Dictionaries of Music

Canadian DictionariesHistorical development and main worksDictionaries of music. Reference books which present information in alphabetically ordered individual entries. The entries are usually in prose, although in a related type of reference work, the catalogue of compositions, lists abound.

Canadian Dictionaries
Historical development and main works
Dictionaries of music. Reference books which present information in alphabetically ordered individual entries. The entries are usually in prose, although in a related type of reference work, the catalogue of compositions, lists abound. Both types will be considered here since their respective main functions - the provision of biographies and/or of information on music itself - overlap.

All Canadian music dictionaries and dictionary-sections in larger books prior to EMC have been biographical with the exception of The Pocket Dictionary of Musical Terms compiled by C.F. Thiele and published by Waterloo (no date). The earliest examples are the biography sections in H.H. Godfrey's Musical Toronto (1897, 1898-9), Hugo Talbot's Musical Halifax (1903-4), and B.K. Sandwell's The Musical Red Book of Montreal (1907). Edouard Hesselberg's 'A review of music in Canada' (in Modern Music and Musicians, New York ca 1913) is essentially a Canadian supplement compiled in Canada, though published abroad. It offers the first nationwide coverage: 71 major and not-so-major musicians sketched on nine pages. In all these cases, the author's main purpose was to take stock of musical activity and accomplishment, and the dictionary section was only a subsidiary device.

The first true dictionary was the Dictionnaire biographique des musiciens published in 1922 by the Soeurs de Sainte-Anne. (See also Sisters of Ste-Anne) of Lachine, Que, the anonymous work of Louise Paquin (Sister Marie-Valentine). Some 675 non-Canadian musicians were included along with 150 Canadians. The choice was slanted towards French operetta and salon music composers of the late 19th century in the first category, and almost entirely towards Quebec musicians, both French-speaking and English-speaking, in the second. Of much greater importance was the second edition, which appeared in 1935 as Dictionnaire biographique des musiciens canadiens (Lachine 1935; reprint Ann Arbor, Mich, 1972). It includes 384 musicians whose careers centred in the province of Quebec but only a handful (eg, A.S. Vogt and Annie Lampman Jenkins) from Ontario. Coverage begins with such men as Charles-Amador Martin and Martin Boutet in the 17th century and includes the young generation of 1934. The book misses only a few major figures, among them Joseph Quesnel, T.F. Molt, Clara Lichtenstein, and Sarah Fischer. The work remains an indispensable tool in Canadian studies, despite its inaccuracies and imbalances which stem from a scissors-and-paste approach to compilation and an obvious dearth of original historical research.

Since one of its major responsibilities was the performance of Canadian music, the CBC, created in 1936, set out to gather information about living composers and their compositions by means of a questionnaire distributed at the beginning of World War II. The project of assembling the raw data into a Catalogue of Canadian Composers, begun under the direction of J.-J. Gagnier and continued by Jean Beaudet, was shelved for a number of years. When the work did appear in 1947 it was typed without critical editing or supplementary research and was, for many composers, out of date. Because of the shortcomings of this mimeographed edition and the phenomenal growth of Canadian composition in the late 1940s, a new edition in book format was compiled 1950-1 and issued in 1952 (reprint Ann Arbor, Mich, 1972). It was edited by Helmut Kallmann and includes 356 composers (and some 100 others briefly listed), expanding the scope not only forward in time but also backward to the 19th century and earlier.

The next dictionary-type book again was sponsored by the CBC. Thirty-four Biographies of Canadian Composers/Trente-quatre Biographies de compositeurs canadiens (Montreal 1964) provided extensive biographical sketches and lists of works. It was written by V.I. Rajewsky and edited by Helmut Blume and Gilles Potvin as a project of RCI. A similar format, but applied to 144 composers active after 1920, was adopted by the Canadian Music Centre'sContemporary Canadian Composers (Toronto 1975) with contributions by several writers under the editorship of John Beckwith and Keith MacMillan. This was the first Canadian music dictionary pervaded by a strong analytical and critical element. A French translation, Compositeurs canadiens contemporains (Montreal 1977), incorporating recent compositions and a few corrections and increasing the number of composers to 160, was edited by Louise Laplante, the CMCentre's regional director for the province of Quebec. There is no need here to dwell on the scope and nature of EMC, which first appeared in its English edition in 1981 and in its French edition in 1983.

Limited-scope Composer Catalogues

The following are dictionary-type catalogues for specific genres of music, specific regions of Canada, or specific users.

CLComp. Catalogue of Orchestral Music (Toronto 1957).

Napier, Ronald. A Guide to Canada's Composers (Toronto 1973, 1976).

Atlantic Canada '81 [Halifax 1981]. Biographical information and lists of works for 20 composers, issued by the Atlantic Canadian Composers Association.

