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Music: Background/Reference Sources 

The purpose of gathering background information is to help you understand your topic in more depth, or perhaps think about a different view or a subtopic that you had not previously considered.

Reference Books | Electronic Reference Resources

Using reference sources in the library's Reference Collection can be very useful.

After looking at the titles that follow, you can use the reference collection to help you locate additional information on your topic in the circulating collection, or you can note the call number of a Reference book that is useful for your topic, for example The Musician's Business and Legal Guide (REF ML 3790 .M84 1991). Drop the REF and use the initial letters and numbers as a guide to finding similar material that circulates. If you wanted to find circulating books similar to The Musician's Business and Legal Guide, you would go to the second floor and browse the ML 3790 section.

Subject Specific Reference Books

Encyclopedias | Biographies | Bibliographies | Chronologies | Criticism | Dictionaries | Directories  Discographies | Instruments | Jazz | Music Business | Musical Theatre | Opera | Popular Music | Songs | Translations


Encyclopedia of Popular Music (10 vols.)
REF. ML 102 .P66 G84 2006; also Online
Focuses on all types of popular music from 1900 to present, including jazz, country, folk, rap, reggae, techno, musicals, and world music.
Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart
REF. ML 100 .B68
Comprehensive music source, written in German.
New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians 2nd edition (28 vols.)
REF. ML 100 .N48 2001; also Online
The standard, authoritative music encyclopedia. Articles are written by experts in the field with the primary emphasis on classical music.
New Grove Dictionary of American Music (4 vols.)
REF. ML 101 .U6 N48
Articles and topics specific to American music.
New Grove Dictionary of Jazz (2 vols)
REF. ML 102 .J3 N48; also Online
The largest jazz dictionary, includes styles, performers, etc. on an international scope.
New Grove Dictionary of Opera (4 vols)
REF. ML 102 .O6 N5; also Online
In the manner of the other Grove volumes, with a focus on topics related to opera.
New Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music (4 vols.)
REF. ML 102 .P66 G84 1995
Individual artists and groups, styles, periods and discographies are included for all forms of popular music.

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ASCAP Biographical Dictionary
REF. ML 106 .U3 A5 1980
Composers, authors, publishers: brief biographical info, lists of works.
Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians
REF. ML 105 .B16 1991; or Online: v.1, v.2, v.3, v.4, v.5, v.6.

A Concise Biographical Dictionary of Singers
REF. ML 400 .K9813 1969
Noted singers since the development of recorded sound through apx. 1960s.
A Dictionary of Early Music
REF. ML 100 .R695
Brief biographical and term entries.
Great Composers, 1300-1900
REF. ML105 .E94
Includes both biographical and critical information.
Harvard Biographical Dictionary of Music
REF. ML 105 .H38 1996

Latin American Classical Composers
REF. ML 105 .F53 2002

Musical AKAs: Assumed Names and Sobriquets of Composers, Songwriters, Librettists, Lyricists, Hymnists, and Writers on Music
REF. ML 105 .D76 2007
"An index to more than 15,500 assumed names and sobriquets of approximately 9,800 music composers, songwriters, lyricists, librettists, hymnists, and writers."
American Composers: A Biographical Dictionary
REF. ML 390 .E815

Composers in America
REF. ML 390 .R38
Composers of late 19th, early 20th century.
Musical Americans: a biographical dictionary, 1918-1926
REF. ML 106 .U3 M87 1997
Compilation of biographies appearing in Musical America from 1918-1926.
Popular American Composers From Revolutionary Times to Present
REF. ML 390 .E845 (and supplement)
Revolutionary times to 1960, includes chronological list of composers and index of songs and other compositions.
Women and Music in America Since 1900: an Encyclopedia
REF. ML 82 .W625 2002
Covers the women who have made a significant contribution (in all roles) to music in the United States since 1900.
Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz
REF. ML 102 .J3 F39 1999
Includes artists currently actively performing and those born in the nineteenth century.
Encyclopedia of Jazz in the Sixties
REF. ML 105 .F35
Biographical sketches of artists from the 1960s.
Encyclopedia of Jazz in the Seventies
REF. ML 105 .F36
Biographical sketches of artists from the 1970s.
Popular Musicians
REF. ML 105 .P66 1999
Information about popular U.S. artists since the late 1950s. Includes rock, pop, rap, country, soul, blues, disco and folk music.
They're Playing Our Song
ML 385 .W436 1986
Interviews, personal reminiscences of composers, lyricists of musical theatre.
Who's Who of Jazz: Storyville to Swing Street
REF. ML 106 .U3 C5
Brief biographical entries of apx. 1000 musicians and vocalists born prior to 1920.
Twentieth Century/Contemporary
Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Twentieth-Century Musicians
REF. ML 105 .S612 1997

