Plans for the publication of a bibliography of writings concerning art history were announced in the summer of 1974. The project’s vision was born much earlier, in large part influenced by the publication of RILM Abstracts of Music Literature in early 1967.
RILA (Répertoire International de la Littérature de l’Art) borrowed the model for its name from RILM, as well as the concept of international cooperation first proposed at the conference held in Paris under the auspices of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in 1969 and then confirmed in Washington, D.C., under the sponsorship of the College Art Association of America in October 1971. RILA was conceived to provide substantial abstracts and detailed subject indexes of art-historical scholarship concerning post-classical European art and post-conquest American art published in periodicals, books, Festschriften, congress reports, exhibition and museum catalogues, and dissertations.
The project took off in 1973 as the bibliographic pilot project of the American Council of Learned Societies, with the RILM office at the CUNY Graduate Center initially providing editorial and technological support. RILA was intended to be the first addition to a proposed interdisciplinary group of bibliographies in the humanities, initiated with RILM. In the Demonstration issue (above) , which tested RILM’s bibliographic models applied to art-historical literature, the editor Michael Rinehart wrote “Continued regular publication of RILA will depend on response to this issue, and particularly on two factors essential to its long-range success: the willingness of authors to contribute abstracts of their work, and the extension of international participation through a free exchange of materials among existing and future organizations and publications.”
RILM’s founder, Barry S. Brook, spent the summer of 1965 pursuing research in Brussels, Paris, and Vienna; midway he attended the IAML congress in Dijon, held on 1 through 6 July. Among the 14 letters that he sent to his wife Claire back in New York City, the letter of 8 July 1965, which he wrote immediately after his return to Paris, describes his participation in the Dijon congress and his social activities around it. The letter reveals the young Brook, who was still unaccustomed to the attention he received from his older colleagues. Every dinner and every conversation was making an impression on him.
On Saturday 3 July he was particularly busy. At a round table at 11 am he explained his idea about notating music using the ordinary typewriter, known as the Plaine and Easy Code. After lunch he was the principal presenter in a round table from 2 to 5 pm titled Utilisation of data processing techniques in musical documentation. Here he made public for the first time his idea about founding an international bibliography of music literature, which he was already calling RILM. Brook’s emphasis in the session was on the possibilities of using computers for the control of music documentation, and he showed a film about IBM called Once upon a punched card (1964; the film may be viewed at the bottom of this post). In an earlier letter, from 2 July, Brook described how he and Françoise Lesure loaded up the back seat of their car with a carton of IBM brochures in three languages that he obviously distributed in the session.
Finally, on Sunday, 4 July, he presented a paper in the session on tempo in 17th- and 18th-century music, organized by the Société française de Musicologie and presided by Mme la comtese de Chambure, who would be a his key partner in founding the Répertoire International d’Iconographie Musicale (RIdIM) a few years later. This may have been his first meeting with Mme Chambure, since in this otherwise very detailed letter, full of names of people with whom he was working and dining, her name was not mentioned.
His paper was Le Tempo dans l’exécution de la musique instrumentale à la fin du XVIIIe siècle. Other presenters in the session was Mme de Chambure, Denise Launay, Charlese Cudworth, André Verchaly, and Claudie Marcel-Dubois.
A fragment of the letter concerning his engagements during the conference:
The congress, which was originally supposed to be more relaxation and wine gobbling than work and business meetings. turned out to be mad whirl. Many meetings—too many—and the “relaxed” part too filled with official receptions, dull speeches by [Député-]Maire [of Dijon, Chanoine Félix Kir], etc. and guided tours of museums and churches (separated by buses) that each lasted too many hours and too many miles. The food at the Cité Universitaire was cheap but dull and could be eaten only after a long wait in line. Despite all this, the congress itself has been a pleasant affair, which I enjoyed because of the people, the concerts, and small amount of wheeling and dealing, the spotlight which was on me more than anticipated since everyone kept referring to my big speech in later meetings.
Also we would drive into town for meals, even breakfast when the line was too long and that was the pleasantest of all—“we” included François [Lesure], Fritz Noske, Paule Guiomar, Nanna Schiødt from Denmark, Rita Benton, Nanie and Fredric [Bridgman], etc. Fredric has a big international job in Geneva where he lives; he & Nannie get together every weekend whether in Geneva or Paris; he took us out to dinner in a wonderful restaurant in the country 15 km outside Dijon on the way to Beaune, chez Jeanette (François, Nanna S., and me). Paule had to return to Paris to start her vacation with Michel so she couldn’t come). Also had breakfast with André Jurres of Holland who succeeds Fédorov as président [of IAML] & spent time with [John Howard] Davies of the BBC, who is good friend of Herman, [Enrich] Straram of French Radio, Sven Lunn of Denmark, spoke to [Friedrich] Blume at some length about R.I.L.M.
Now to the speeches, which as usual were down to the wire. Despite the complete lack of cooperation from Simone Wallon in charge of arrangements (projections etc.) everything was led smoothly with François [Lesure] & Paule’s [Guiomar] help. The first one on the code was changed by François at my request to 11 am instead of 9 on Saturday so as not to conflict with a round table & a RISM meeting starting then. I demonstrated the code and recent improvements with the aid of slides (made for Dallas) distributing French + German translations (Xeroxed by Elvood’s friend). The interest was very high & it was the best attended business meeting of the congress since other meetings stopped in time for those who wished to attend it.