Denis, Jean-François, ed. Résonance ([Montreal] 1988); Addendum (1989). Brief biographies and work lists for the members of the Concordia University Electroacoustic Composers' Group.

Dahlstrom, Helen. Canadian Composer: Mini Biographies (Rossland, BC 1989). Prepared for Canada Music Week, it lists 86 composers.

Beatty, Carolyn, ed. Directory of Associate Composers (Toronto 1989); Supplement (Toronto 1991). Biographical notes, selected lists of works for associates of the CMCentre.

See CMCentre for other catalogues.

Performers
Maillé, Michèle. Blow up des grands de la chanson au Québec (Ottawa 1969).

Moogk, Edward. Roll Back the Years (Ottawa 1975). Features a chapter of 'Biographical notes' on over 80 recording artists and groups active up to 1930, in addition to a large discography section.

Newlove, Harold J. Fiddlers of the Canadian West (Swift Current, Sask 1976). Includes 112 brief autobiographical sketches of fiddlers, 90 of them from Saskatchewan.

Labbé, Gabriel. Les Pionniers du disque folklorique québecois 1920-1950 (Montreal 1977).

Directory of Conductors in Canada/Annuaire des Chefs d'Orchestre au Canada (Toronto [1977]). This includes brief biographical sketches of 91 conductors active in Canada.

Guest, Bill. Canadian Fiddlers (Hantsport, NS 1985). Brief biographies of 157 living and 17 deceased fiddlers.

Walker, Carl Ian. Pioneer Pipes of British Columbia (Squamish, BC 1987).

Jazz
Miller, Mark. Boogie, Pete & the Senator (Toronto 1987). 40 biographies.

Gilmore, John. Who's Who of Jazz in Montreal: Ragtime to 1970 (Montreal 1989).

General Canadian Reference Books

The following Canadian general reference books provide a useful coverage of music and/or musicians: H. J. Morgan, The Canadian Men and Women of the Time (Toronto 1898, 1912); The Canadian Who's Who (Toronto 1910-); the Canadian Radio and Television Annual (Toronto 1950, about 240 entries for musicians); the DCB (Toronto 1966-, 12 vols to 1990); Encyclopedia Canadiana, 10 vols (Ottawa 1957-8, Toronto 1970, whose music entries are listed in CMJ, vol 3 Spring 1959); and Creative Canada, 2 vols (Toronto 1971, 1972). L'Encyclopédie Grolier (Montreal 1947) includes some biographical entries and a survey written by Eugène Lapierre under 'Canada, musique'. The Canadian Encyclopedia (Edmonton 1985, rev 1988) features reliable and wide-ranging coverage of music and is complemented by the Junior Encyclopedia of Canada (Edmonton, 1990). Carlotta Hacker's children's dictionary, The Book of Canadians: An Illustrated Guide to Who Did What (Edmonton 1988) includes major composers, performers, and other figures in both the classical and pop fields. Substantial musical coverage in special fields is provided by Jean-Baptiste-Arthur Allaire's Dictionnaire biographique du clergé canadien-francais, 6 vols (Montreal 1908-34), and Who's Who in Canadian Jewry (Montreal 1965). Many others examples could be cited.

A dictionary of general rather than strictly Canadian interest was compiled by Wayne Gilpin: Student's Dictionary of Music (Oakville, Ont 1985).

Canada in Foreign Dictionaries

Before the 1930s the world had little opportunity to know of the existence of Canadian musicians. The Musical Times of London or the Musical Courier and other US magazines would carry the occasional concert review submitted by a Toronto or Montreal correspondent and the odd 'Music in Canada' article, but the interested music lover would find only one entry, Emma Albani, in the first (1878-89) and second (1900) editions of Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians and only Joseph Quesnel in Fétis' Dictionnaire universel des musiciens (Suppl 1881). F.O. Jones' Handbook of American Music and Musicians (Canaseraga, NY 1886, 1887) at least included five Canadians well known or active in the USA: Albani, H.A. Clarke, Calixa Lavallée, Joseph B. Sharland, and S.R. Warren, while Brown and Stratton's British Musical Biography (London 1897), thanks to the collaboration of F. H. Torrington, contained articles on six Canadian-born and seven immigrant musicians. Matters improved slowly, and Grove's American Supplement (no publisher; no place of publication 1928) came out with entries for over 60 Canadians, the 11th edition of Riemanns Musiklexikon (Berlin 1929) with 18, Thompson's International Cyclopedia of Music and Musicians (New York 1938) with 110 biographical and 20 organizational or topical entries (Lawrence Mason, a former Globe and Mail critic, acted as Canadian editor), and Wier's Macmillan Encyclopedia of Music and Musicians (New York 1938) with about 125 biographical entries gleaned, it appears, uncritically from other reference sources. Generous coverage was given Canadians also in J.T.H. Mize's Who Is Who in Music (Chicago, 4th edn 1941), the various editions of Baker's Biographical Dictionary (1900, 1919, 1940, 1958, etc), and The ASCAP Biographical Dictionary (2nd ed, New York 1952, 1966), but inclusion in non-English-language books was poor indeed. The standard dictionaries of piano, organ, and violin makers include some Canadian names.

