American Music Resource

Where and how to find stuff:


   Do not expect to find everything you need on the Internet! The Reference Room (or section) of any large public library should contain the works listed in this file and most of the other reference books cited in the AMR bibliographies. If your public library does not have some of these resources try a university library. Be sure to consult with Reference Librarians, their job is to help. Beyond card catalogs, on-line library catalogs, now quite common, greatly simplify searches for bibliographical information. These obviously contain local holdings, but might also give access to such national catalogs as the OCLC FirstSearch databases, CARLUnCover, the AHCI (Arts and Humanities Citation Index), Dissertation Abstracts, and so on. Users must, however, determine if such on-line listings are complete; many do not include older acquisitions and others might not be up to date. Some libraries also offer CD-Roms containing reference information. The Music Index  is available but incomplete; the MUSE ROM is quite useful, as is the ERIC list in educational areas.
   The primary reference source for music recordings (in-print) is the Schwann Catalog  which is available in libraries and most record stores. This is the equivalent to Books In Print  which may be found in most libraries and bookstores. Neither of these are on-line. Out-of-print recordings are not so simple an issue. Commerical "record-finder" services are available, often listed in the back pages of record magazines. Another good source of older classical (and some jazz but little pop) recordings may be found in university music libraries. Periodical articles are listed in many different printed indexes, the Music Index  is the largest but is in no sense complete for American music.
   Composition title, composer/lyricist names, sheet music, lyrics, copyright and performing rights searches can be complex and, depending upon the musical style, frustrating. The best current approach, again, is to ask for help from a Reference Librarian. A few resources now appear on the Internet; see the AMR Topic Index and the "Selected Annotated Netography" for aid in finding and using them.
   The basic approach for discovering published information is always the same: the development of a "research tree." One begins with the most general and trustworthy sources and simply follows the bibliographical "branches" which they provide. Each branch should yield information and, what else, more branches. The entire AMR collection could be seen as a complex form of such a "tree."
   All research in American Music should begin from this single source, the Amerigrove.

The New Grove Dictionary of American Music. H. Wiley Hitchcock and Stanley Sadie, eds. London: Macmillan Press, Ltd., 1986, 4 v.

   The Amerigrove is one of many spin-offs from the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, (1980). It includes only information about American Music, either taken directly or reworked from the Newgrove, but with a large amount of original work as well. The Amerigrove  includes coverage of popular and ethnic styles, American musical instruments, music publishers, and many important groups. The signed articles are usually accompanied by extensive bibliographies.
   While the Amerigrove is broad and comprehensive in its coverage, other primary reference books should also be considered. For musical terminology only, the standard source is The New Harvard Dictionary of Music.  For biographical information ("classical" only and not limited to American music) Baker's  is the best place to start. The best source of information about all types of musical instruments is another Newgrove  spin-off.

Randel, Don Michael, ed. The New Harvard Dictionary of Music. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1986, 942 p.

Baker, Theodore. Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians. 7th ed. revised by Nicolas Slonimsky. NY: Schirmer Books, 1984, 2577 p.

The New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments.  ed. by Stanley Sadie. London: Macmillan, 1984. 3 v.

   The above, and over 3000 more musical reference books are listed, described and categorized in Duckles.

Duckles, Vincent H. and Michael A, Keller. Music Reference and Research Materials - an annotated bibliography. 4th ed., rev. New York: Schirmer Books, 1994.

   These are works produced by academic scholars from within a tradition where classical music biases clearly dominate. Even the Amerigrove  suffers from omissions and weaknesses, specially in non "classical" areas. But since the 1960s, a growing amount of systematic and disciplined research/publication idiomatic to ethnic and popular styles has emerged; after the 1980s, this broadening has begun seriously to infiltrate "academic" publications and the spirit behind them. The results of this wider perspective can only lead to a further evolution of musical scholarship in the future.


   Scholarship within popular styles - especially the more recent ones - is not contained in so few trustworthy sources. No dictionary or encyclopedia dedicated to vernacular music is listed here since those available do not guarantee the bibliographical breadth contained in the sources listed above. Many will, however, be found in the reference bibliographies associated with subjects and topics in the main AMR collection. Furthermore, there is no guarantee that writers of such works are themselves musicians, much less that they are schooled in the principles and discipline of musical scholarship. For some topics and subjects outside the art-music realm, primary information may only be available via pulp journalism, i.e. trades, fan magazines, newspapers and the like. In any such circumstance where "street research" must be employed, extreme care should be taken to avoid further propagation of questionable data or concepts from a single source or from related ones. Development of a broad "research tree" is therefore quite necessary since separate and independent confirmations must always be found under these conditions. On the other hand, scholarship associated with music in science and technology is outstanding.

   Finally, any form of hard-core research must direct itself towards, and ultimately uncover, the primary sources of information - not just books about them. The reference room in a large library is the only possible starting point. While the Internet and other on-line sources may be helpful, do not depend solely upon such resources; they will never be complete. And always check multiple listings. Please see the "Selected Annotated Netography" for further help in computer-based on-line research.

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