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Summary of Activities, 1980

Barry S. Brook, President de la Commission Mixte du RILM
Catherine Massip, Acting Secretary

Report No. 15: 1980

Forty-five participants from sixteen countries attended the RILM session

Report by the President

RILM Abstracts has closed the lacunae issue, X/4—that is, all abstracts and citations have been processed and fed into the computer—and the staff has embarked on the mammoth task of proofreading and producing well over 8,000 items. The production of such a large issue will be a new experience (the usual issue is less than one-quarter that size) and there is a feeling of, to say the least, mild curiosity concerning the technical pitfalls. This feeling is extending to the implementation of our new program linking us to the photocomposition system of the New York Public Library, for which we have waited so long. We can say with some satisfaction, however, that we have included in X/4 all the backlog in our files for 1967-76 and all the missing items that contributors have been kind enough to supply. For the latter, we owe most particular thanks to the MLA/IAML-US committee, chaired by Melva Peterson, which has diligently surveyed journals, bibliographies, and indexes to our benefit. We expect that issue XI/l will be coming out quite soon after X/4 has appeared. We therefore ask all national chairmen and authors to send any remaining abstracts for 1977 as soon as possible.

RILM has completed its three-year matching grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and has submitted a new application. Sponsored, like the previous application, by the American Musicological Society, this grant is intended to cover the extraordinary costs of X/4. At latest word, it was being considered favorably by the Endowment.

Our data-base has been on-line with Lockheed since 1 September 1979, bringing RILM a small amount in royalties every month. With our file limited to volumes VI-X, since only those were in machine-readable form when we entered into our contract with Lockheed, we have an increasing sense of urgency about adding volumes I-V. We are seeking special funding for the project of inputting these volumes and hope to start on it within the next few months.

The March issue of Notes carried a review of RILM’s data-base which, in addition to valuable suggestions by the authors, Michael Keller and Carol Lawrence, also contained criticisms that were based on apparent misconceptions about our indexing policies and about how to use the Lockheed/Dialog retrieval system. Our reply, scheduled to appear in the September issue of Notes, explains that our index is created according to the RILM English-language Thesaurus, which is, as most IAML members are aware, a carefully constructed linguistic tool and the subject of ongoing discussion and revision. Our reply explains further the way in which the search strategies employed by Keller and Lawrence were inadequate and suggests in some detail the proper approach to a search.

Lockheed demonstration

The bulk of the session was devoted to a demonstration of RILM’s on-line retrieval system, a demonstration from which several minutes were stolen by a failure of the telephone service. It was pointed out by Brian Collinge, who conducted the demonstration, that the subject of a search must be broken down into specific elements and that then every variation of those must be included. If the search is carefully thought out in advance, it should be possible to get results within seconds. In looking, say, for entries concerning Italian performance practice in the Renaissance, it is necessary to check not only the word “Renaissance” itself and RILM’s category 24 (Renaissance) but also each specific century separately, combined then with category 51 (performance practice to ca. 1600) and combined further with Italy and/or Italian. The machine recognizes only the printed word. (Other humanities data-bases—art bibliographies and Historical Abstracts, for example—are encountering the same problem in retrieving information about time periods. Possible solutions will be discussed by a panel made up of representatives of RILM and four other humanities data-bases at the National On-line Meeting, sponsored by the International Journal of On-line and Teletext Information Systems, next March in New York.) We are constantly refining the index in order to make it function better within the system; this includes eliminating inconsistencies, adding see and see also references, testing with our own terminal and correcting as much as possible before printing the second five-year cumulative index, with its huge volume of material.


The chairman, Anders Lönn, reported that work on the International Thesaurus had been proceeding under the direction of RILM’s New York office. The lists of terms in Czech, Danish, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Polish, Russian, and Swedish had been sent out for corrections and additions, and new lists solicited for Bulgarian, Netherlandish, Portuguese, Romanian, Serbo-Croatian, Slovenian, and Spanish. Most correspondents replied promptly. The new terms will be checked and combined for use in the Five-Year Cumulative Index for Volumes VI-X (1972-76), which, according to Barry S. Brook, will appear several months after the publication of X/4.

Most of the meeting was devoted to a discussion of RILM’s indexing of ethnomusicological material. The discussion was based on two documents: 1) a report prepared by Judith Kaufman in conjunction with her work on the Music Library Association’s Cataloging Committee and Subcommittee on Musics Other than Western Art; 2) a response from the RILM indexing staff in New York. The use of geographical headings for “art” music and folk headings for folk music was contrasted with a new proposal which calls for the systematic use of geographical headings for all ethnomusicological material and consistent cross-references among geographical headings. The discussion revealed a strong preference for the new proposal, which will be adopted beginning with Volume XI. Barry S. Brook explained that the use of geographical headings does not preclude the use of other subject headings as additional access points, including instruments, religious music headings, proper names, and genres.

The meeting concluded with a discussion of miscellaneous indexing problems. The chairman asked several individuals to participate in a thorough examination of the RILM English-language Thesaurus in an effort to make improvements before the indexing of Volume XI begins in January of 1981.