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Music: Reference works

Reference Works


Dictionaries and encyclopedias

  • Stanley Sadie (ed.), The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. 2nd ed. 29 vols. London: Macmillan, 2001 (Red 2 Ref. 780.3,G39). Also available in electronic form. The standard music encyclopaedia and the starting point for the majority of queries. Most articles include a bibliography and the composer worklists are authoritative.
  • Friedrich Blume (ed.), Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart. 17 vols. Basel: Bärenreiter, 1949-86 (Red 2 Ref. 780.3,M52; Lenagan Lib. Ref. 780.3,M53). The German equivalent of Grove . The second edition, (Red 2 Ref. 780.3,B61; Lenagan Lib. Ref. 780.3,B61), was published in 2001 with the subject volumes (Sachteilen) first (completed in 1999), followed by the biographical volumes.
  • There are several offshoots of The New Grove Dictionary of Music which cover specific subjects and have longer and more up-to-date articles than those in the parent work:
    • Julie Anne Sadie (ed.), The New Grove Dictionary of Women Composers. London: Macmillan, 1994 (Red 2 Ref. 780.91,S53). Gives worldwide coverage of all periods.
    • Stanley Sadie (ed.), The New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments. 3 vols. London: Macmillan, 1984 (Red 2 Ref. 781.91,G3).
    • H. Wiley Hitchcock and Stanley Sadie (eds), The New Grove Dictionary of American Music. 4 vols. London: Macmillan, 1986 (Red 2 Ref. 780.973,G17).
    • Stanley Sadie (ed.), The New Grove Dictionary of Opera . 4 vols. London: Macmillan, 1992 (Red 2 Ref. 782.03,S1 Lenagan Lib. Ref. 782.03,S1). This - and the New Grove Dictionary of Jazz - are incorporated in Grove Music Online.
  • Theodore Baker, Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians. 7th ed., revised by Nicolas Slonimsky. New York: Schirmer, 1984 (Red 2 Ref. 780.3,B7). This is an authoritative work which gives concise biographical information with lists of works for composers of all periods.
  • Garland Encyclopedia of World Music. 10 vols. Garland, 1998. (Red 2 Ref. 780.3/G38)
  • Barry Kernfeld (ed.), The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz. 3 vols. 3rd ed. London: Macmillan, 2002 (Red 2Ref. 785.42,N1).
  • C. Larkin (ed.), Encyclopedia of Popular Music.3rd ed. Muze UK, 1998. (Red 2 Ref. 780.3/L6)
  • Don Michael Randel (ed.), The New Harvard Dictionary of Music. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1986 (Red 2  Ref. 780.3,R6; Lenagan Lib. Ref. 780.3,R7). This definitive work covers techniques, styles and terminology but, unlike most music dictionaries, does not contain entries for individual composers.

