Music History and Appreciation

Welcome to the research guide for Music History and Appreciation

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In the PHC Library catalog, you can search a variety of resources by title, author, keyword, or phrase, linking you to ebooks, print books in the on-campus collection, and journal articles from both general and subject specific databases. The more specific your search terms, the more specific the results will be.  For our Distance Learning (DL) students, excerpts from print items held in the on campus library can be provided on request.

If you are accessing electronic resources from off-campus and are required to log in, use your student portal user name and password to gain access. If you have difficulty with the website or accessing any resources, please let library staff know by email at askalibrarian@phc.edu or  library@phc.edu. 

Professional library assistance is available on campus, by phone at 540-441-8400, or by email at askalibrarian@phc.edu.


Writing your music appreciation research paper?

Professors require that college level research projects are supported by scholarly sources. How do you know a source is scholarly? Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who is the author? Is the author a credentialed expert on the subject?  Who is the publisher? Is the publishing company a recognized academic publisher?  Is the journal "peer reviewed," meaning other experts evaluate the article before it is published? A book written by your music professor on music would be authoritative while her book on fashion forward footwear would not.  Oxford University Press is acceptable while Mid-town Middle School Journalism Department is not.  (Authoritative) An article in a newspaper or on a general website is not peer reviewed, so check the journal or use the databases linked from here to ensure the journal articles are peer reviewed. 
  • Is this accurate?  Is there evidence of bias? Does the author fail to support the premise with facts and appropriate research? Do other experts agree with this author? Is there a financial incentive for the conclusion? 
  • Is this current? Does this represent the latest findings in this subject area? Note: Some topics require very current analysis, such as public policy, while others, such as ancient history, might not.

Professor Guidelines

In choosing resources for your research paper, the professor has suggested the following resource guidelines:

  • Biography: 2 - 4 resources depending on the composer. You may only have 1 - 2 for more obscure composers, such as Orlando di Lasso.
  • Time period for the style: 1 - 2 resources on the general period, such as Romantic music or Classical style
  • Time period for the genre: 1 - 2 resources, such as "Symphony in the 19th century" OR time period for the country, such as Russian music in the 20th century.
  • Instrument or repertoire for the instrument for solo instruments, such as piano or guitar: 1 - 2 resources, such as Cambridge Companion to the Guitar.
  • Country of origin: 1 resource that places the composer and work within its cultural context, such as Russian music or English music.
  • Genre of the work: 1 - 2 resources, such as opera or symphony.
  • Subjects or topics, etc: This is flexible space that allows you to engage themes. If you select Romeo and Juliet, for example, then reference the themes in the original work by Shakespeare.
  • Score of the music, if required: Most scores are available for free at Petrucci Music Library.
  • The specific work: For approximately one-third of the pieces of music that students select, there are books and/or articles written specifically about that work, such as Handel's Messiah, Copland's Appalachian Spring, and Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2. For less well-known works, this category will not be possible.
  • Recording: Recordings of most pieces of music are available at Naxos Music Library.
  • New Grove Encyclopedia of music and musicians, which is available in the PHC reference collection at Ref ML100 .N48, is an excellent scholarly resource for an overview of both composers and their works. It also contains valuable potential resources in their bibliographies. DL students can request the section on their composer be emailed to them. 

Databases - Journal articles

  • Naxos Music Library is a great place to start to locate a piece of music that you love for that research paper or to just listen to while you study. Naxos offers an extensive online classical music collection over 46,000 CD's with over 653,000 tracks for your listening pleasure. You will also find audio book transcriptions, libretti, and synopses for over 700 operas, as well information on musical terms and analyses of various works.
  • ProQuest, JSTOR and Academic Search Premier are periodical databases covering a wide range of topics. Use the "advanced search" functions and check the box on the search page to limit your results to scholarly and/or peer-reviewed journal articles.

Internet Resources

  • Petrucci Music Library archives free scores that are held in the public domain (musical compositions created prior to 1923 or 95 years after death of last surviving author).
  • Mutopia provides access to thousands of public domain scores from both classical and contemporary composers.
  • Performing Arts Encyclopedia is a wealth of information on all areas of American music and musicians. This site is maintained by the American Memory Project of the Library of Congress.
  • Stanford Music Links provides access to vast array of archived sound recordings of primarily 20th century American music.

Note: If your research requires a score and you are unable to locate one either through an internet source or Interlibrary Loan, please contact your professor.

The PHC on campus collection includes quite a few resources that can be accessed through the online catalog. You may choose a keyword search or title search. If you choose to browse the shelves, music resources are located in the M section of the LOC classification system. Pertinent items in the collection include:

New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians is a definitive source for comprehensive and detailed descriptions of composers, musicians, musical styles, and periods. Ref ML100 .N48

Harvard Concise Dictionary of Music provides an overview of various musicians, musical styles, and periods and is a good place to gather information as you select or narrow your research topic.  Ref ML 100 .R28.

Research Tips

  • If you choose an obscure work, instrument, or composer, check to see what is available before confirming your topic, as limited sources may be available or may be held in a language with which you are not fluent.
  • Search by subject: Once you have located one item in the catalog, you can click on the search term within the record to find other items on the same or similar subjects. Once you have located a helpful source, additional potential sources may be found in the item's bibliography.
  • Can't find what you need in the PHC collection? If you are unable to locate an item in the PHC collection, you may request resources through Interlibrary loan. ILL requests may be made directly in the library catalog.
  • Research assistance is available in the library or by email at askalibrarian@phc.edu

Turabian (Chicago Manual of Style) is the approved citation format for this course. Information on proper Turabian citation is available in the PHC collection or online at OWL (Online Writing Lab).

Created: Dr. Kristina Tanner/Thornhill, 2010,  Updated: Thornhill, 2022.

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