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Summary of Activities, 2005-06

Barbara Dobbs Mackenzie, Editor-in-Chief

Overview: RILM has had a banner year. Coverage has improved through the efforts of the national committees and the International Center, and RILM has received a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to abstract and index Festschriften published before 1967, when RILM’s regular coverage began. In November How to write about music: The RILM manual of style, a concise version of our in-house style manual, was published, and just six months later a second edition appeared. In March, Speaking of music: Music conferences, 1835-1966 won the Music Library Association’s Vincent H. Duckles Award for best research tool published in 2004. And the long-awaited software for printing abstract volumes is nearing completion. In the coming year we will focus on enhancing the users’ experience of RILM online, bettering iBis (our editorial database system), continuing to improve editorial currency, and expanding coverage of publications from many areas of the world. Finances are stable. And this year, RILM turns 40!

Committees: From 1 July 2005 through 8 June 2006, 10,498 citations and 7719 abstracts were contributed by national committees. (For a list of all RILM committees and their members, see Global Network.) The committees are at the very core of the RILM project. Without them, RILM’s ever-daunting but worthy mission of global coverage would be utterly impossible.

RILM would like to establish new committees in countries that do not actively participate at present, and we could use the help of our colleagues. If you would like to become involved in the RILM project by establishing a RILM committee in your country or by putting us in touch with colleagues who might be interested in doing so—or, if you simply want to find out more about what this involves—please contact Barbara Dobbs Mackenzie at


Database Growth and Currency: This year, over 33,000 new records have been added to the RILM database so far, which is now nearing the half-million mark. Here are the numbers of records in the database as of late spring 2006, by RILM year, for the last ten years, showing the increasing numbers over time and the improved currency. NB: RILM years 1999 and 2000 are double the size of other RILM years because they contain many records of earlier publication. In fact, roughly half of the records in each year represent older material, reflecting RILM’s recent efforts to fill in lacunae.

Rilm YearNumber of Records

Data Improvements: The staff at the International Center has been working hard on data issues in order to improve the users’ searching experience. We plan to continue to devote considerable resources to this effort in the coming year. Work has focused on the following:

  • New Data Fields: We have added two database fields that we believe are a major advance for RILM. One is a field for original non-roman titles, so that titles of publications in Cyrillic, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Arabic, Hebrew, etc., are included in addition to the two title fields we have always had: one for the original roman title (transliterated where necessary), and another for the English translation of the title. The second new field is for non-English abstracts. RILM will begin to publish abstracts in their original language—in addition to the English translation—whenever we receive them from our national committees or other contributors. They will not be edited in any way in New York, and will be accompanied by the following prefix: “[unedited non-English abstract as received by RILM]”. These new fields are available to our online vendors as of June 2006. However, we do not know when the vendors will begin to display them, as they will require some software adjustments. Both new data fields are in keeping with RILM’s commitment to serve the broadest possible community of scholars and will facilitate searches by non-English-speaking users, while enriching our database with a more diverse vocabulary, which in turn will allow increasingly sophisticated searching options.
  • Pre-1989 Data: The reformatting of RILM’s data from 1967 through 1988 has been completed, and all of it has been loaded into iBis. This marks the first time in RILM’s history that all of the data has been together in the same database, and accordingly, in a uniform format. Still, much work on the old data remains to be done before sending it to our vendors to replace the older format online. We have been working on this for over two years now, making sure all data elements are present in the correct fields and fixing errors and improving consistency throughout the database. At that point the entire database will be sent to our online vendors for a major reload. Once this has been accomplished, the data throughout the database will be more uniform and more representative of RILM’s scope, coverage, and richness, significantly improving the search experience for all RILM users.

RILM Survey and Follow-up Plans: RILM conducted an online survey for users of music bibliographies in the spring of 2006 to gather information on user profiles, habits, expectations, complaints, and suggestions. The survey also aimed at assessing technology-related shifts in the field, and sought to place RILM in a comparative perspective with other bibliographical sources. In order to elicit responses that represent all subdisciplines of music research, the survey was announced on listservs of a number of music societies representing musicologists, ethnomusicologists, music theorists, popular music scholars, and music librarians. More than 600 users completed the survey. The vast majority identified RILM as their primary bibliographical source. In response to comments in the survey, RILM has made the goal of improving the search experience a major priority for the coming year. Stay tuned for significant new features.

