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A Grove Music Mountweazel

By Anna-Lise Santella

On my desk sits an enormous, overstuffed black binder labeled in large block letters “BIBLE”. This is the Grove Music style sheet that was handed to me on my first day on the job, the same one — with a few more recent amendments — assembled by Stanley Sadie and his editorial staff for the first edition of the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians published in 1980. The Bible is daunting, bigger than our house style sheet by dozens of pages, and it carries with it a legacy that has defined my academic field. But in my first year and half as editor of Grove Music Online, I’ve learned to love it — with all its quirks, there is virtually no organizational, grammatical, or structural quandary it does not address. It’s very reassuring. If only the rest of my life had such a tool.

A style as specific as Grove’s lends itself well to parody, so it’s perhaps no surprise that in the first edition of New Grove, a couple of well-honed articles slipped by the sharp eyes of editor in chief Stanley Sadie : an article attributed to Robert Layton on the spurious Danish composer Dag Henrik Esrum-Hellerup, and an equally fictitious 16th-century Italian composer, Guglielmo Baldini. The Baldini article was actually based on a character created nearly a century earlier by German musicologist Hugo Riemann in his own music dictionary. Both articles conformed so well to Grove style that they went undetected until after the books appeared in print, at which point a furious Sadie removed them before New Grove went into a second printing.

There is a long tradition of spoof articles appearing in encyclopedias and dictionaries. There’s even a special term for such an entry: Mountweazel, named after a spoof article that appeared in the 1975 edition of the New Columbia Encyclopedia. In a 2005 article in the New Yorker, one of NCE’s editors, Richard Steins, claimed, “It was an old tradition to put in a fake entry to protect your copyright.” The idea was that if someone copied your dictionary, you could prove it by pointing to the fake. Perhaps this is true, but somehow I suspect that the tradition owes at least as much to the suppressed wit of authors and editors toiling on a genre of publication that can, at times, feel over-regulated. The fictional Lillian Mountweazel, for instance, was reportedly born in “Bangs, Ohio,” worked as a photographer specializing in images of mailboxes, and met an untimely death by explosion while on assignment with Combustibles magazine. Clearly a Mountweazel is no mere copyright-protection device.

Despite his elimination of Grove’s Mountweazels, Stanley Sadie did have a sense of humor. A year after the publication of New Grove 1, a collection of spoof articles appeared in the journal Musical Times (also edited by Sadie) laid out in perfect imitation of Grove’s style and format and, according to a brief preface, “obtained for MT from the Grove offices through an operation comparable in its scope, its daring and (we hope readers will agree) its success with the more famous Watergate.” These articles included.

Brown, ‘Mother’ (Mary)
Khan’t, Genghis (Tamburlaine)
Stainglit (Nevers), Sait d’Ail
Verdi, Lasagne

It wasn’t Sadie’s lack of humor, but his dedication to Grove’s accuracy and clarity that motivated him to eliminate the spurious works. He was, perhaps, prescient about the rapidity of the spread of the printed word in the internet age. Once you publish something, you never really know where it goes. Case in point: Both Eklund-Hellerup and Guglielmo Baldini appear in Germany’s answer to Grove, Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart. Only Eklund-Hellerup is marked as a spoof.

In honor of the co-existent traditions of accuracy and humor in the history of Grove Music, the Grove Music editorial staff would like to encourage the proliferation, not of Mountweazels per se, but of the dedication to the stylistic standards that support the content written by thousands of scholars over more than a hundred years. It is therefore my pleasure to announce the first (annual?) Grove Music Spoof Article Contest. Do you have what it takes to write a convincing Grove Music Mountweazel? Then read on.

Submission Guidelines:

  • Articles must be no longer than 300 words, including any bibliography or works lists you might choose to include. There is no minimum length. Entries that do not adhere to the length limit will be folded, spindled, mutilated, and rejected.
  • Articles will be judged by a mix of staff and outside judges including Grove Music’s Editor in Chief Deane Root, Editor Anna-Lise Santella, and a guest editor to be named later.
  • Judges will consider the following criteria:
    • Does the article adhere to Grove style?
    • Is it entertaining?
    • Could it pass for a genuine Grove article (maybe if you forgot your glasses and you were squinting at it)?
    • Submissions must be sent by email sent to editor[at]grovemusic[dot]com as follows:
      • Subject must read “Grove Music fake article contest-title” (e.g., Grove Music fake article contest-Ear flute)
      • Body of the email must include the title of the article and your full name and contact information (street address, email, phone)
      • The article must be included in an attached document. It must not include your name. This is to facilitate blind judging. Use your article’s title as the document name (if your article includes punctuation that can’t be in a document title, replace the punctuation with a space). Once we receive your submission, we will send you a release form that will allow us to publish your article. You will need to sign it and return it before you can be entered into the contest.
      • You may send as many as three articles, but please send each submission separately. No more than three entries will be accepted from a single author.
      • All submissions must be received by midnight on 15 February 2013. UPDATE: WE HAVE EXTENDED THE DEADLINE TO MIDNIGHT ON 28 FEBRUARY 2013. Manuscripts received after that time will not be considered.
      • The winning article(s) will be announced on 1 April 2013 on the OUPblog
      • The winner will receive $100 in OUP books and a year’s subscription to Grove Music Online. The winning entry will be published on the OUPblog and also at Oxford Music Online where they will appear NOT as part of the dictionary, which we strive to keep accurate, but alongside the historic spoof articles on a special page.
      • Fine print:  We reserve the right not to award a prize if we feel the submissions do not meet our criteria.

Let the games begin.

Anna-Lise Santella is the Editor of Grove Music/Oxford Music Online. She is currently waging a one-woman campaign to have the word “Mountweazel” added to the OED. When she’s not reading Grove articles, or writing about women’s orchestras — 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) — you can find her on twitter as @annalisep. Thank you to Frank Villella of the Rosenthal Archives at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for his assistance in obtaining the original articles.

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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Recent Comments

  1. […] Fools! And the winner is… permalink buy now read more Posted on Monday, April 1st, 2013 at 12:30 pm […]

  2. […] Music announced the first Grove Music Online Mountweazel Contest! The winner, Maurizio Papa (a.k.a. Keith Clifton) submitted a fake article, “Del Marinar, […]

  3. […] seems that our authors have always had an inclination toward humor. You can read about the history of spoof articles in Grove. Last year’s contest brought us many outstanding entries, the top four of which were published on […]

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