Basic Music Reference
Music isn’t about something, it is …perhaps it is this quality that is responsible for the sea of ambiguity encountered by those who search for musical works.
Librarians must establish two critical factors when handling requests:
- The desired format of the work
- The verified title of the work
Music Formats- Would you like a score or recording, or a DVD?
Musical works are expressed in a variety of formats.
- Recordings-CDs, DVDs, videos, LPs (vinyl), etc.
See Audio Formats Handout for more information.
- Scores-full, choral, miniature, score and parts, parts, close score, piano reduction, sheet music, fakebook, guitar tablature, etc.
See Print Formats Handout for more information.
Room for ambiguity here…use that reference interview to clarify that you and your user are talking about the same type of score!
→ ACTIVITY: Identify various score formats.
Verify Title- What is the official name of the work you’d like?
Sometimes simple, often a real hunt! People often have an incorrect or incomplete answer to this question. Some suggestions and searching techniques are listed below for three common music disciplines.
Popular Music-songs, etc.
- incomplete, inaccurate titles
- part of a larger work
- part of an anthology
- different languages
- inadequate cataloging
See Popular Music Handout for more information.
Many internet lyric sites have been shut down
Sample Search-“How to remember the kind of September?”
Using Allmusic.com,Google, Google+.edu, WorldCat, OPAC.
- variety of tools needed to verify titles
- part of larger work
- works in different languages
- part of an anthology
- many manisfestations of individual works
Singular and Plural Search Terms-
Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) use the singular of words to denote the treatment of the word as a subject and the plural of the same word to denote individual examples of that subject. When searching under the term Opera you will find books and other materials dealing with the subject of opera. Under the term Operas, you will find individual operas (full scores, vocal scores, recordings, DVDs, etc.).
From Using the Library of Congress Subject Headings a web page of the Arthur Friedman Library at the Peabody Institute. See above link for more information on use of LCSH for searching music.
General use of LCSH (adaptable to other terms):
- For general music histories: MUSIC-HISTORY AND CRITICISM
- For music histories of specific periods: MUSIC-17TH CENTURY-HISTORY AND CRITICISM
- For music histories of specific countries and/or specific periods:
MUSIC-FRANCE-PARIS-19TH CENTURY- HISTORY AND CRITICISM
as a subject if you want information about them, and as an author if you want to find their musical (or other) works.
Search by the most specific information you have such as a distinctive title, opus number, or key.
Use thematic catalogues-
These include incipits and are among the most important and unique tools available to music researchers. Useful for solving problems associated with scores or recordings.
A type of generic title, big time organizer for music materials, as it gathers all manifestations of the same work together under one formulated title. What a disambiguating tool!
Example— Mozart Clarinet Concerto. Below is a sampling of the many manifestations we have, illustrating the variation found in titles of music items:
- Concerto in A major for clarinet and orchestra, K. 622
- Concerto for clarinet & orchestra in A major
- Clarinet concerto, K. 622
- Clarinet concerto KV 622
- Concerto, A major : for clarinet and orchestra. Köchel no. 622
- Konzert für Klarinette und Orchester KV 622
- Basset clarinet concerto in A
The Uniform Title is Concertos, clarinet, orchestra, K622, A major
Arrangements of works have separate Uniform Titles. They are distinguished by adding “arr” to the end:
- Concertos, clarinet, orchestra, K622, A major, arr
From Michelle Koth’s publication, Uniform Titles in Music:
The Uniform Title may be thought of as “the form of a title that has been placed under authority control” or “uniform work identifier”. The concept of identifying “a particular work” is important, because a Uniform Title is the unique title consistently assigned to all manifestations of a particular work.
A Music Uniform Title
- Brings together under a heading for a composer all variant manifestations (printed music, sound recordings, arrs, translations, etc) of a work under a title unique to that work.
- Distinguishes between different works with similar or identical titles.
- Identifies a work when the title by which the work is commonly known differs from the title given on the item containing the work.
Uniform Titles aren’t necessary, but due to publishing vagaries in musical works, are considered to be necessary.
There are three kinds of Uniform Titles: Form, Distinctive, and Collective.
- Form- Uniform Titles are generally required for all types of compositions: forms (concerto, symphony, trio sonata); genres (capriccio, intermezzo); commonly used terms (piece, movement); and chamber music combinations (trio, etc.) These are generic and are given in the plural, unless the composer has only written one work of that type.
Beethoven, Ludwig van, 1770-1827
Sonatas, piano, no. 29, op. 106, Bb major
Piano sonatas in B flat, op. 106 (Hammerklavier) & in C minor, op. 111 [sound recording] / Beethoven
Debussy, Claude, 1862-1918
Quartet, strings, op. 10, G minor
String quartet for 2 violins, viola and violoncello / Claude Debussy
- Distinctive- Works that include more than the above information in the title are considered distinctive. Uniform Titles in the original language are preferred, although not necessarily in the same alphabet.