General reference

  • Vincent Duckles, Music Reference and Research Materials: An Annotated Bibliography. 5th ed. New York: Schirmer, 1997 (Red 2 Ref. 781.97,D114). Contains comprehensive annotated lists of over 3,000 reference books on music, with an excellent subject index which can be used to find catalogues and bibliographies on a particular composer or topic.
  • Sophie Fuller, The Pandora Guide to Women Composers: Britain and the United States, 1629-Present . London: Pandora, 1994 (Red 2 Ref. 780.91,F2). This has longer articles than the wider-ranging New Grove Dictionary of Women Composers and gives good coverage of contemporary composers.
  • Richard D. Green, Index to Composer Bibliographies. Detroit: Information Co-ordinators, 1985 (Red 2 Ref. 781.97,G11). A bibliography of lists of writings about composers, arranged alphabetically by composer.
  • Maurice Hinson, Guide to the Pianist's Repertoire. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1973, with a 1979 supplement (Lenagan Lib. Ref. 781.97,H5). Lists works composer by composer, attempting to show what is available with a brief description of what the music is like. The third edition is available as an e-book.
  • Sergius Kagen, Music for the Voice: A Descriptive List of Concert and Teaching Material. Rev. ed. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1968 (Red 2 Ref. 781.97,K1). Includes information on the compass and tessitura of each piece.
  • Gustave Kobbé, Complete Opera Book. 9th ed. London: Putnam, 1976 (782.08,K35). The standard collection of detailed plot synopses for most operas in the performing repertoire.
  • Alfred Loewenberg, Annals of Opera, 1597-1940. 3rd ed. London: Calder, 1978 (Red 2 Ref. 782.09,L53). A chronological list of operas from 1597 to 1940 giving details of first performances and significant revivals
  • Harold J. Diamond, Music Analyses: An Annotated Guide to the Literature. New York: Schirmer, 1991 (Red 2 Ref. 781.5,D7). An annotated bibliography of music analyses in published sources and theses, arranged by composer and then work. 'Analysis' is applied in its widest sense. The annotations do not identify the analytical approach being applied in each case.
  • Arthur Wenk, Analyses of Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Music: 1940-1985. Boston: Music Library Association, 1987 (Red 2 Ref. 781.97,M12). Again the interpretation of 'analysis' is very broad, taken to mean any writing which is technical rather than biographical. The bibliography is not annotated, but there is good coverage of minor composers.

Directories and yearbooks

  • British Music Yearbook . (Current year REF 780.58,M2; Lenagan. Lib. Counter Reserve). Contains listings of artists, venues, competitions, music education, publishers, instrument manufacturers, etc. in the UK. An international section covers music information centres, orchestras, opera companies, competitions and festivals abroad.
  • International Who's Who in Classical Music. 19th Ed. Europa, 2003. (Red 2 Ref 780.91/I1)
  • International Who's Who in Music and Musicians' Directory. Cambridge: International Who's Who in Music, 1999 (REF 780.91,W33). Contains brief information on living composers, performers, musicologists, teachers, etc., with addresses. Coverage is patchy, but it may be the only published source of information on a minor figure
  • Barbara Penny, Music in British Libraries: A Directory of Resources. 4th ed. London: Library Association, 1992 (REF 026.78,P47). Gives addresses, opening hours and brief summaries of holdings, and contains an index to special collections by composer or subject.

Sound recordings

  • Lali Weerasinghe, Directory of Recorded Sound Resources in the UK. London: British Library National Sound Archive, 1989 (Blue 1 Ref 026.7899,W1). This is a directory of all kinds of recorded sound collections, with subject index.
  • Michael H. Gray and Gerald D. Gibson, Bibliography of Discographies. Vol. 1: Classical Music, 1925-1975. New York: Bowker, 1977 (Red 2 Ref. 781.97,G8). Lists the many available discographies for individual composers and performers and includes discographies within monographs or published as periodical articles.

Twentieth Century music - contemporary

  • Richard Burbank, Twentieth Century Music. London: Thames & Hudson, 1984 (Red 2 Ref. 780.9,B42). A chronology of the years 1901-79, dividing each year into sections on opera, dance, instrumental and vocal music, births, deaths and debuts, and related events, with a thorough index. Useful for getting an overview of a particular year or decade. One of the best sources for dates of twentieth-century premieres.
  • Paul Griffiths, The Thames and Hudson Encyclopaedia of 20th-Century Music. London: Thames & Hudson, 1986 (Red 2 Ref. 780.3,G4; Lenagan Lib. Ref. 780.3,G3). A concise, quick-reference dictionary by a leading writer on contemporary music.
  • Nicholas Slonimsky, Music since 1900. 5th ed. New York: Schirmer, 1994 ( Ref. 780.9,S61). Day-by-day chronology of the years 1900-90. Not divided by subject, but with a thorough index and an appendix of important documents relating to, for example, futurism, the Second Viennese School, music in Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany. Allowances should be made for the author's idiosyncratic style.
  • Brian Morton and Pamela Collins (eds), Contemporary Composers. London: St James' Press, 1992 (Red 2 Ref. 780.91,M8). Brief articles with bibliographies and worklists. Includes some composers who receive only a brief mention or who are not found at all in The New Grove Dictionary of Music.
  • Kenneth Thompson, A Dictionary of Twentieth-Century Composers (1911-1971). London: Faber, 1973 (Red 2 Ref. 780.3,T78; Lenagan Lib. Ref. 780.3,T83). Covers only thirty-two major composers, giving for each one a brief biography, followed by a detailed chronological worklist which includes details of first performances (including first broadcast performance) with performers and date of publication. There is a bibliography for each work and a general bibliography for each composer.
  • John Vinton, Dictionary of Twentieth-Century Music. London: Thames & Hudson, 1974 (Red 2 Ref. 780.3,V1; Lenagan Lib. Ref. 780.3,V2). Brief articles on composers, countries, techniques and terminology. Each entry includes a bibliography.