Composers Since 1900
REF. ML 390 .E833 (and supplement)

Contemporary Canadian Composers
REF. ML 106 .C3 C66

Dictionary of Contemporary Music
REF. ML 100 .V55
Brief biographical and term/genre entries.
European Composers Today
REF. ML 390 .E834
Biographical, critical guide to those composing after 1900.
Musicians Since 1900: Performers in Concert and Opera
REF. ML 105 .E97
Biographical sketches of 432 concert and opera musicians.
Thames and Hudson Encyclopaedia of 20th-Century Music
REF. ML 100 .G85
Brief biographical and term entries.
Norton/Grove Dictionary of Women Composers
REF. ML 105 .N67
Women composers of achievement (not promise) born prior to 1955.
Women and Music in America Since 1900: an Encyclopedia
REF. ML 82 .W625 2002
Covers the women who have made a significant contribution (in all roles) to music in the United States since 1900.
Women Composers: A Handbook
REF. ML 105 .S7
Very brief information with reference to sources of more extensive information.

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The bibliographies listed below are general. There are many bibliographies for specific subject material, consult the I-Share Online Catalog or ask a Reference Librarian for assistance in locating them.
General Bibliography for Music Research
REF. ML 113 .M59 1996

Music Reference and Research Materials
REF. ML 113 .D83 1988


Hall's Musical Years, The Twentieth Century 1900-1979
REF. ML17 .M8 H3
Survey of fine arts events: births, deaths, publications, debuts.


Music Criticism: An Annotated Guide to the Literature
REF. ML 113 .D5

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Baker's Dictionary of Music
REF. ML 100 .S635 1997; or Online

A Dictionary of Early Music
REF. ML 100 .R695
Brief biographical and term entries.
A Dictionary of Middle English Musical Terms
REF. ML 108 .C3

Dictionary of Contemporary Music
REF. ML 100 .V55
Brief biographical and term/genre entries.
Dictionary of Musical Terms
REF. ML 108 .P57

Dictionary of Musical Terms in Four Languages
REF. ML 108 .S64 D5

Dictionary of Musical Titles: The Origins of the Names and Titles of 3,500 Musical Compositions
REF. ML 102 .T58 R66 2000
Origins of names and titles of compositions.
Handbook of Music Terms
REF. ML 108 .G844 H3

Harvard Concise Dictionary of Music
REF. ML 100 .R28

Oxford Dictionary of Music
REF. ML 100.K35; or Online 

Thames and Hudson Encyclopaedia of 20th-Century Music
REF. ML 100 .G85
Brief biographical and term entries.

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American Musical Directory, 1861
REF. ML 13.A4 1980
Info. about music in N.Y. area in late 19th century: musicians, makers, teachers, etc.
The Schirmer Guide to Schools of Music and Conservatories Throughout the World
REF. ML 12 .U8 1988
Directory listings of music schools/departments in the United States and world.

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Discographies for specific performers or areas of interest are also available. Locate these through the Online Catalog or ask a Reference Librarian for assistance.
A Basic Music Library: Essential Scores and Sound Recordings
REF. ML 113 .B3 1997
Listings of recommended scores and recordings by period and genre.
The Blackwell Guide to the Music Theatre on Record
REF. ML 156.9 .G36
Lists of recordings and brief reviews of them for early musicals and operettas through the 1980s.
Classical Music Recordings: For Home and Library
REF. ML 111.5 H34
Lists of recommended works by composer and review sources.
The Complete Entertainment Discography: From 1897 to 1942
REF. ML 156.4 .P6 R68 1989
Lists by artists for commercial recordings from 1897-1942.
Recorded Classical Music: A Critical Guide to Compositions and Performance
REF. ML 156.9 .C63
Classical music recordings by genre and composer with brief commentary.