Stravinsky, Igor, 1882-1971
Zhar-ptitsa. Suite (1919)
Firebird suite = (Suite de l’Oiseau de feu) / I.F. Stravinskii
Piston, Walter, 1894-1976
Incredible flutist. Suite
Suite from the ballet “The incredible flutist” / Walter Piston
Schubert, Franz, 1797-1828
Symphonies, D. 759, B minor
Symphony no. 8 in B minor, Unfinished / Franz Schubert
A piece that has become popularly known under an apparent distinctive title is not treated as distinctive, unless the composer has supplied that title.
- Collective- Collections of complete or partial works of a composer are identified by collective Uniform Titles, that describe the extent of the at collection.
Brahms, Johannes, 1833-1897
Neue Ausgabe sämtlicher Werke / Johannes Brahms ;
Brahms, Johannes, 1833-1897
Four Brahms symphonies [sound recording]
For more information, see
Uniform Titles, Form Headings and Subject Headings
→ Activity: Using provided titles, search the OPAC to find the Uniform Title. Then use this to discover other manifestations of the same work.
An ambiguous term, origins in marketing. World music may include folk, ethnomusicology, indigenous, fusion, rural, oral traditions, regional music of the United States, etc.
- People change the names they call themselves
- Cultural groups don’t follow national boundaries.
- “Popular” vs. “Traditional” musics-categorization in the eye of the scholar, user.
- Many works are orally transmitted, without print notation
See World Music Handout for some searching and resource tips.
A Few Useful Resources-
- The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, edited by Sadie (2001). Print, 29 volumes.
Actually an encyclopedia, this is the most comprehensive scholarly source in English for music. Contains comprehensive articles about composers, with complete works lists and extensive biographies. Articles about musical genre, terms, instruments, and non-western musics as well.
- Grove Music Online (expanded version of the print version)
25 million words, hundreds of carefully selected and classified links to musical sites – Grove is an essential companion and tool for scholars of classical, world, and contemporary music and musicians. Other articles, from specialist dictionaries such as The New Grove Dictionary of Opera and The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, second edition, are available via a link from the primary article. Articles from the forthcoming second edition of the Grove Dictionary of American Music have been added, as well. Grove is included in the Oxford Music Online resource.
- The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music, advisory editors, Nettl and Stone (1998-2002). (available online as well)
Each volume treats a different region of the world in several articles per volume. A sound CD accompanies each volume. The final volume includes a bibliography, discography, and filmography for each region treated by the preceeding volumes, as well as a glossary covering all volumes. Not arranged alphabetically, instead, each volume consists of three parts:
- Part I: An intro to the region, its culture, and its music, as well as survey of previous music scholarship and research.
- Part II: Major issues and processes that link the musics of the regions
- Part III: Detailed accounts of individual music cultures.
The only printed source of its kind!
All genres and styles of music are covered here, ranging from the most commercially popular to the most obscure. Critiques albums and artists within the context of their own genres – from opera to garage rock to traditional country. Details including styles, moods, years active, instruments, birth/death date/place, country of origin. Also illuminates major influencers and followers, similar artists, top artists, and top albums. It does crash sometimes, particularly on IE, but it’s free, of course.
- Instrumentation Search
This tool, developed by and borrowed from intrepid music librarians, enables a search in our OPAC for compositions containing particular instruments, e.g., everything we have that involves 1 flute and 1 clarinet, both scores and recordings. Try it!
→ ACTIVITY: Let’s try some reference interviews!
Building a music collection-
Use the handouts available throughout this text for some hints.
You’ll be collecting 3 types of materials: books and journals; recordings, and manuscript music (notes). These will be available in many formats, both physical and digital.
What you collect is based on your institutional mission, interests of the population you serve. Many institutions have established Collection Development policies.
Knowing which vendor to use; knowing what format (score editions/formats, sound/video recordings) to buy…
Excellent information for building a music collection is contained in R. Michael Fling’s
book, Guide to Developing a Library Music Collection.
Keeping Current with Scores:
Use notification and approval services
Reviews of scores play a small role. They come out slowly, often long after publication.
Selective and Annotated Guides
Search through Library of Congress Classification ML128—under which are classed music bibliographies by topic, A-Z for every imaginable instrument, accordion to zither.
Standard Guide is MLA’s A Basic Music Library: Essential Scores and Sound Recordings Up to Mid 1990’s.
- Buying guide for librarians responsible for collecting music materials. More than 3,000 scores, with asterisks indicating titles suitable for various collection sizes. Many editions still in print, although prices aren’t up to date.
- New edition coming out soon!
There is no books in print equivalent for scores and recordings!
