged volume-by-volume on the shelves but only one screen at a time, they can gain little sense that the whole now embraces some 60,000 articles, 33 million words, by 8900 authors.

But while the digital processes may somewhat obscure the notion of an edition, I can assure you that this is an appropriate moment for a letter from the editor in chief of Grove Music Online. Following several years of preparation, we are releasing a new approach to the public interface of Grove itself, one that users of the site will notice, and that will be ongoing and continuous. And so, true to the spirit of online publishing, what the reader sees now is the first stage in an extended rollout of improvements to the display and retrieval of Grove’s contents, entailing fundamental changes in the technological management of the database. These improvements have been guided by the vision of Grove’s editorial board and made possible by the commitment of staff, technological expertise, and infrastructure on the part of Oxford University Press and in particular its reference publishing division.

Upon its establishment in fall 2009, the Grove Music Online editorial board set goals for the future of the reference work: to transform it from a digitized copy of the contents of The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition (Macmillan Publishers, 2001), into a resource that seamlessly employs online functionality while maintaining Grove’s role as the central authority in English-language music reference, created by and for the international community of music scholars and learners. The objectives from the start included enabling complex discovery strategies that obviated simple alpha-order or character-string searching; the capacity for embedding and/or linking with databases of research writing, reference data, images, and sound recordings; designing more flexible lists for composers’ biographies; incorporating systematically the contents of other Grove projects such as the second editions of The Grove Dictionary of American Music and The Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments; and continually updating and revising the contents. Moreover, the Board identified several expansion projects to incorporate newer perspectives and areas of research, and those are in various stages of progress.  In short, we sought to increase the scope and speed of updating; the breadth of coverage, particularly beyond the West; and the incorporation of multimedia resources to support the articles.

Preparatory to launching this new public interface for Grove Music Online, the editors also undertook structural changes for the database, which are not necessarily visible to the reader. Chief among those is a redesigned taxonomy that controls the conceptualization of the entire contents, from the subject areas that govern much of the commissioning and coordination of articles to the online search and retrieval of information within the database. And because Grove Music Online contains content not only from the 2001 print edition but many other Grove projects as well, each of which employed its own stylistic guidelines, the editors have now devised one manual to govern the editing of all content henceforth. We will begin rolling out the new house style in 2018.

Moreover, because Grove Music Online is one—even if the most complex—among many major Oxford Reference titles, its editors accomplished these improvements in collaboration with the editors of those Oxford reference works as well.  In this regard, all Grove editors, authors, and readers owe profound gratitude to our publishing editor, Anna-Lise Santella, for her highly skilled, sensitive, and tireless leadership through this process.

It is our hope that readers will find the new Grove Music Online easier and more rewarding to use.  We will update the GMO User’s Guide as further changes occur. And still, as Stanley Sadie suggested in his preface to the 1980 New Grove, “Users of the dictionary are asked to write to the editorial office,” editor@grovemusic.com, “to notify us of errors or omissions so that they may be recorded and set right in the future.”


Deane L. Root

Editor in Chief


Previous Letters from the Editor

May 2017

March 2012

September 2009

Press Release announcing Deane L. Root as Editor in Chief (September 2009)

March 2008