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Summary of Activities, 1987

Barry S. Brook, President de la Commission Mixte du RILM
Nanna Schiødt, Secretary

Report No. 22: 1987

A total of 35 representatives of 17 countries participated in the RILM session in Amsterdam.

Report by the President

The details of a revised classification system originally suggested by our Japanese colleagues—a matter of extensive discussion—have been settled by a workable compromise. Issue XVI/1 incorporates the changes with a new distribution of non-Western items throughout the issue and with the table of contents reflecting the modified approach. The section on historical musicology shows an emphasis on dates rather than on style periods, the section on instruments (now called sound sources) has added the Hornbostel-Sachs designations, and three new categories have been added: No. 19 (Musicology—the discipline, universals, historical/ethnographical), No. 84 (Music education for amateurs), and No. 88 (Linguistics and semiotics).

The National Endowment for the Humanities has awarded RILM a two-year grant for the purpose of increasing production—that is, funding that will allow the hiring of two additional part-time editors in a full-speed-ahead program to achieve currency. It is the staff’s firm intention to reduce the present time lag—the amount of time that elapses between the publication of material and the reporting of it in RILM—to two years, as it was formerly. To this end, they are experimenting with new methods of processing abstracts and producing the final pages.

The third five-year cumulative index is well under way, making its presence felt in piles of printout five feet high. A special component of each five-year index is the international thesaurus, a group of translations of headings and see references into 17 languages. Since we do not have the capability to print non-Roman alphabets, we must transliterate into the Roman alphabet. At present, Russian and Bulgarian are the only two such languages included; we would welcome comments on the merits and usefulness of transliteration. We are also looking for volunteers to formulate a thesaurus for the languages not yet included: Japanese, Korean, Greek, Chinese, Vietnamese, Hebrew, and Arabic.

As part of the catch-up program, we are asking the national committees to send us more of the journals that they are abstracting. Many essential items are omitted from the abstract forms—page numbers, publication data, etc.—and, of course, typos can also occur. We need to have access to the original articles to maintain our present standards of accuracy, and many of the journals in question are not to be found at the New York Public Library, or, for that matter, in this country at all. Rather than having to return abstracts to the national committees for missing details, it would save a great deal of time—on both sides—if the journals were simply made available to us.

Coverage is expanding, thanks to the valiant efforts of our committees, but a broader range of quality is also evident. We urge greater selectivity and more frequent consultation of the guidelines. Two of the guidelines should be given particular attention: “All popular treatments of the subject, as well as practical manuals of the ‘how to’ type, should normally be excluded from RILM” and “Doctoral-level dissertations of very local interest may be excluded. Theses. . . at the master’s level should be included only when they are of unusual potential interest.”

Special Reports

Ann Schuursma spoke briefly on the previous day’s meeting of the project group on classification and indexing, which was concerned with the thesaurus and the indexing of ethnomusicological terms in RILM. [A full report of the meeting is to be found elsewhere in this issue.]

Argentina: A new committee is being formed under the supervision of Ercilia Morena Chá, who has already started to send some of the missing material.

Canada: Jane Baldwin, of the Music Library of the University of Western Ontario, will be heading the national committee, replacing Rita Vine.

Germany (D D R): Konrad Niemann is once again able to continue his work for RILM and has resumed his place as chairman of the committee.

Hungary: János Kárpáti reports that the Hungarian committee has been reorganized. The new chairman is Albert Gábor. Dr. Kárpáti will participate as a committee member, as will László Somfai.

Japan: Keiichiro Watanabe pointed out in reference to the revised classification system that the committee members had differing views on how the system should be revised. Their proposal served as a catalyst for a reexamination of the system which proved most valuable. The committee continues to publish regularly an abstract journal in the Japanese language which contains, in addition to the items from RILM Abstracts, some abstracts of less international interest.


RILM Five-year Report 1983-1987

Since the last IMS congress, RILM has made many forward strides. Coverage has been expanded considerably in both breadth and size. Five years ago, the average number of abstracts in each volume was 4,500. This past year, Volume XV contained more than 6,700. Furthermore, every item is included within the appropriate annual issue rather than being allowed to accumulate in a backlog. We are grateful to the hundreds of authors and the forty-one national RILM committees who have helped us to accomplish this.

Commlssion Mixte and National Committees

In the five-year period there have been some changes in the membership of the Commission Internationale Mixte. The present membership is as follows: the officers remain the same, Barry S. Brook, President; Harald Heckmann, (IAML) Vice-President; François Lesure, (IMS) Vice-President. Present committee members are: Israel Adler (IMS), Günther Brosche (IAML), Hugh Cobbe (IMS), Ludwig Finscher (IMS), János Kárpárti (IAML), Melva Peterson (IAML), and Pierluigi Petrobelli (IMS). Several new national committees have been established, one in Argentina, chaired by Ercilia Morena Chá, another at Cornell University in the United States, which has taken over a function previously performed by the International RILM Center in New York; Lenore Coral is chairperson.

Cumulative indexes

In 1983 the second five-year cumulative index appeared with some 35,000 entries, as opposed to the 21,000 in the first five-year index. The RILM staff is presently at work on the third five-year cumulation which will be considerably larger still, to judge by the five-foot piles of computer printout which are crowding the RlLM office.

Technological Improvements

We’ve made several technological improvements that have facilitated the editorial process. All accents and diacritical marks have at last been incorporated into our commercial photocomposer’s equipment. Previously the staff had to add many such marks by hand, a painstaking and time-consuming procedure. Improvements in computer software have also made possible a new system of correcting final page proofs in house, rather than having to send them out to a typesetter.


Revision of RlLM’s classification system, proposed by the Japanese National Committee in order to effect a less Eurocentric attitude, has been under discussion for several years. A solution was agreed upon this year and implemented in issue XVI/l, which represents the beginning of our fourth five-year cycle. The revised system takes the whole of non-Western music into account in more equitable fashion. Items concerned with non-Western subjects are now distributed throughout the issue into their specific categories. The section on historical musicology emphasizes time periods rather than style periods and several new categories have been added. RILM’s table of contents reflects the new approach.


I am pleased to report that the RILM project has at last become self-sufficient. This has been made possible by increased subscription income, by a modest but steady revenue from the worldwide use of our computer data base through the Lockheed DIALOG system, and the supplemental sale of the RILM Thesaurus which is used in conjunction with the data base. Not to be forgotten is the very substantial support from the City University of New York in providing space, computer facilities, and graduate student assistantships.

Becoming Current

The improved financial condition permits only the continuance of production at the regular rate of four issues per year. This has left one very serious problem unsolved; becoming current. I am very happy to announce, in conclusion, that in July of this year we received a National Endowment of the Humanities grant for that specific purpose. It will enable us to narrow the time gap between when RILM appears and when the literature it describes is published. The RILM staff is now operating at full steam toward that goal.