Spoof Articles

Spoof articles have been part of Grove's history for several decades—it seems that our authors have always had an inclination toward humor. A style as specific as Grove's lends itself well to parody, so it's perhaps no surprise that in the first edition of New Grove, a couple of well-honed articles slipped by the sharp eyes of editor in chief Stanley Sadie: an article attributed to Robert Layton on the spurious Danish composer Dag Henrik Esrum-Hellerup, and an equally fictitious 16th-century Italian composer, Guglielmo Baldini. The Baldini article was actually based on a character created nearly a century earlier by German musicologist Hugo Riemann in his own music dictionary. Both articles conformed so well to Grove style that they went undetected until after the books appeared in print, at which point a furious Sadie removed them before New Grove went into a second printing.

Despite his elimination of Grove's Mountweazels (a special term for a spoof article that appeared in the 1975 edition of the New Columbia Encyclopedia), Stanley Sadie did have a sense of humor. A year after the publication of New Grove 1, a collection of spoof articles appeared in the journal Musical Times (also edited by Sadie) laid out in perfect imitation of Grove's style and format and, according to a brief preface, "obtained for MT from the Grove offices through an operation comparable in its scope, its daring and (we hope readers will agree) its success with the more famous Watergate."

In honor of the co-existent traditions of accuracy and humor in the history of Grove Music, the Grove Music editorial staff have encouraged the tradition with a semi-annual Spoof Article Contest. The winning articles can be read on the OUPblog here (2013), here (2014), and here (2016).