Skip to Main Content

MUHL 421

Western Music History I

Tertiary Sources

Read broadly based sources such as encyclopedia articles for topic ideas that catch your interest.  Be sure to make note of important terms and ideas.  These will help you conduct more effective searches of library databases and the web.  Check the bibliography at the end of the article for authors and titles of other relevant sources.

Contains the Grove Music Online, The Oxford Dictionary of Music and The Oxford Companion to Music

Contains The Grove Music Online, The Oxford Dictionary of Music and The Oxford Companion to Music.

Secondary Sources: Books and Journal Articles

Look for books and articles after you have a preliminary topic from reading encyclopedia articles.   Burman's discovery search service below will retrieve books, articles, and select interrnet resources. Use the numerous options on the side bar limit results by format, source, full text location, provider and more. 

Primary Sources

Primary sources reveal information about the production and performance of music, aural traditions, histories of musical composition, notation, and technique, information about music theory and about individuals' and cultures' technological advancement, economy, education, cognition, and more.

Danielle Loftus (2012)

Types of primary sources include:

  •  Recordings

               British Library Sounds: Classical Music 

  • Live performances
  • Films of live recordings
  • Composer's notes/letters
  • First editions of scores generally published in consultation with the composer
  • Musical instruments
  • Scores in general, but particularly manuscripts/facsimiles of scores or early printed editions of scores.  Some important websites with manuscripts and/or early printed scores are:


 Brahms Digital from the Brahms Institute: manuscripts, photos, letters of the Brahms as well as early prints from Robert Schumann and letters from Joseph Joachim.

Cantus:  Chant database.

Digital Image Archive of Medieval Music: Database of thousands of medieval manuscripts,

Digital Scores and Libretti from the Loeb Library at Harvard: includes manuscripts, first editions, and early editions of music from the 17th to the early 20th century.

English Broadside Ballads: Nearly 10,000 ballads from printed broadsides.

Early English Books Online: Contains all works published in England from 1453 until 1800. Search the composer by author to find scores in the notation of the time they were published (library database limited to Burman).                    

 Library of Congress:   Extensive collection of digitized manuscripts, recordings and early printed scores.

 Music Library Digital Scores Collection from the University of Washington:  manuscript musical scores dating from the 17th through 19th centuries, primarily 17th and 18th century operas, opera excerpts, and other vocal music

            Music manuscripts and archives from the British Library: spans ancient, medieval, modern, and contemporary periods.               

            Music Manuscripts Online: Over 700 manuscripts of composers such as Bach, Wagner, Liszt, Mahler, Mozart, Hayden and more.

            RISM is an international, non-profit organization with the goal of comprehensively documenting extant musical sources