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For subject assistance contact: Kirk Doran, Liaison Librarian, 254-8933. Librarian's website.

Department of Music at Dickinson College


Finding Books and Scores

The library's scores and books about music are arranged according to the Library of Congress Classification System. You can browse the shelves physically (in the library) or virtually (via the library catalog) according to the specific topics and subtopics represented by the classification numbers.

The three broadest music subclasses are:

M Scores

ML Music history, criticism, biography, bibliography

MT Music instruction and study

You can see on our library maps three important locations for music resources: the scores and reference books are on the main level, and the circulating books about music are on the upper level.

Below are several sample classification numbers:

M452 String quartets (scores)

M2010 Requiems (scores)

ML100 Dictionaries and encyclopedias about music

ML105 Bio-bibliographical reference books

ML128 Bibliographies of music and bibliographies on musical topics

ML134 Bibliographies and research guides on individual composers

ML410 Biographies of individual composers (arranged alphabetically by composer)

ML1700 Opera

ML2075 Motion picture music History and criticism

ML3916-ML3918 Social and political aspects of music

ML3790 Music trade (the business of music)

Following the classification numbers are additional letters and numbers representing further details about the book. For example, ML128 .S298 represents bibliographies on the social aspects of music. The .S298 represents the subtopic "social aspects."

As another example, ML410 .M9 S815 1991 is the complete call number for the book The Mozart Myths: A Critical Reassessment by William Stafford. The .M9 represents Mozart, and S815 stands for the author's last name, Stafford. You need to write down or print out the complete call number to find the book in the stacks with the matching call number on its spine label.

In addition to browsing by call number, you may search the library catalog in other ways, such as by keyword, author, title, and subject. Here are several selected Library of Congress subject headings to enter as a subject search in the catalog:

Motion picture music History and criticism

Music Political aspects]

Music Social aspects]

Music and literature

National socialism and music


Protest songs

Composers Biography

or, Composers [Country] Biography (for example, Composers Germany Biography)

You can also perform a subject search using a musician's name to find biographies and criticism. You do not have to enter dates. Examples:


Dylan, Bob, 1941-

Liszt, Franz, 1811-1886

Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus

The subheading "Sources" following a topic or name indicates the work contains primary sources. For example:

Music History and criticism Sources

Stravinsky, Igor, 1882-1971 Sources

Primary sources are created by the musician, or by contemporaries and associates. Primary sources include a composer's autobiographies, diaries, letters, interviews, annotations, and manuscripts of scores. Video and audio recordings of performances by musicians of their own works are primary sources. Scores and recordings created under the composer's supervision are also primary sources, as are reviews, correspondence, and biographies by contemporaries and associates.

Finally, if a particular book or score you want is not in our catalog, or is in use by someone else, you may request it from another library. Use PALCI EZ-Borrow first, and if the book or score is not available there, search WorldCat, and click on the link Request through ILL (Illiad).

Reference Books

The best place to begin your research is often in the reference collection. Music encyclopedias, dictionaries, bibliographies, and biographical sources provide clear starting points and directions to pursue further research. From introductory passages you learn the basic facts and essential background information on your topic: its scope, terminology, and chronology, its key persons and places. To help expand your research, many music reference sources also provide in-depth information and bibliographies of the best related sources by the most authoritative musicologists.

The following are several essential music reference books. You can find more by browsing the reference shelves where the call numbers begin with ML. You can also search the catalog and limit the location to Reference stacks, or combine keywords such as music or composers with terms such as dictionaries, encyclopedias, or bibliography.

New York: Schirmer Books, 1991. (2115p.) -- REF ML105 .B16 1991
"The most authoritative and extensive biographical dictionary [of musicians] in English ... The editor's introduction ... is a landmark essay on the techniques necessary for biographical research."--Duckles (p. 17-18)
New York: Schirmer Books, 1991. -- REF ML128 .A7 D5 1991
"A superb annotated bibliography of music criticism appropriate to the music generalist and undergraduate student. Arranged by composer with subdivisions of general articles and articles devoted to individual works."
New York: Schirmer Books, c1997. (812 p.) -- REF ML113 .D83 1997
The most authoritative guide for identifying and evaluating music reference sources, this annotated bibliography is arranged by format, topic, and subtopic, and includes detailed bibliographical citations and indexes.
New York: Routledge, 2005. (2 vols.) -- REF ML102 .S67 E5 2005
The most comprehensive reference book on recorded sound.
Chicago: St. James Press, 1992. (1019 p.) -- REF ML105 .C75 1992
"... including for each entry a biography, a works list, and an evaluation of works; ... critical assessment and an analysis of the subject's major works, and composers' own statements. Women are strongly represented."--Duckles (p. 24).
New York: Garland, 1998-2002. (10 vols.) -- REF ML100 .G16 1998
"The first encyclopedia devoted to the music of all the world's peoples"--v. 1, p. ix.
Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, c1986. (942 p.) -- REF ML100 .N485 1986
"The standard reference work in English for nonbiographical musical information "--Duckles (p. 59) This book is very helpful because it defines musical terms, but it does not provide biographical information about composers.
New York: W.W. Norton, 1995. (548 p.) -- REF ML105 .N38 1995
"A dictionary of 875 women composers of Western classical music with truly international representation."--Duckles (p. 25-26)
New York: Grove's Dictionaries, 2001. (29 vols.) -- REF ML100 .N48 200
"The standard and the largest comprehensive music encyclopedia in English."--Duckles (p. 13-15) Also available online as Grove Music Online.