Terminology theory and translation

  • Hans Heinrich Eggebrecht (ed.), Handwörterbuch der musikalischen Terminologie. Wiesbaden: Steiner, 1972- (Lenagan Lib. Ref. 780.3,H4). A looseleaf publication in progress which has long articles (in German) on musical terms.
  • Terminorum musicae index septem linguis redactus. Budapest: Akademiaia Kiado, 1978 (Red 2 780.3,L2). A specialist polyglot dictionary of musical terms in English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Russian and Hungarian.
  • Julian Hodgson, Music Titles in Translation: A Checklist of Musical Compositions. London: Clive Bingley, 1976 (Red 2 Ref. 780.3,H9; Lenagan Lib. Ref. 780.3,H5). Enables the finding of the most usual English translation for the title of a foreign musical work, or the original title of a foreign work where only the English translation is known.
  • David Damschroder and David Russell Williams, Music Theory from Zarlino to Schenker: A Bibliography and Guide . Stuyvesant: Pendragon, 1990 (Red 2Ref. 781,D28). Arranged in alphabetical order by name of theorist, each entry includes a summary of the person's contribution to music theory with a list of her/his writings and a bibliography. There is also a chronological checklist of names.

Thematic catalogues

Thematic catalogues are one of the best ways of finding out basic information about a particular work, and most of them give the locations of principal manuscript sources and publishers of early editions.

Some, for example Schmieder (BWV) for Bach, Hoboken (Hob.) for Haydn, Köchel (K.) for Mozart and Deutsch (D.) for Schubert, have become household names.

Most of the ones held by the Library are shelved in the Arts Ref. section at 781.97. To find out whether a catalogue has been produced for a particular composer, check Barry S. Brook, Thematic Catalogues in Music: An Annotated Bibliography. 2nd ed. New York: Pendragon, 1997 (Red 2. 781.97,B62).

Two reference books which are useful if you have a piece of music for which you wish to identify the composer or title are by Harold Barlow and Sam Morgenstern:

  • A Dictionary of Musical Themes. London: Ernest Benn, 1949 (Red 2 Ref. 780.3,B11; Lenagan Lib. Ref. 780.3,B13); 
  • A Dictionary of Vocal Themes. London: Ernest Benn, 1956 (Red 2 Ref. 780.3,B12; Lenagan Lib. Ref. 780.3,B14).

Locating scores

Finding out whether a piece of music has been published, and checking on its availability for study or performance, can be time-consuming. If the work you require does not appear in Library Search, the following sources may be helpful.

One way of trying to find out whether a particular work has been published is to check the holdings of a major music library.

One of the most significant published catalogues is The Catalogue of Printed Music in the British Library to 1980 . 62 vols. London: K.G. Saur, 1981-87 (Red 2 Ref. 781.97,B61).

This is now available on the web as part of the British Library's web catalogue, although the bibliographic information on the web is less complete.

