Skip to Main Content

MUS 390: European Art Music I: Finding Sources

Ancient, Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque Music

Finding Background Information and Context

To find information and context about your chosen work and composer, the following resources will be helpful:

  • Editorial commentary in the prefaces to scholarly sets
  • Notes in recording documentation (booklet/liner notes)
  • Reference books in the Music Library, such as:
    • Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musiciansed. by Nicolas Slonimsky. New York: Schirmer Books, 2001. [REF ML105 .B16 2001]
    • The New Harvard Dictionary of Music, ed. by Don Michael Randel. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1986. [REF ML100 .N485 1986]
  • Online reference resources for biography and background information, such as:

For help identifying composers from the appropriate period, refer to the Timelines of Composers.

Finding Relevant Scores to Annotate

Some shorter pieces may be in recorded collections which may not be retrievable by composers. In these cases, use Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) to find useful subject headings, such as Motets. Don't forget about the standby "catch-all" subject headings used for collections, such as Vocal musicInstrumental musicKeyboard music, and so on. You can add time periods, such as 15th Century, for increased specificity.

Many scores may also be found in collections, especially those that are complete works and collected editions. 

  • Complete works: The complete works of a composer compiled in a definitive scholarly edition. Complete works editions are shelved in the M3 section.
  • Collected editions: Multi-volume collections of works that are compiled with a unifying theme, such as choral music or music of Great Britain. Many of these series have prefaces which contain valuable information about the music and composers, but they are not all in English. Scholarly sets are shelved in the M1, M2, and M5 sections.

To learn more about complete works and collected editions, please refer to the Scholarly Editions section in this guide.