After years of work, with contributions by approximately 2000 authors, Oxford University Press on Monday releases the second edition of Groves Dictionary of American Music. Edited by Charles Hiroshi Garrett with a staff of 70 editors and advisors,this indespensable reference appears in twice as many volumes (eight) as well as in digital form, offering 9300 articles plus hundreds of images. It covers genres, composers, performers, venues, critics and styles from A&M and ABBA to Zydeco and Samuel Zyman.
“We retained its inclusive approach to defining American music,” Garrett said in an interview. “Every article from the original dictionary was reviewed, and nearly all of them were retained and updated.” The biggest addition is a much larger number of pieces devoted to country music since the first edition appeared in 1988.
The general definition refers to the United States and its territories, but thanks to the additional space, the editors were able “to acknowledge performers and others from elsewhere” – like the Beatles – “who have had sizeble impacts on American musical life, who worked across borders, or who toured a lot,” Garrett told me.
With updating going on as late as the summer of 2013, the second edition will reflect quite recent deaths and other events. Thus while the Lou Reed entry does not yet note his death, the entry on Elliott Carter, who died Nov. 5, 2012 at the age of 103, does.
A few entries that were in the first edition were eliminated from the new one. For example, Garrett said that the pop group Nazz, is not a separate entry in the new edition, although it is mentioned in an enlarged entry on its leader, Todd Rungren.
The two longest entries about American musical figures are those on Charles ives and George Gershwin, Garrett told me. But young contemporary figures such as composer Nico Muhly and hip-hop artist 50 Cent are included as well, as the editors sought to be “on the optimistic side. We weren’t going to wait until some of these folks premiered their fifth opera or released their tenth Grammy-winning album.”
Inevitably, some notable performers such as Miley Cyrus are missing. “Country and pop lists were pretty much finished 2 1/2 years ago,” Garrett said. “If I were doing thing again we would probably have an entry about her.” She does show up in entries about Disney studios and teen pop sensations.