Another huge catalogue is that of the BBC Music Library. It is divided into several sections:

  • Orchestral - 4 vols (Red 2 Ref. 781.97,B46);
  • Choral and Opera - 2 vols;
  • Chamber Music; Piano and Organ - 2 vols;
  • and Song - 4 vols (all at Red 2 Ref. 781.97,B28).

Many libraries now make their catalogues available via the Internet. One means of access to these is via the Caecilia website.

Orchestral performance sets, with details of which libraries have copies for loan, are listed in the British Union Catalogue of Orchestral Sets (BUCOS). 2nd ed. Boston Spa: BLDSC, 1989 (Lenagan Lib. Ref. 781.97,R3). Supplement 1995 (Lenagan. Lib. Ref. 781.97,R9).

If a set is not listed here, the likelihood is that it is available only on hire from its publishers.

The music for which you are looking may be published within a volume of a series or collected edition. There are three reference books which index such collections, and they can be used to locate a particular work within a composer's collected works.

  • S.R. Charles, A Handbook of Music and Musical Literature in Sets and Series . New York: Free Press, 1972 (Red 2 Music Ref. 781.97,C5), covers monographs on music and periodicals as well as monuments and collected editions.
  • A.H. Heyer, Historical Sets, Collected Editions and Monuments of Music: A Guide to their Contents. 3rd ed. Chicago: American Library Association, 1980 (Red 2 Music Ref. 781.97,H34; Lenagan Lib. Ref. 781.97,H35) has a thorough index which makes it easy to find a particular work.
  • G.R. Hill and N.L. Stephens, Collected Editions, Historical Series & Sets, & Monuments of Music. Berkeley: Fallen Leaf Press, 1997 (Red 2 Music Ref. 781.97,H39; Lenagan Dept. Lib. 781.97,H39) updates Heyer, but does not index the contents of individual composer collected editions.

Early music

The British Union Catalogue of Early Music (BUCEM) . 2 vols. London: Butterworths, 1957 (Red 2 Music Ref. 781.97,B50; Lenagan Lib. Ref. 781.97,B51) covers music printed before 1801 with locations of examples in Britain.

Howard Mayer Brown, Instrumental Music Printed before 1600: A Bibliography. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1965 (Red 2 Ref. 781.97,B60). Arranged in chronological order, this catalogue is especially useful for its indexing of the contents of each volume of printed music.

Of great importance for Renaissance music is the University of Illinois Musicological Archives' Census-Catalogue of Manuscript Sources of Polyphonic Music, 1400-1550. 5 vols. Neuhausen-Stuttgart: American Institute of Musicology/Hänssler-Verlag, 1979-88 (Red 2 Music Ref. 781.97,I3).

RISM (Repértoire International des Sources Musicales). Kassel: Bärenreiter, 1971- (Red 2 Music Ref. 781.97,R1). RISM is an ongoing international project to compile a historical bibliography of manuscript and printed music and books on music with locations.

Sections published to date include coverage of printed music before 1800, manuscripts of polyphonic music from the eleventh to the sixteenth century, manuscripts of tropes and sequences, books on music published before 1800, and manuscripts of Hebrew, Arabic and Latin theoretical works. Series A is arranged by name of composer, Series B by type or format.


The worklists in The New Grove Dictionary of Music (part of Oxford Music Online) often give the location of the primary manuscript sources for a work, as do thematic catalogues. In addition, many libraries and collections have produced catalogues of their manuscript holdings.

One of the most important is A. Hughes-Hughes, Catalogue of Manuscript Music in the British Museum . 3 vols. London: Trustees of the British Museum, 1906-09 (Red 2 Music Ref. 781.97,B35), supplemented by Pamela J. Willetts, Handlist of Music Manuscripts acquired 1908-67. London: Trustees of the British Museum, 1970 (Red 2 Music Ref 781.97,B40).

Further information about what are now the British Library (formerly British Museum) manuscript collections can be found on the web ( ).

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