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Basic Reference Sources

Sources such as encyclopedias, dictionaries, and handbooks are good starting points for obtaining basic information about issues, events, and concepts in the field of music.

The first stop for musical reference, the database contains the full text of The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, and The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, as well as selected articles from The Grove Dictionary of American Music, 2d ed. The database is updated annually.

American Musical Traditions
Main Library Reference ML 3551 .A53 2002
Published in association with the Smithsonian Folkways Archives, this five-volume set addresses the contributions of various immigrant and ethnic groups to the heritage of American music. Different groups or genres of music are examined in terms of how they are performed.
  • Volume 1: Native American Music
  • Volume 2: African-American Music
  • Volume 3: British Isles Music
  • Volume 4: European American Music
  • Volume 5: Latino and Asian-American Music
The Definitive Kobbé's Opera Book
Main Library General Collection MT 95.K52 1987
The most complete general opera guide, discussing the development of opera, and giving detailed plots of more than 320 operas, with brief notes on composers, illustrative musical phrases, and date of first performance.

Encyclopedia of American Gospel Music
Main Library General Collection ML 102 .G6 E63 2005
Covers all aspects of both African American and white gospel from history and performers to recording techniques and styles, as well as the influence of gospel on different musical genres and cultural trends. Bibliography appended to most entries; analytical index.

The Encyclopedia of Country Music: The Ultimate Guide to the Music
Main Library Reference ML 102 .C7 E54 1998
Contains nearly 1,300 alphabetical entries on performers, songwriters, record companies, influential radio and television programs, industry leaders, and prominent place names in country music. Ten longer essays probe the historical, cultural, religious, artistic, and financial forces shaping country music. Twelve appendixes provide lists of country's all-time best-selling albums, country music stations nationwide, and country music awards.

The Encyclopedia of Popular Music, 4th ed.
Main Library Reference ML 102 .P66 G84 2006
Contains over 27,000 entries covering popular music of all genres and periods from 1900 to the present day, including jazz, country, folk, rap, reggae, rock, techno, musicals, and world music, as well as articles on popular music genres, trends, styles, record labels, venues, and music festivals. Volume 9 contains annotated descriptions of selected albums and a bibliography of artists and topics. Volume 10 is the index to the set.

Encyclopedia of the Musical Theatre
Main Library Reference ML 102 .M88 G3 2001
A compilation of over 2,000 entries on people and plays of the musical stage, mostly from France, Austria, Britain, United States, Hungary, and Australia.

Garland Encyclopedia of World Music
Main Library Reference ML 100 .G16 1998
A nine-volume set with accompanying compact discs (located at Main Library Media Desk, 3d Floor). Each volume covers a large geographic area and is organized into three parts: an overview of the region, issues and processes, and regional case studies. Each chapter has an extensive list of references.
  • Volume 1: Africa
  • Volume 2: South America, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean
  • Volume 3: The United States and Canada
  • Volume 4: Southeast Asia
  • Volume 5: South Asia: The Indian Subcontinent
  • Volume 6: The Middle East
  • Volume 7: East Asia: China, Japan, and Korea
  • Volume 8: Europe
  • Volume 9: Australia and the Pacific Islands
  • Volume 10: The World's Music: General Perspectives and Reference Tools
The Grove Dictionary of American Music, 2d ed.
Main Library Reference ML 101 .U6 N48 2013
Considered the principal reference work on American music, with concise articles summarizing works for lesser known persons, and broad, illustrated pieces with works lists and lengthy bibliographies for well-known persons. Detailed coverage of popular styles and genres, including sketches of important popular groups. Numerous descriptions of uniquely American musical instruments. Historical sketches of musical publishers.

Musical Instruments of the World: An Illustrated Encyclopedia
Main Library Reference ML 102 .I5 D5 1976
Contains over 4,000 drawings of instruments of every type categorized according to the way in which the instruments' sound is produced (e.g., aerophones, idiophones). Three sections are visual subject indexes: geographical areas, time periods, and instrumental ensembles. Indexed.

Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart; allgemeine Enzyklopädie der Musik
Main Library Reference ML 100 .M92
Commonly known as "MGG." A 14-volume scholarly work, comprehensive and international in scope, encompassing about 300,000 names and terms. Extensive bibliographical notes.

