A BRIEF INTRODUCTION


Founded in 1980, the Retrospective Index to Music Periodicals/Répertoire international de la presse musicale (RIPM) is one of four international cooperative bibliographic undertakings in music, alongside Le Répertoire international des sources musicales (RISM), Le Répertoire international de littérature musicale (RILM), and Le Répertoire international d’iconographie musicale (RIdIM). “These are, without doubt, the most important current bibliographic documentation projects in the field of music research.”1 Of the four ‘Rs’ RIPM alone focuses on music and musical life from approximately 1800 to 1950.

RIPM was established to provide access to eighteenth-, nineteenth- and twentieth-century periodical literature dealing with music. While the importance of this monumental documentary resource has long been recognized by the musicological community, RIPM represents the first effort to undertake and to coordinate retrospective periodical indexing on an international scale.

The development of musical romanticism coincided with the parallel development of musical journalism and the creation of a very large number of periodicals dealing entirely or in part with musical activities. Specialized music journals—alone numbering more than 2,000 in the nineteenth century and some 4,500 by 1950—feuilletons in daily newspapers, articles in literary periodicals, in theatrical journals and in magazines de mode, as well as engravings and lithographs in the illustrated press constitute a remarkable documentary resource of immense proportions that is of primary and unquestionable importance to the music historian. Moreover, as the discipline of musicology developed—along with its methodologies and focused interests—in the later part of the nineteenth-century one observes the creation of musicology journals the contents of which not only set the standard for the modern discipline but also constitute an invaluable corpus of literature. Viewed collectively, this remarkable documentary resource permits us both to explore music and musical life in a very detailed manner, as it developed and as it was perceived by its contemporaries, and at the same time to recognize and to profit from the contributions of the founding fathers of the discipline of musicology and that of successive generations of music historians.

Yet in spite of the information contained therein, two problems have prevented this material from being systematically examined: (1) the limited number of libraries possessing the journals, and (2) the difficulty encountered when one attempts to locate specific information within an available source. Clearly, gaining bibliographical control and consequently access to this exceptional source of information is of profound importance to the development of nineteenth-century studies in musicology—a fact, moreover, which has long been recognized.2

RIPM Retrospective Index to Music Periodicals

Created specifically to resolve the problems surrounding this scholarly impasse, RIPM is one of the most productive editorial undertakings in the history of musicology. Functioning under the auspices of the International Musicological Society, the International Association of Music Libraries, Archives and Documentation Centres, and UNESCO’s International Council for Philosophy and Humanistic Studies, an international network of institutions and scholars is in the process of producing, in an initial phase, approximately 300 volumes over a twenty-five year period (1988-2012). These three-part publications—which consist of highly annotated calendars, extensive keyword-in-context/author indexes and introductory studies—offer access for the first time to a significant portion of this monumental documentary resource. Two-hundred and ninety-two volumes treating over 200 music periodicals have already appeared; and many others are in preparation. Moreover, in 2000 RIPM was released online and today consists of over 714,000 annotated records, updated every six months. By producing RIPM in print and RIPM Online—which offer access for the first time to a significant portion of the nineteenth- and early twentieth-century musical press—the RIPM organization has demonstrated its ability to function productively in a collaborative manner with colleagues in twenty countries, with numerous international organizations and institutions, with a large inventory of languages and with a monumental corpus of literature. Published comments concerning this immense editorial undertaking and reviews of the published volumes have all been extremely favorable; two citations sum up the critical reaction to RIPM: “a tool which will prove of the greatest value to all working on music from the late-eighteenth to the early-twentieth centuries.” [Peter Ward Jones, Fontes Artis Musicae, Journal of the International Association of Music Libraries 36, no. 4, 1989]; “an editorial initiative of huge mass which we will read and re-read as long as historical musicology exists...” [Lorenzo Bianconi, Il Giornale della Musica, September 1990].

RIPM Online Archive of Music Periodicals (Full-Text)

However, if the dream of the 1980s and 1990s was to bring to light the contents of an immensely important and complex corpus of literature, today it is, understandably, to bring the literature itself to one’s desktop, in a coherent, accessible format and with the speed of a mouse click. Thus, after many years of preparation for the immense task of digitizing and placing online in the vast majority of journals that RIPM has indexed, after much hard labor and with the collaboration of many, the RIPM Online Archive of Music Periodicals (Full-Text) was released in May 2009.

Accessed through the RIPM Retrospective Index, the Archive is the only extensive collection available online for music periodicals dating from the Early Romantic to the Modern Period. The Archive contains 123 rare journals selected by international specialists, offers an almost daily chronicle of musical activities, and immense possibilities for original research. RIPM Online Archive is a full-text version of journals indexed in RIPM Retrospective Index to Music Periodicals. It is updated with new titles every six months.

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An international board of distinguished scholars, librarians and archivists has selected music journals—published in Austria, Belgium, Canada, The Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Germany, Hungary, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Spain, Sweden and the United States—for priority treatment by RIPM. Of this selection a reviewer wrote: “the planned coverage is excellent ... the thought and care that the editorial board took in the selection of lesser known items that often illuminate years of political and social crisis and musical change make the result invaluable.”3

RIPM benefits from the collaboration of scholars and institutions in some twenty countries; a principal editorial headquarters in the United States and active research teams throughout Europe and the Americas.

H. Robert Cohen
Founder and Director

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1 Music Library Association Notes, December 1983: 277.
2 To quote Vincent Duckles: “When the story of 19th-century musical scholarship is told in full detail, that story will owe much to the evidence to be found in the contemporaneous music press.” [“Patterns in Historiography of 19th-century Music,” Acta Musicologica 42 (1970): 78]. Underscoring a recurrent theme in musicological literature since the 1930s Ruth Watanabe wrote: retrospective periodical indexing is a “project which would prove extremely useful and for which an urgent need has been enunciated for decades.” [“American Music Libraries and Music Librarianship: An Overview in the Eighties,” Notes 38, no. 2 (December 1981): 248]. Barry S. Brook further underscored the issue: “This is one of the major areas in which source research should be pursued ... we must examine the vast and little-known periodical literature.” [“Patterns in the Historiography of 19th-Century Music,” Acta Musicologica, 43, 1971: 279].
3 M. Elizabeth C.Bartlet, Journal of the American Musicological Society, (Fall 1990): 498-505.