The complaints about Canadian coverage in the major international music dictionaries should be focused not on quantity - which is reasonably generous - but on accuracy and choice. When the fifth edition of Grove's Dictionary appeared in 1954, entries on MacMillan, Mazzoleni, and Willan remained 20 years behind the times, while Léo Roy was able to persuade the editor to include a number of Quebec City musicians of relatively minor importance (corrections followed in the 1961 supplement). Other dictionaries were similarly slow in updating their Canadian information, principally because they did not know where to turn. Some editors, however, such as Nicolas Slominsky in his revisions of Baker's and Thompson's, went to great lengths to correct errors and present new facts. Canadians, too, began to offer assistance to foreign editors. The Canadian Music Council, under the signature of Sir Ernest MacMillan, prepared a large entry on Canada for an Italian publication, La Musica, edited by Guido Gatti (Turin 1966). Helmut Kallmann saw to Canadian inclusion in MGG and the 1969 edition of the Harvard Dictionary of Music and supplied corrections and suggestions to Riemann, Baker's, and Scholes' Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music, while Andrée Desautels wrote an essay on 'Les trois âges de la musique au Canada' for Larousse's La Musique (vol 2, Paris 1965). John Beckwith acted as Canadian adviser for the New Grove Dictionary (London 1980), with Kallmann and Keith MacMillan as consultants. The New Grove Dictionary of American Music (4 vols., New York 1986), a spin-off from The New Grove, restricts itself to the USA, but includes many Canadians who worked in that country. The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz (New York 1988) includes some 30 Canadians. MacMillan supplied Canadian material for the 1975 edition of Thompson's Cyclopedia and for many other reference works. Jan Matejcek was the Canadian consultant for a new supplement to Altmann's Tonkünstler-Lexikon (2 vol, Wilhelmshaven 1974, 1978). Gilles Pilote prepared the entry on Canada for Science de la musique (Paris 1976) edited by Marc Honegger. Kenneth Winters wrote the Canadian entry for the Swedish Sohlmans Musiklexikon (1977). An article on Canadian music by M. Yakovlev is included in the Soviet Musical Encyclopedia edited by Yuri Keldich (Moscow 1974); updates were supplied by the CMCouncil staff. These and other instances show the recent improvements that have been effected with regard to Canadian representation. The same is true about such specialized works as Berger's Band Encyclopedia (Evansville, Ind, 1960), Feather's three jazz encyclopedias (New York 1960, 1966, 1976), Rosenthal and Warrack's Concise Oxford Dictionary of Opera (London, Toronto 1964, rev ed London 1979; French transl of 1st ed by Aziz Izzet, Dictionnaire de l'opéra, Paris 1974), Kutsch and Riemens A Concise Biographical Dictionary of Singers (English ed, Philadelphia 1969; new German ed Großes Sängerlexikon Bern, Stuttgart 1987), and Vinton's Dictionary of Contemporary Music (New York 1974). Some information on Canadian popular musicians can also be found in Donald Clarke's The Penguin Encyclopedia of Popular Music (London 1989) and in Irwin Stambler's The Encyclopedia of Pop, Rock and Soul (New York 1974, 1977, 1989).

A key to locating 2000 Canadian names in some 120 Canadian and non-Canadian reference books was provided by the CMLA in its Bio-bibliographical Finding List of Canadian Musicians (Ottawa 1961). It is interesting to compare the most frequently found names in this book and its successor, Musicians in Canada: A Bio-bibliographical Finding List (Ottawa 1981): Albani (entries in 42/59 dictionaries), Sir Ernest MacMillan (31/50), Gena Branscombe (29/36), A.S. Vogt (27/35), Healey Willan (26/41), Calixa Lavallée (25/37), Boris Hambourg (25/33), Nathaniel Dett (23/28), Wilfrid Pelletier (22/36), Kathleen Parlow(22/35), F.H. Torrington (22/32), H.A. Fricker (22/29), C.A.E. Harriss (22/26), Edward Johnson (20/33), Pauline Donalda (17/30), John Weinzweig (11/30).

See also Bibliography; Biography; Discography.


Further Reading

  • Kallmann, Helmut. 'The New Grove's: disappointment to Canada,' SatN, 12 Mar 1955

    Beckwith, John. 'About Canadian music: the P.R. failure,' Mcan, 21, Jul-Aug 1969

    MacMillan, Rick. 'New Grove Dictionary gives Canadian music its due,' MSc, 318, Mar-Apr 1981

    Beckwith, John. 'A "failure" re-visited: new Canadian music in recent studies and reference works,' Hello Out There! CanMus Documents 2 (Toronto 1988)