The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Musical Instruments
REF. ML 102 .I5 I5 1996
Includes standard and rare instruments, pictures and illustrations.
Musical Instruments
REF. ML 102 .I5 M37 1975
Brief descriptions, definitions.
Musical Instruments: History, Technology, and Performance of Instruments in Western Music
REF. ML 460 .C35 2004

The Percussionist's Dictionary
REF. ML 102 .P4 A3
Translations, descriptions, and photographs of percussion instruments from around the world.
The Piano: an Encyclopedia
REF. ML 102 .P5 E53 2003
Mid-length to long signed articles about the piano- its development, makers, music, etc. Includes pictures and bibliographies.
Scribner Guide to Orchestral Instruments
REF. ML 460 .S5
Brief descriptions and histories of instruments, some historical illustrations.
The Violin: a Research and Information Guide
REF. ML 128 .V4 K38 2006
"A comprehensive research guide to the violin...its makers, music, players, and performance practices."


Encyclopedia of Jazz in the Sixties
REF. ML 105 .F3
Biographical sketches of artists from the 1960s.
Encyclopedia of Jazz in the Seventies
REF. ML 105 .F36
Biographical sketches of artists from the 1970s.
The Guinness Jazz A - Z
REF. ML 102 .J3 C6

Harmony Illustrated Encyclopedia of Jazz
REF. ML102 .J3 C34 1987

Harmony Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock
REF. ML 102 .R6 C6 1986

Jazz The Essential Companion
REF. ML 102 .J3 C32

New Grove Dictionary of Jazz
REF. ML 102 .J3 M48; or Online

Music Business

For additional assistance in locating business materials and conducting business research visit the Business Resources page.
The Musician's Business and Legal Guide
REF. ML 3790 .M84 2001
A collection of articles by those in the music business addressing specific aspects of the topic.

Musical Theatre

American Musical Theatre Song Encyclopedia
REF. ML 102 .M88 H59 1995
By song title: includes authors, shows, song history and background.
American Song: The Complete Musical Theatre Companion
REF. ML 128 .M78 B6 1996
4,800 American musicals from 1900-1995. Includes composers, librettists, lyricists, cast, songs.
Blue Book of Broadway Musicals
REF. ML 200.5 .B88
Anthology of shows by decade, 1900-1952. Show titles, composer, lyricist, stars, list of songs in show.
Blue Book of Hollywood Musicals
REF. ML 128 .M7 B8
Chronology 1927-1952 of films: musicals, and various categories of films with songs. Summary of production companies, stars, directors, and lists of songs.
Broadway Musicals Show by Show
REF. ML 1711 .G735 2008
Shows from 1866-2008, includes cast, composer, lyricist, producer, songs, and commentary.
Broadway Sheet Music: A Comprehensive Listing of Published Music From Broadway and Other State Shows, 1918-1993
REF. ML 128 .M78 S78 1996
Listings of live musical stage productions with songs, showing composers, lyricists, publishers, dates, comments.
Complete Book of the American Musical Theater
REF. ML 1711 .E9
300 American musical productions (1866-1950s), includes plots, production history, stars, songs, composers, and writers.
Ganzl's Book of the Musical Theatre
REF. ML 95 .G2 1989
Synopsis of musicals with production information and character lists.
The Hollywood Musical
REF. ML 2075 .T4
Selected filmographies, indexes of names and songs.
Hollywood Musicals Year by Year
REF. PN 1995.9 .M86 G74 2010

Musicals! A Complete Selection Guide for Local Productions
REF. ML 19 .L9 1994
500 productions. Includes: title, date of production, playwright, composer, lyricist, plot summary, original cast, parts played, songs.
Musicals! A Directory of Musical Properties Available for Production
REF. ML 19 .L9
Alphabetical listing on musicals includes: publisher, anthologies, condensed versions, recordings, brief summary.
The Musicals No One Came To See
REF. ML 128 .M78 S5
Unsuccessful musicals from 1943-1983 originating in New York. Includes music producers stars, and references to reviews.
Musical Theater Synopses: an Index
REF. ML 128 .O4 D76 1998; or Online
Index to locating information about plot synopses.
Index to Opera, Operetta and Musical Comedy Synopses in Collections and Periodicals
REF. ML 128 .D4 D76; or Online

Show Tunes 1905-1985: The Songs, Shows and Careers of Broadway's Major Composers
REF. ML 390 .S983
Arranged by major composer with lists of shows including dates, number of performances, producer, director, published songs. Includes chronological listing of productions, song title index, people index, and show index.


