Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians: Centennial Edition

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9780028660912: Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians: Centennial Edition

Baker's celebrates its 100th anniversary with this new multivolume format. Unlike past editions that were single-volume works covering primarily classical musicians and performers, the new 6-vol. "Baker's" covers all musical genres, with new entries written by a distinguished group of area specialists as well as the original articles of Nicolas Slonimsky. This work continues the tradition of offering the most comprehensive and authoritative information on the musicians, along with interesting and insightful evaluations of their contributions to the musical world. Baker's remains the most affordable, comprehensive and readable of all music reference works, providing everyone from the student to scholar a one-stop resource for all their music biographical needs.

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From Booklist:

*Starred Review* American music writer Theodore Baker was the original author, in 1900, of this "imperishable monument" of musical reference works. Highly regarded musicologist and editor Slonimsky, who compiled the fifth through eighth editions, died in 1995, three years after the last edition of this classic title was published in a single volume. Now, Baker's and Slonimsky's work continues and has been greatly expanded through the efforts of area specialists such as William Ruhlmann (pop) and Lewis Porter (jazz), with "a massive influx of nearly 2,000 completely new entries on popular and jazz musicians." The preface states that many of the rock entries have been adapted from Brock Helander's The Rock Who's Who (Schirmer, 1996). Also in the preface, Baker's series advisory editor Laura Kuhn tells us that she and her associate Dennis McIntire updated almost all existing classical entries and added more than 1,000 new ones. Total entries now exceed 15,000.

Musicians of all types are represented: composers (Laurie Anderson, Charles Mingus, Mozart, Akira Nishimura, Peter Schickele), songwriters (Dorothy Fields, Hank Williams), conductors and bandleaders (Daniel Barenboim, Gisele Ben-Dor, Glenn Miller), individual singers and instrumentalists (Celia Cruz, Jacqueline Du Pre, Branford Marsalis, Lillian Nordica), discographers (William Schwann), patrons (Frederick II), musicologists (Stanley Sadie), teachers (Shin'ichi Suzuki), bands and groups (Gladys Knight and the Pips, the Weavers), publishers (Schirmer), and inventors (Theremin). Among the hundreds of classical additions are Italian mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli, Argentine bandoneon player Astor Piazzolla, and American guitarist Brett Terry. A side-by-side comparison of the eighth and ninth editions does indeed show that almost every article has been updated or rewritten. Deaths have been recorded, new works and doings noted, and new research incorporated in bibliographies, such as that for Hildegard von Bingen. At least one composer, Jack Beeson (best known for his opera Lizzie Borden), was inexplicably dropped from the new edition.

The decision to move beyond the traditional classical focus of Baker's represents a significant revision of the purpose and thus the content of the work. This is fine, but there is a definite dichotomy in the treatment of popular and classical entries. Two things on the classical side stand out now as omissions in the Baker's of the twenty-first century, as a result of the addition of popular biographies. First, there is no acknowledgment of those nonpop performance groups that have garnered both critical acclaim and a fairly large audience. Examples that come to mind are Anonymous 4, Chanticleer, and the Kronos Quartet. For now, the first two, at least, can be found in the second edition of The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Second, it's a safe bet that classical enthusiasts might want a list of recordings from their favorite opera diva just as much as jazz fans want a list of works from their favorite scat singer. Baker's will only satisfy that jazz fan, because it does not list recordings for classical performance artists.

Alphabetically arranged entries note name (including real, middle, and alternate names), country of origin, occupational description (e.g., the Beatles are "the most important rock group in history"), and birth and death dates and places. The biographies, which range in length from a brief paragraph to several pages, are well written and touch on the most noteworthy personal events, professional highlights, and critical reception. Slonimsky was (and some of the new writers are) happy to state opinions, analyze the significance of the musician's contributions, and delve into details readers would appreciate. At the end of entries for major classical composers are listed selected or major works, subdivided by type (e.g., dramatic, orchestral, chamber, electroacoustic, vocal), with title and first performance date and place noted, and a bibliography, often subdivided into source material, correspondence, and biographical and critical genres. For musicologists and others, selected writings are listed. For popular and jazz artists, there are generally a selected discography and bibliography. Each entry is signed with the initials of one or more contributors. A key to the abbreviations of all 60 names is found in the front matter.

See references are used where deemed necessary, such as Yo-Yo, Ma See Ma, Yo-Yo. Cross-references to related articles are not always provided. The entry for the Beatles urges readers to see separate articles on each individual artist, but that for the Talking Heads doesn't mention entries on David Byrne and Brian Eno. There are three specialized indexes in the last volume of the set but no general index. The genre index allows one to find biographical entries in categories such as classical (further subdivided into early, Renaissance, baroque, classical, romantic, modern), jazz (early, swing, bebop, avant-garde, revivalist), and popular (country, pop, R & B/rap, rock). A nationality index and one for women composers and musicians round out the set.

Although there are 20,000 biographical entries in the second edition of The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, and nearly as many in The Encyclopedia of Popular Music, libraries with comprehensive music collections will still need (and want) the new Baker's. For a start, Baker's includes many names not easily found elsewhere (Michael Bach, Sigmund Bachrich, Dinu Badescu, Martin Bernheimer, to take examples from just a few pages of one volume). It also includes information not found in other sources, such as David Rosenboom's development of HMSL, a music programming language. And what reader won't want to check Baker's for its unique fascination with the ways in which musicians met their deaths? It always notes suicides but also informs us that Johann Beer was "accidentally shot while watching a shooting contest" and John Cage "collapsed in the loft . . . ; died peacefully . . . without regaining consciousness, of a massive stroke." This emphasis on circumstances surrounding death is Slonimsky's legacy; it is further elucidated in his entertaining and idiosyncratic prefaces to the fifth through eighth editions, which are reprinted here in their entirety.

Larger public and academic libraries that own earlier editions will definitely want to acquire this centennial edition. RBB
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

Although longtime Baker's editor Slonimsky died in 1995, his easily recognizable, sometimes tongue-in-cheek style pervades this ninth, or "centennial," edition of his famed dictionary. Since the last edition in 1992, this most important reference source has been greatly broadened and is especially valuable for its biographical sketches of 20th-century jazz and popular musicians, written and edited by leading authors in the fields. In addition, series advisory editor Laura Kuhn has overseen the expansion of the articles on classic musicians. One of the best features of the new Baker's is its expansion from a huge, single-volume work into six volumes. Despite the occasional and generally minor mistake-Louis Moreau Gottschalk's pseudonym "Seven Octaves" is given as "Steven Octaves," for example-this centennial edition should prove to be a most valuable reference tool both in music and public libraries. In fact, because of its coverage of even somewhat minor figures, the new Baker's should prove to be an excellent companion to the just-released second edition of The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Nonmusicians in particular will delight in Baker's, largely because of Slonimsky's light-hearted spirit. The personalities covered here are indexed by nationality, genre, and time period in Volume 6, and the best of Slonimsky's introductions to previous editions are reprinted in Volume 1. [The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2d ed., will be reviewed in LJ 3/15/01; a review of the online edition will appear in a future Database&Disc column.-Ed.]-James E. Perone, Mount Union Coll., Alliance, OH.
--James E. Perone, Mount Union Coll., Alliance, OH.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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