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Electronic Journals and the Future of Scholarly Communication

From: Notes
Volume 58, Number 1, September 2001
pp. 34-38 | 10.1353/not.2001.0170

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Notes 58.1 (2001) 34-38

The Journal of Seventeenth-Century Music is not found on any bookshelf, but only on the World Wide Web. I predict that in the year 2030, it will still be publishing on the Web, or whatever its cyberspace successor might be, and will have reached its volume thirty-six. And I further predict that by that year every music journal will be published electronically, and that few of them, if any, will be printing on paper.

Here in the year 2000, I stand exactly halfway between that seemingly distant date, 2030, and the year in which I received my Ph.D. degree, 1970. I began subscribing to the Journal of the American Musicological Society as a graduate student in 1968, the year that the American Musicological Society held its annual meeting in New Haven. My bookshelf is now sagging beneath the weight of all those issues of JAMS, most of which I confess I have not read from cover to cover, except for those few years when I served on the editorial board. My overcrowded study represents a tiny fraction of the problem most libraries face in trying to find space for all those books and journals, and weighing their subscription lists carefully as the prices continue to rise.

But apart from that, if every music journal were starting fresh today, without any past history, why would anyone want to publish a music journal on paper, which can offer musical sounds only to those readers who can conjure them up in their imaginations from printed music examples? Paper is wonderful for holding and reading text, and a printed music example can often convey an analytical point more quickly than ten hearings. I myself print out nearly everything from the Web that I want to read. But paper cannot sing!

Most of the members of the Society for Seventeenth-Century Music did not see it that way in 1994, however, when they authorized their publication committee to produce a prototype electronic journal. We were then a very new society, only two years old, and we wanted to have a journal in order to establish our identity and support our community of scholarly interests. When we began to explore this issue in 1993, virtually everyone automatically assumed that a journal meant a printed journal. This was the avenue that we first investigated, and it was only when we had learned that our membership was too small to support a printed journal without exorbitant cost that the society agreed to consider the electronic route. Most of us had not even heard of the Web in 1994.

Three enthusiasts worked together on that prototype issue: John Howard, who had put RISM (Répertoire international des sources musicales) onto the Web; Robert Judd, who was then managing Music Theory Online; and I. With their greater technological knowledge, the division of labor was clear: I would edit the articles, as in a print journal; Bob would mark up the text using hypertext markup language (HTML); and John would publish it on the Web via the RISM server at Harvard. I still remember the exhilaration of showing off that first issue in the exhibition hall of the 1995 American Musicological Society meeting as "the journal that sings." John had rented a laptop computer on which we demonstrated Sally Sanford's audio examples for her article comparing French and Italian singing in the seventeenth century. The members of the Society for Seventeenth-Century Music adopted the Journal of Seventeenth-Century Music as their official journal at that meeting, and now we have reached volume six, number one, our first special issue devoted to a single topic, the patronage of sacred music in seventeenth-century Italy. Jeffrey Kurtzman served as guest editor, and it contains articles by Noel O'Regan, Edmond Strainchamps, and Kimberlyn Montford, with responses by Robert R. Holzer, Susan Parisi, and Robert Kendrick, respectively.

There are many other electronic journals. I am told that the Yale University Library has some 7,600 titles on its master list of electronic journals and databases. But many, if not most, of these journals, particularly in the sciences, exist in both electronic and printed...



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