Annals of Opera, 1597 - 1940
REF. ML 102 .O6 L6
Chronological listing of operas by dates of first performance: composer, original title, librettist, place and date.
A Companion to the Opera
REF. ML 102 .O6 M37 1977
Listing by year of "some famous operas"; alphabetical listing of composer, singers, librettists, and conductors; opera by country.
Concise Oxford Dictionary of Opera
REF. ML 102 .O6 R67 1979
Brief entries.
Crowell's Handbook of World Opera
REF. ML 102 .O6 M6
Numerous facts including opera synopsis, characters in opera, people in opera, first lines/titles of famous musical numbers, glossary of themes, recordings, chronology of opera.
Dictionary-Catalogue of Operas and Operettas
REF. ML 102 .O6 T8 1967
Listing of 28,015 operas giving composer, nationality, dates. Composer index with lists of operas, libretti and number of times set to music.
Guide to Operatic Roles & Arias
REF. ML 102 .O6 B650 1994
Guide to opera roles including dates, type, range, and language.
New Encyclopedia of Opera
REF. ML 102 .O6 E9 1971
Includes operas (story, characters, performance info., passages), composers, text incipits, plots, terms, singers, librettists.
The Metropolitan Opera Encyclopedia
REF. ML 102 .O6 M47
Alphabetical arrangement of operas, composers, singers, librettists, etc. Includes selected essays by specialists in the field, chronology of first performance 1594 - 1986, bibliography.
Index to Opera, Operetta and Musical Comedy Synopses in Collections and Periodicals
REF. ML 128 .D4 D76; or Online

Opera Plot Index
REF. ML 128 .O4 S8

Operas in One Act: A Production Guide
REF. MT 955 .S86 1997
Brief information about one act operas, including: duration, cast, instrumentation/accompaniment, scenes, style, setting, synopsis, production note, materials availability.
Simon & Schuster Book of the Opera
REF. ML 102 .O6 S5
Opera by year of first performance, includes synopsis, other info. about production.
Who's Who in Opera
REF. ML 102 .O6 B68 1998
Who's who of characters appearing in operas (not performers).
Who's Who in Opera
REF. ML 102 .O6 W5
An international biographical dictionary of singers, conductors, directors, designers, and administrators, including opera companies. Brief entries.

Popular Music

American Popular Music: A Reference Guide
REF. ML 102 .P66 B65
Background information and resources lists for study of various genres of American popular music.
Blues Who's Who
REF. ML 102 .B6 H3
Biographical dictionary blues singers.
Encyclopedia of Folk, Country & Western Music
REF. ML 102 .F66 S78 1983

Encyclopedia of Pop, Rock, and Soul
REF. ML 102 .P66 S8 1989
Mostly biographical entries of major performers/groups, some lengthy. Includes lists of Gold/Platinum Records 1958 - 1988, and Grammy and Oscar winners 1958 - 1987.
Encyclopedia of the Blues
REF. ML 102 .B6 H412 1997
Primarily biographical information with bibliographies, discographies, and artist listings by instrument.
Encyclopedia of the World Pop Music: 1980-2001
REF. ML 102 .P66 J44 2003
Entries about the music that appears on the pop charts of other countries. Most entries include links to artist/band websites.
Harmony Illustrated Encyclopedia of Country Music
REF. ML 102 .C7 D4 1987