The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz
Main Library Reference ML 102 .J3 N48
The first scholarly encyclopedia on jazz including "a comprehensive treatment of terminology and theory, articles on musical instruments, record labels, festivals, venues, films, institutions, individuals who are not performers, ensembles and also an extensive bibliography" as well as articles on individual performers, ensembles, and styles of jazz. The focus is on jazz and not on related popular and commercial music. This work carries over entries from the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians and the New Grove Dictionary of American Music as well as information published for the first time. The full text is available in Oxford Music Online (above).

The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians
Main Library Reference ML 100 .N48 2001
The premier encyclopedia of music and musicians, with articles written by scholars on composers, performers, theorists, music publishers, instruments, musical terminology, musical forms and styles, genres, world music and more. Many articles include bibliographies for further reading. Entries for composers varies from era to era: for example, all known Medieval composers are included, while Renaissance composers are included only if five or more works survive or if a substantial number of works survive in manuscript. Performers are included only if they were involved with the first performance of a major work or if they had an influence on a composers style or work. Others are included even more selectively. The full text is available in Oxford Music Online (above).

The New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments
Main Library Reference ML 102 .I5 N48
Articles on historical and modern musical instruments, their makers and performance practices, many derived (but extensively re-written) from articles in the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Extensive coverage of folk and ethnic instruments by scholars expert in the regions in which the instruments are located. Extensive cross references linking articles and terms to one another make up for the lack of an index by culture or region. Copiously illustrated. Bibliographies. Complemented by Musical Instruments of the World: An Illustrated Encyclopedia (above).

The New Grove Dictionary of Opera
Main Library Reference ML 102 .O6 N5 1992
Over 1,800 operas are discussed. Other topics covered are composers, singers, directors, opera terminology, opera houses and companies, etc. The full text is available in Oxford Music Online (above).

New Harvard Dictionary of Music
Online version (2003 ed.)
Main Library Reference ML100 .N485 1986
A standard resource for definitions of music terminology and other topics, it includes information on musical periods, instruments, musical forms. Many entries are lengthy and include bibliographies.

The New Oxford History of Music
Main Library General Collection ML 160 .N44
A survey of music from earliest times to the present, written by authorities in the field.
  • Volume 1: Ancient and Oriental Music
  • Volume 2: Early Medieval Music up to 1300
  • Volume 3: Ars Nova and the Renaissance (1300-1540)
  • Volume 4: Age of Humanism (1540-1630)
  • Volume 5: Opera and Church Music (1630-1750)
  • Volume 6: Growth of Instrumental Music (1630-1750)
  • Volume 7: Age of Enlightenment (1745-1790)
  • Volume 8: Age of Beethoven (1790-1830)
  • Volume 9: Romanticism (1830-1890)
  • Volume 10: Modern Age (1890-1960)
  • Volume 11: Chronological Tables and General Index
The Oxford Companion to Music
Main Library Reference ML 100 .S37 2002
More than 8,000 entries on composers, performers, conductors, individual works, instruments and notation, forms and genres, music theory, and aesthetics.

The Oxford Encyclopaedia of the Music of India
Main Library Reference ML 101 .I47 O94 2011
Contains over 5,000 entries on classical, folk, film, and other forms of music, as well as details of all forms of dance, raga, tala, gharana, treatises, technical terms, and instruments. Also includes short biographies of vocalists, musicologists, saint poets, gurus, composers, and instrumentalists.

Publisher's description: "[The Handbooks] in music bring together the world's leading scholars to discuss the latest thinking in a range of major topics in music. Containing specially-commissioned essays with extensive referencing to further reading, the handbooks offer both thorough introductions to topics in the discipline, and a useful reference resource for scholars and advanced students." Includes articles on such topics as "Audiences and Critics," "Chromaticism and the Question of Tonality," and "The Young Singer."

Click on the "Subject" tab, then choose "Music." Contains over 115,000 entries from reference works published by Oxford University Press, including: A Dictionary of Opera Characters (2d ed.), The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (4th ed.), The Grove Dictionary of American Music (2d ed.), The Oxford Companion to the American Musical, The Oxford Dictionary of Music (6th ed.), and The Oxford Encyclopaedia of the Music of India.
"This dictionary was prepared primarily for use by personnel in WOI Radio at Iowa State University as a computerized database for printing 'pronouncers' to be pasted alongside the words to be pronounced on the printed material accompanying sound recordings.... Although incomplete and imperfect, the dictionary has been found useful in WOI and is being made freely available to others who may find it of value" (preface).