RILM Online and CD-ROM: RILM continues to be available through five distributors: CSA Illumina, EBSCOhost, NISC Biblioline and MuSe (the CD-ROM), OCLC FirstSearch, and Ovid/SilverPlatter. Online subscriptions and searching continue to increase at a healthy rate. Each interface adds value to RILM online and on CD-ROM with features such as links to full-text journal articles (including JSTOR), library holdings, local library catalogues, interlibrary loan, document delivery services, the ability to export records formatted for bibliographic managers such as Procite and Endnote, alert services that send new records in a user’s area of interest to their e-mail on a regular basis, cross-database searching with other humanities databases, visualization and clustering technologies, and much more.

RILM in Print

Conference Proceedings: As noted earlier, the retrospective volume abstracting conference proceedings, Speaking of music: Music conferences, 1835-1966, won the Music Library Association’s Vincent H. Duckles Award for best music research tool published in 2004. At the presentation of the award, announced at the Music Library Association’s annual conference in February 2006, Speaking of music was described as “a bibliography that bares new paths for the history of musical scholarship as a field of study.” For a press release about the book and its award, and for review excerpts, see Speaking of Music. This volume, which provides a window into the intellectual history of music scholarship, inspired RILM to organize a conference called Music’s Intellectual History: Founders, Followers, and Fads. The conference took place in March 2005 at the CUNY Graduate Center (where RILM’s International Office resides), and over 90 papers were presented. We are now in the process of editing the proceedings of the conference and expect to publish them in 2007.

Festschriften: The National Endowment for the Humanities has awarded a major grant to RILM that will allow us to expand the scope of the database to include one of the most valuable repositories of music research, one that has been all but inaccessible to researchers: articles published in Festschriften before 1967. Festschriften have been covered by RILM since it was founded 40 years ago. However, neither RILM nor any other bibliography has comprehensively abstracted and indexed the contents of these volumes from earlier years, though they include many groundbreaking studies by scholars who have since been recognized as seminal figures in musicology, ethnomusicology, music librarianship, performance practice, and other related fields. This material has remained difficult for modern scholars to locate. An abstracted and thoroughly indexed guide to these articles will make them easily and widely accessible, bringing them fully into current scholarly discourse for the first time. Sources for identifying Festschriften to be included in the project include Walter Gerboth’s An index to musical Festschriften and similar publications (New York: W. W. Norton, 1969), an extremely useful source, though it does not contain abstracts or detailed indexing; Festschiften lists in MGG and Grove; various online catalogues such as WorldCat; and our excellent national committees, who will help us achieve the broad international coverage that is a hallmark of RILM. If you know of Festschriften we ought to include in this project, please be sure to send us the information (send to or This project is the second in our ongoing efforts to expand RILM’s retrospective coverage, the first being the conference proceedings volume mentioned above.

The RILM manual of style: In late 2005 we published a concise version of our in-house style manual. It occurred to us that the manual, built up over decades of dealing with the world’s writings about music and covering many issues that any writer on music confronts every day, could be a useful book. Senior Editor James R. Cowdery devoted a considerable amount of time to revising it for publication. It addresses a multitude of special problems faced by writers on music—problems rarely solved by general writing guides. It applies an international perspective to matters often handled piecemeal and in ethnocentric fashion: work titles, manuscript sources, transliteration, non-Western theoretical systems, opus and catalogue numbers, and pitch and chord names, to name just a few. Detailed guidelines are provided for the bibliographic handling of standard print, audiovisual, and electronic sources, as well as specialized ones such as program notes, liner notes, and music videos. Abundant examples illustrate each point throughout the book. Titled How to write about music: The RILM manual of style, it was published just days before the American Musicological Society conference in November 2005, and it sold out rapidly, prompting, just six months later, a second edition. The second edition is about 30% longer than the first (though still a concise little manual) and includes a significantly expanded section on citation formats (with many more documents and sources used by the contemporary writer on music) and a brand new section on indexing, among other additions.

RILM at IAML/IMS in 2006: RILM hosted a number of sessions during the joint IAML/IMS meeting in Goteborg this year (18-23 June). On Monday the RILM Commission Mixte met for lively discussions on many topics, and the Technical Advisory committtee convened over lunch. The RILM general session was held on Tuesday and included three presentations: “RILM in 2006”, presented by Barbara Dobbs Mackenzie, was a summary of all the latest news and events regarding the project. Next came Niels Krabbe, who delivered an exceptional and very informative paper entitled “A survey of the Carl Nielsen reception at home and abroad since 1931”. And finally, Susanne Staral presented “Musikwissenschaftliche publikationen in Deutschland”, which provided an excellent survey of the publishing situation in Germany and its relation to RILM coverage. On Wednesday the RILM national committees met to discuss issues involved in their RILM work, and Wednesday evening RILM and RIPM hosted a joint reception in honor of their 40th and 25th anniversaries, respectively.

Barbara Dobbs Mackenzie