Illustrated Encyclopedia of Black Music
REF. ML 105 .I39
Published 1982.
The Oxford Companion to Popular Music
REF. ML 102 .P65 G35
Entries for people, groups, styles, songs. Includes Indexes of People and Groups, Shows and Films, Songs and Album.
Penguin Encyclopedia of Popular Music
REF. ML 102 .P66 P46
Primarily performers, some songwriters, producers, record labels. Includes many genres of popular music.
Popular Music, 1900-1919
REF. ML 120 .U5 C6 1988
Includes title/alternate titles, country of origin, author/composer, publisher/copyright date, information about song's origin or performance history.
Popular Music Since 1955
REF. ML 128 .P63 T39
Brief intros and bibliographies on styles, time periods, pop artists and groups.
Rock Encyclopedia
REF. ML102 .P66 R7
Terms, groups, artists (includes album lists). Some obscure, lesser know groups: note publication date of 1969.
TopPop Singles, 1955-1996
REF. ML 156.4 .P6 J64 1997
Top singles by artist and year. Many other top pop tidbits.
Variety Music Cavalcade
REF. ML 128 .V7 M4; or ML 128 .V7 M4
Chronological listing of popular music (1800-1961), based on year of publication or copyright. Includes index by title.
Who's Who in Rock Music
REF. ML 102 .R6 Y7 1982
Very brief entries on 13,000 performers on rock albums.


The Complete Lyrics of Lorenz Hart
REF. ML 54.6 .H4 H41986

The Complete Lyrics of Cole Porter
REF. ML 54.6 .P7 K5 1992

The Complete Lyrics of Ira Gershwin
REF. ML 54.6 .G28 K551993

Find That Tune: An Index to Rock, Folk-rock, Disco & Soul in Collections
REF. ML128 .R6 F56 1988
Indexes by title, first line, performer, composer, lyricist.
The Great Song Thesaurus
REF. ML 128 .S3 L4 1989
Popular song listings by title, lyricist/composer, subject, keyword, award winners.
Index of American Popular Music
REF. ML 120 .U5 B92
Popular song titles from mid-nineteenth century to 1950s. Cross referenced to sources for complete information.
Index to Poetry in Music: a Guide to Poetry Set as Solo Songs by 125 Major Composers
REF. ML 128 .S3 B68 2003
Entries are indexed by composer and poet (all Western).
SongCite: An Index to Popular Songs
REF. ML 128 .P63 G65 1995
Index to popular songs since 1988(apx. 7,000). Indexes include title/first line, composers, and works in musicals, motion pictures, and television.
Who Wrote That Song?
REF. ML 120 .U5 J23
Index to 12,000 American popular songs (mid 19th century - 1980s): year, composer, lyricist, publisher, performer, musical. Lists of composers and songs.


Lieder Line by Line
REF. ML 54.6 .P55 L5 1996

Masters of the French Art Song: Translations of the Complete Songs of Chausson, Debussy, Duparc, Faure & Ravel
REF. ML 54.6 .M33 2001

Masters of the Italian Art Song : Word-by-word and Poetic Translations of the Complete Songs for Voice and Piano
REF. ML 54.6 .M34 1990

Schubert's Complete Song Texts (with International Phonetic Alphabet Transcriptions, Word for Word Translations, and Commentary) (2 vols.)
REF. ML 54.6 .S39 G5

Spanish Song Companion
REF. ML 54.6 .S76 2006
Texts of the Vocal Works of Johannes Brahms in English Translation
REF. ML 54.6 .B8 D7

Word by Word Translations of Songs and Arias (Part I, German and French)
REF. ML 54.6 .W65 pt.1

Word by Word Translations of Songs and Arias (Part II- Italian)
REF. ML 54.6 .W65 pt.2

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Ask a librarian at the Research Assistance Desk
if you need help in locating these sources.

Electronic Reference Sources

Oxford/Grove Music Online Access to the full text of the Oxford Dictionary of Music and the Oxford Companion to Music, as well as New Grove titles including: The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (2nd ed.), The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, and the New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, Encyclopedia of Popular Music Online . Over 50,000 signed articles and 28,000 biographies.

Classical Music Reference Library over 27,000 essays and images from 27 sources including Baker's Dictionary of Music, Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, Women Composers, composer biographies, etc.

African-American Music Reference over 4000 essays from 124 sources

Garland Encyclopedia of World Music (w/audio) over 1000 essays and images from 10 sources with audio examples.
Peterson's College Guides Online versions of the printed guides. Guides to undergraduate, graduate and vocational-technical schools. Searchable by name or location.

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Millikin University - Decatur, IL
Millikin University - Decatur, IL