Finding Journal Articles

Library databases are your gateway to materials outside the scope of our library catalog, especially journal articles. Sometimes the full text of an article is available directly through online databases. Other times, the database will only provide a citation (enough information to identify and locate the article elsewhere) or a citation and an abstract (a summary of the article). Then you must search our journal locator to see if we own the journal or have electronic access to it. If we don't, you can request the article through interlibrary loan (ILLiad).

Essential databases for finding journal articles (and other materials) on music

Music Index Guide to music periodicals and literature, containing articles about music, musicians, and the music industry. Includes classical and popular music.

RILM Abstracts of Music Literature A comprehensive international index to writings about music and related disciplines. RILM indexes and abstracts (summarizes) journal articles, books, conference proceedings, dissertations, reviews, and more.

RIPM (Retrospective Index to Music Periodicals) The historical counterpart to RILM, indexing and abstracting international writings on music, music history, and musical culture published between 1800 and 1950. RIPM currently indexes the contents of 120 music periodicals including articles, reviews, illustrations, music examples, advertisements, press reviews, and more. RIPM does not include full text; interlibrary loan (ILLiad) will often be necessary to obtain the sources themselves.

General databases for finding journal articles, biographies, books, and dissertations on all topics, including music

Academic Search Complete A scholarly, multi-disciplinary full-text database for the humanities, sciences and social sciences. Includes scholarly journals, magazines, conference proceedings and books. For newspaper coverage, use Newspaper Source Plus.

Humanities and Social Sciences Retrospective A bibliographic database that cites articles from English-language periodicals. Coverage includes a wide range of interdisciplinary fields covered in a broad array of humanities and social sciences journals.

Humanities Full Text Covers journal articles in the humanities, archaeology, art, classics, film, folklore, history, journalism and communications, linguistics, literature, music, performing arts, philosophy, and religion.

Humanities International Complete (HIC) Full text of hundreds of journals, books and other published sources from around the world in all aspects of the humanities. FOR CITATION SEARCHING: Click the "More" button at the top of the search screen, then click "Cited References."

JSTOR An interdisciplinary archive of over 600 journals in the arts, humanities, and social sciences. All full text.

Project Muse Covers the fields of literature and criticism, history, the visual and performing arts, cultural studies, education, political science, gender studies, economics, and many others. All full text.

WorldCat The most comprehensive database of materials in libraries worldwide. Use this to locate books our library does not own.

Streaming audio, CDs, videos, and reserves

Streaming audio is available from the Naxos Music Library (for classical music) and Naxos Music Library Jazz (for jazz). With more than 58,000 CDs online, these Naxos databases greatly augment our library's physical CD collection of 5,600 titles. To use Naxos with a mobile device, see Calling All App Users!

Our physical CDs and our videocassettes are not arranged by LC classification, and are not stored in publicly accessible shelves. Therefore, they can only be retrieved by searching the catalog and giving the call number to the staff member or student assistant at the circulation desk (library main level). Our DVD cases are filed alphabetically on display shelves on the main level, but the actual discs are kept behind the circulation desk. You can also search for DVDs in the catalog, retrieve the cases from the display shelves, and take them to the circulation to check out.

For example, a recording of Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima is listed in the catalog as:

CD1553 1 CD (Music) Circulation Desk

Just give the call number (CD1553) to the person at the circulation desk, and they will get the CD for you.

Similarly, DVDs have DVD numbers, and videocassettes have VT numbers.

DVD2062 Amadeus (a feature film on DVD)

VT1104 Arnold Schoenberg : my evolution (a documentary film on videocassette)

Reserves are also located at the circulation desk. These are materials selected by your professor for your particular course. They may be books, scores, CDs, DVDs, or videocassettes. They are all kept behind the circulation desk and must be requested by call number. To find out what your professor has put on reserve for your class, and to see each item's call number, click on Reserve Desk in the library catalog.

Internet sources

The Internet is both a source of information and a conduit for information. The Web has an enormous amount of free information on music, available to anyone, but most of it is not scholarly. In contrast, the RILM database, which is accessible on the Web only via subscribing libraries, indexes scholarly sources on music. Be careful to evaluate information obtained from free Web sites. If you do want to venture beyond library databases, it is best to begin with an authoritative academic site or meta-site (an index of Web sites), such as the ones below, and follow their links.

The Classical Music Navigator

Doctoral Dissertations in Musicology-Online (DDM-Online)

National Jukebox More than 10,000 acoutical recordings from 1901-1925 in the Library of Congress.

Writing the Music Paper Dartmouth Writing Program

WWW Sites of Interest to Musicologists (American Musicological Society)