Keeping Current with Recordings:
Online music stores can have pretty extensive lists.
Allmusic.com, not a store itself, but its music information guides provide internal buy links.
Selectors may be more interested in keeping up with new items rather than the totality. See Fling for lists of resources. Some resources:
Notification and Approval Services
Reviews- Unlike reviews of printed music there are many reviews of recorded music. Pop music is reviewed less than classical music. Those with small budgets and limited time could do with one of the first two resources below. Other resources follow.
- American Record Guide
- Fanfare-magazine for Serious Record Collectors..Articles, interviews, label profiles, music news, etc.
- Allmusic.com reviews all genres
- CD Hotlist features monthly recommendation lists, for librarians by librarians. Covers classical, country/folk, jazz, rock/pop, world/ethnic.
- For more specific, niche recordings, you can find reviews in journals dedicated to narrow topics: The Clarinet, Early Music America-these will include reviews that more general sources will miss.
- Billboard- is a weekly that contains “Charts”: lists of songs or records rated by popularity (based on recording sales, radio airplay). Billboard has 20 charts of various musical genres . Many libraries have this. The website has truncated chart lists-only the top 10, or so, sellers are listed. The Music Library Services Company provides a link to Billboard at their website.
Audio Streaming Services
Many libraries use these services. They incorporate custom playlists and static URLS. Subscriptions are typically based on size of institutions and number of simultaneous users.
Pro-These subscriptions reduce libraries’ selection costs, and save time in acquisition, cataloging, and physical processing. They present materials 24/7 in the digital format so many users prefer.
Con-Collection development is effectively performed by the vendor, not the library.
Will everyone have the same collection?
- Alexander Street Press-Music Online provides many products providing recordings, scores, reference and video materials. Sound products include Smithsonian Global Sound, Jazz Music Library, Classical Music Library, Contemporary World Music, and American Song.
- Naxos Music Library offering over 550,000 tracks of Classical music, Jazz, World, Folk and Chinese music.
- Database of Recorded American Music DRAM’s collection contains nearly 2,300 albums worth of recordings from a distinctive set of 15 independent labels. The basis for the current collection is the diverse catalogue of American music recordings by New World Records which encompasses folk to opera, Native American to jazz, 19th century classical to early rock, musical theater, contemporary, electronic and beyond.
Death of the CD?? Take a look at D.J. Hoek’s article about the future of recordings.
Keeping Current with World Music:
Look for the upcoming edition of MLA’s A Basic Music Library: Essential Scores and Sound Recordings. This will be an excellent resource.
- Barnes and Noble
- CD Baby
- CD Universe
- eBay (used, out-of-print)
- Tower Records
Acquisitions Gateway Services:
Internet Collection and Acquisition Resources (Lilly Music Library, Indiana University, Fling):
Ethnomusicology LibGuide (University of Washington Libraries, Gibbs)
EVIA Digital Archive-Ethnographic Video for Instruction and Analysis-Collections in the EVIA Digital Archive Project represent a diverse range of performance traditions from around the world.
Music Selection Resources on the WWW (King County, Seaberg)
AND MANY MORE….
→ ACTIVITY: Copyright Handout-Looking at different circumstances.
Copyright for Music Librarians Music Library Association’s pages on copyright issues as they relate specifically to music.
What all this stuff teaches us:
- Searching for music presents us with ambiguous circumstances!
- The need to verify format! AND verify title!
- Identify the most common forms of music materials.
- Learn to use the tools that help in finding songs and instrumental music.
- To recognize the challenges in finding World Music
- To develop useful questions for the music reference interview. What format do you want? What musical style is the piece? Who wrote it? etc.
Oh, one more thing……
It’s important to keep in mind that, in spite of the peculiarly challenging circumstances presented by the organization of its discovery and retrieval, the musical work can stun us with its expressive wealth.
So, enjoy HueTunes, an experimental sound “catalog” developed by librarians at Bowling Green State University. Based on evidence that people are overwhelmingly visually-oriented learners (80%) as opposed to text-based learners (20%), this tool explores the phenomenon of color synaesthesia as an organizational principle.
How this works:
- User enters basic demographic information
- Listens to a track that is randomly served from the database-mix of genres
- Tags the track by the color that strikes the listener as most appropriate
- Repeat if desired
- Click “Done”, view titles of tracks heard and feedback provided by other users
Below are other useful handouts, links, and publications which may aid research and collection development:
Koth, Michelle. Uniform Titles for Music. Lanham, Maryland: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2008.
Fling, R. Michael. Guide to Developing a Library Music Collection. Chicago: American Library Association, 2008.
This presentation is partially constructed from ideas presented at the Music Library Association’s Music Reference Train the Trainer Workshop, of February, 2007. Many of the concepts and materials provided are the work of Jeanette Casey, Head of the Mills Music Library at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.