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Interview with Charles Hiroshi Garrett

By Anna-Lise Santella


After nearly a decade of work, the second edition of The Grove Dictionary of American Music—often called AmeriGrove—is finished. In September 2013, shortly before publication, I talked with Editor in Chief Charles Hiroshi Garrett about the project.

Tell us how you got involved with the second edition of AmeriGrove.

chuck garrett 2

Charles Hiroshi Garrett in the University of Michigan library with 1986′s The New Grove Dictionary of American Music.

In 2004, I first learned about the possibility of updating AmeriGrove. The initial plan was for me to serve as an assistant editor to Editor in Chief Richard Crawford, one of the most esteemed scholars in the field of American music. After Professor Crawford decided to concentrate his energy on other projects, including a biography of George Gershwin, I was approached by Grove/OUP and invited to take on the role as Editor in Chief. By 2005, organizational and administrative planning was underway; by the following year, much of the project had begun to take shape. I was especially happy to accept the challenge in part because I enjoyed a personal connection to this project: I am a former student of H. Wiley Hitchcock, a pioneer of American music studies, who co-edited the original AmeriGrove dictionary with Stanley Sadie.

How did you go about creating the list of articles that were included in the dictionary? What role did the first edition play in the development of content for the second edition?

The shape of the updated AmeriGrove reflects a remarkable effort of teamwork and scholarly cooperation. Nearly seventy editors and advisors—specialists in American music representing top universities and research institutes from across the United States and around the world—devoted substantial time to the project. Each of these participants, each assigned to key subject areas, helped design the coverage, scope, and content of the dictionary. The editorial team also received and reviewed suggestions from Grove readers and many scholars of American music. Over the course of the project, the contents of the dictionary continued to expand as editors and contributors recognized potential areas of growth and commissioned new articles.

The original dictionary (1986) was extremely significant to our initial planning for the updated AmeriGrove in terms of design, content, and philosophy. It gave us a general blueprint, which transformed as the updated dictionary grew to twice its size, and we retained its inclusive approach to defining American music. Every article from the original dictionary was reviewed, and nearly all of them were retained and updated for the updated dictionary. Because the original dictionary was never digitized, we were especially keen on making the fruits of the original publication available to today’s online researchers. We also drew on American-related content of the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (2001): many of these articles were updated by their original authors for inclusion in the updated dictionary.

Together, our editorial team decided which entries should be reprinted, which should be altered, which should be replaced, and which new topics should be considered for inclusion. As much as we consulted earlier Grove dictionary sources for guidance, the new AmeriGrove also contains thousands of originally conceived articles written by new contributors.

amerigrove cover2The first edition of the dictionary in many ways established a foundation for the field of American music study that has flourished in the years since its publication. How did you use it in your own work?

Even though it is nearing its 30-year anniversary, the first edition of the dictionary has continued to prove essential for readers because its coverage and depth in certain areas has remained unmatched until the new AmeriGrove. I have long consulted the first edition in the same ways I hope that readers will come to value the new dictionary—as a trusted source founded on scholarly expertise, as a first stop for bibliographical advice, and, through its many long and detailed articles on broad subjects, as a fascinating and fun way to expand my musical knowledge.

You can read more about this interview later this month at Grove Music Online.

Charles Hiroshi Garrett is Associate Professor of Musicology at the University of Michigan School of Music, Theater and Dance, as well as a faculty associate of the university’s American Culture Program. He has served as review editor and assistant editor of American Music, the journal of the Society for American Music. His book Struggling to Define a Nation: American Music and the Twentieth Century, which was awarded the Irving Lowens Memorial Book Award by the Society for American Music, was published by University of California Press in 2008. He is co-editor ofJazz/Not Jazz: The Music and Its Boundaries (University of California Press, 2012) and author of numerous articles, including “Shooting the Keys: Musical Horseplay and High Culture” in The Oxford Handbook to the New Cultural History of Music, ed. Jane F. Fulcher (Oxford University Press, 2013).

Anna-Lise Santella is the Editor of Grove Music/Oxford Music Online. Her article, “Modeling Music: Early Organizational Structures of American Women’s Orchestras” was recently published in American Orchestras in the Nineteenth Century, edited by John Spitzer (U. Chicago, 2012) and you can also read her recent article on the American women’s orchestra movement on University Press Scholarship Online. When she’s not reading Grove articles or writing about women’s orchestras, you can find her on twitter as @annalisep.

Oxford Music Online is the gateway offering users the ability to access and cross-search multiple music reference resources in one location. With Grove Music Online as its cornerstone, Oxford Music Online also contains The Oxford Companion to Music, The Oxford Dictionary of Music, and The Encyclopedia of Popular Music.

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