Wednesday, April 25, 2007

A New 10 Volume Encyclopedia of Popular Music

Colin Larkin’s Encylopedia of Popular Music is a welcome new addition to our department’s reference desk. This is the 4th edition of a reference book that was originally published as the Guiness Encyclopedia of Popular Music in 1992. The current edition is consists of 8.5 million words published in 10 volumes and includes thousands of entries about singers, songwriters, musical groups, producers, genres, styles, and record labels. In the entries for recording artists, the author has also included an album discography and rating for those albums.

Today many popular music fans have come to rely upon websites like the Wikipedia and Allmusic for information about their favorite bands and musicians. It’s a fair question to ask why they should go to the trouble of visiting the library to consult a weighty reference tome. One reason is that while both of those websites can be very good at covering the most recent popular music, their coverage of earlier time periods can be spotty and unreliable. Another reason is Encyclopedia of Popular Music has a consistent prose style and editorial tone – unlike the Wikipedia, a collectively written source whose entries lack a consistent format or style. Of course, web-based sites will continue to have the one important advantage that they are current and up-to-date.

One suspects that the creators of web articles consult a work like the Encyclopedia of Popular Music because of its size and thoroughness. The author has gone to pains to find birth and death dates and places of most artists. While the source is heavy on Anglo-American pop and rock it also includes many artists from the worlds of jazz, folk, blues and musical theater.

The author is from the United Kingdom and although he rejects the characterization of his work as anglophile, there is a British outlook to the work, not so much in its range of coverage as in its outlook and evaluation of musicians. Writing a favorable article about the San Francisco band American Music Club, he describes them as “one of their country’s most undervalued bands.” In an entry on the Bay Area rapper Paris he cites the artist’s political views, discusses the creation of several recordings and involvement with other recording artists. He also mentions the rapper’s work as a stockbroker (a detail not found in the Wikipedia article on him).

One can always quibble with the coverage of any reference work. For instance, why include one important Bay Area indy band Erase Errata yet omit Deerhoof, another well-known local band? Irregardless of any minor shortcomings, the Encyclopedia of Popular Music is a remarkable reference source that will reward its readers for many years to come.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

National Dance Week Programs at the Library

In honor of National Dance Week, April 20th – 29th 2007, the Art, Music and Recreation Center of the San Francisco Public Library will sponsor two events. To find out about dance-related events happening citywide, please visit the website for Bay Area National Dance Week.

The first event is "Isadora Duncan, Mother of Modern Dance." It will be held on Saturday, April 21, 2007 from 2 to 3 PM at the Main Library's Koret Auditorium.

Lois Flood, dancer and choreographer, performs Duncan's choreography and Joanna Harris, author of the forthcoming book Beyond Isadora: Bay Area Dancing, 1915-65, offers commentary to present a snapshot of the 20th century's mother of dance invention and her groundbreaking work.

The second event entitled "Alicia" will be held on Tuesday, April 24, 2007 from 12 to 2 PM at the Koret Auditorium.

Dancer/choreographer Frank Boehm and a crew of independent filmmakers traveled to Cuba in the mid-1980s to make a documentary film about Alicia Alonso and the Cuban National Ballet. Like the film Ballets Russes, it reveals the personality behind the virtuosity of Cuban ballet and shows how folkloric dance and ballet are melded in a special mix, nurtured by Fernando Alonso's curriculum and Alicia Alonso's gift for pantomime and theatricality.

All Library programs are free. The Koret Auditorium is located in the Lower Level of the Main Library, 100 Larkin Street (at Grove).

This program is support by the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library.