The Round Table on Automation in Music Documentation was, according to François, the hit of the Congress. (I had missed the 1st while preparing for Code mtg, no.s 3 & 4 were very dull). I spoke for 1 ¼ hours, showed a 10 min IBM film, then followed by a German ([Walter] Reckziegel), Dane (Nanna Schiødt in English) and a Swiss ([Raymond] Maylan in French). It went very well. The Tempo meeting in a cold Abbey [de Fontenay] during a guided tour after a large winery lunch was ill conceived from the beginning and was not a success as a whole. Six speakers! 4 French who mainly spoke too fast and too low to be heard, [Charles] Cudworth who spoke charmingly as usual in English and me who spoke extempore—from careful notes—in French and did very well.
After all the intense work & preparation there was much relief and less letdown than anticipated. As indicated, the after round tables were not good, except for Vincent Duckles who was excellent and except that I was constantly being greeted or asked questions.
The letter continues by informing Claire about his research in Paris, his daily activities, the invitation to Vincent Duckles to use their New York apartment on the way through New York, and asking her to send him $150 to Vienna by special delivery.
Although the production of RILM Abstracts has always heavily relied on computing technology, the computers of the 1960s and 1970s were not able to support the complexities of its multilingual and multicultural mission. Even the most powerful IBM mainframe System/370, used in the production of RILM Abstracts from 1970 to 1988, had limited possibilities for rendering different fonts, writing systems, and diacritical signs. For RILM, displaying names and terms in their most accurate representations—including rendering them in their original writing systems—was an imperative since its inception in 1967.
RILM’s Soviet national committee, headed in the 1960s and 1970s by Grigorij Mihajlovič Šneerson (1901–82) and Ûrij Vsevolodovič Keldyš (1907–95), was prolific, contributing a large number of records for publications issued in the Russian language. As the S/370 was unable to render their authors and titles in Russian Cyrillic, early RILM editors used another, much simpler IBM machine: the Selectric typewriter. The Selectric’s changeable typeball made possible it to render different fonts and scripts. For RILM editors it was like an automated transliteration machine, since its typeball with Cyrillic letters enabled printing Russian texts by typing on a standard roman-letter keyboard.
IBM introduced the Selectric typewriter on 31 July 1961, 60 years ago today!
From the time of his earliest proposal for creating RILM, Barry S. Brook (above) had a vision that “scholars working on specific research projects will eventually be able to request a bibliographic search by the computer of its stored information and to receive an automatically printed-out reply.”
RILM was too small to implement this task alone, so in 1979—long before the Internet was commercialized in the 1990s—it made an agreement with Lockheed Research Laboratory in Palo Alto, a division of Lockheed Missiles and Space Company, for the distribution of its data through the telephone lines.
In August 1979, the first month when RILM was available on the Lockheed platform, the database was searched 176 times by 24 users, earning $84.94 (see inset; click to enlarge).
Today, on the 40th anniversary of its Lockheed connection, RILM’s databases are searched online 16.5 million times per month.
The reviewer, Raymond Ericson, noted that the volume “looks, hopefully, like the first permanent attempt to describe regularly what is being written about in the world’s significant literature on music” and that it “obviously fills a great need in musicological circles.” He also included summaries of six of the volume’s 497 entries.
Below, something else that happened a couple of days later.
Before RILM set up online forms for sending us citations and abstracts, all submissions were made by writing or typing on forms like the one pictured above. We had forms in all necessary languages, color-coded for sorting. As was the case with most manual typewriters, corrections and diacritics all had to be added by hand. After we received completed forms, everything had to be retyped into the database (and, for non-English titles and abstracts, translated into English) at the International Center.
Over the years, countless volunteers have made such contributions to RILM, including some very distinguished figures in musicology and ethnomusicology. The example above was submitted by the preeminent Spanish musicologist José López-Calo (b.1922) for the retrospective project undertaken by RILM’s founder Barry S. Brook in the 1970s—a project that finally reached fruition with the publication of Speaking of Music: Music conferences, 1835–1966 in 2004.
When we commenced work on our Festschriften retrospective project (the first volume, Liber amicorum, was recently published) we began with what was then the gold-standard reference work, Walter Gerboth’s An index to musical Festschriften and similar publications.
The Head Librarian of the Brooklyn College music library that now bears his name, Gerboth amassed a large collection of music Festschriften during the compilation of his book, and he bequeathed this collection to the library; Marguerite Iskenderian, a Music Cataloguer there, kindly shared these books with us so we could write abstracts for the essays therein. She also shared with us his collected notes—his Nachlaß—which he had also left to the library.
Like any good librarian of his time, Gerboth kept obsolete catalogue cards for scratch paper; his notes are all on the back of such cards, some neatly typed, some hastily handwritten. Most of these notes were citations for music-related articles in Festschriften with nonmusical dedicatees, articles that he had discovered in bibliographies or other sources; many were noted after his book had gone to press, for inclusion in a second edition that never materialized.
Among these cards were notes from his friends and associates with further citations or suggestions. One of the latter, reproduced below, includes the question “Who he?”—a humorous catch-phrase from a bygone era, perhaps originating in an old radio comedy.
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