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Classical Music Research Guide: Key Sources

Where to start

These are the standard starting places for research or reference.

Oxford Music Online (Including Grove Music Online)
The primary English-language reference source for music, with over 47,000 articles.  Contains these sources:

  • New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2d ed. (MM-REF ML100 .N48 2001)
  • New Grove Dictionary of Dictionary of Opera (MM-REF ML106 .N5 O6 1992)
  • New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, 2d ed. (MM-REF ML103 .J3 N48 2002)
  • Grove Dictionary of American Music, 2d ed.
  • Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments, 2d ed..

Search tips:  Truncation symbol: *.   Wildcards: ? for 1 character; * for 1 or more characters (c*t finds cat, cut, carat, clout, count . . . )

Take advantage of the bibliography at the end of most articles.

Harvard Dictionary of Music, 4th ed.  Don Michael Randel, ed.  Cambridge, MA:  Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2003.
An authoritative source for definitions and concise articles on musical topics and terms. No articles on people. Online access is through Credo Reference Library. Print version: Musicmedia REF ML100 .H37 2003.

Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, Centennial ed. 6 vols. Nicolas Slonimsky, ed. emeritus. New York: Schirmer Books, 2001.
Recognized as the standard biographical dictionary in English, Baker's covers groups as well as individuals. Articles are usually more concise than those in Grove's. Of special interest are the indexes by nationality and genre (actually by historical period for people in art music) and the index listing women composers and musicians.
Print version (comprehensive):  Musicmedia Reference ML105 .B16 2001.
Online version (partial coverage): Gale Biography in Context—contains most of the articles but inexplicably lacks some important ones.   Contains none of  the bibliographies and work-lists that the print version incorporates in the biographies.

Necrology. Site maintained at Gaylord Music Library, Washington University.
Provides names and death dates of people in the world of music who have died since sometime in the 1980s.  Gives citations to death announcements and obituaries.  A very valuable resource with a wide scope—many lesser-know individuals are included.  Editors state that they attempt to update the site daily.

Also try

Oxford Bibliographies Online.  Music.
Guide to scholarly literature. 
Contains over 100 articles on topics and individuals, with extremely useful bibliographies of recommended resources.  Important tips:  To check for a music article, use the blue A-Z keys or type your term in the "Jump to" box just below the alphabet.   The search box at the top is for searching all bibliographies in every discipline.  Advanced search lets you select other Oxford Bibliographies modules for cross-searching with music.

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