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MU 240 - American Music


The following guide is intended to provide an overview of some of the resources available in the library and online for American Music. For further research assistance, please take advantage of the reference services available to you in the Geisel Library. Stop by the Reference Desk in person or online at Ask a Librarian.


Research Basics

The reference librarians have created a group of web pages named Research Help designed to help teach you the basics of library research and to introduce you to Geisel Library. Please take advantage of this resource.


Reference Sources for Background Information

Reference books are shelved by Library of Congress call number in the reference stacks near the reference desk. They may not be checked out, but photocopiers are available on the lower level of the Library. Online reference sources can be found in the library catalog, or listed on Research Help.


Bibliographical Handbook of American Music
     Ref ML120 .U5 K78

Literature of American Music
     Ref ML120 .U5 H7

Rock Stars/Pop Stars: A Comprehensive Bibliography, 1955–1994
     Ref ML128.R6 L49 1994


New Harvard Dictionary of Music
     Ref ML100 .N485 2003

Oxford Dictionary of Music
     Ref ML100 .K35

Dictionary of Musical Quotations
     Ref ML66 .C86

Biographical Sources

Biographical Dictionary Of American Music
     Ref ML106.U3 C6 1973

Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians
     Ref ML105 .B16 1984

New Grove Dictionary of American Music
     Ref ML100 .U6 N48 1986

Encyclopedia of American Gospel Music
     Ref ML102.G6 E63 2005


All Music Guide to Jazz
     Ref ML156.4 .JU3 A45

The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits
     Ref ML156.4.P6 W44 2004

The Rock Song Index:  Essential Information on the 7,500 Most Important Songs of Rock and Roll
     Ref ML128.R6 P65 1997

Terms and History

New Grove Dictionary of Jazz
     Ref ML102.J3 N48 2002

New Grove Dictionary of American Music
     Ref ML101.U6 N48 1986

New Oxford History of Music
     Ref ML160 .N44

The Oxford Companion to Popular Music
     Ref ML102.P66 G35 1991


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Finding Books/Secondary Sources

Subject Headings Suggestions for searching the Catalog

The following Library of Congress subject headings will connect you to works about American music:

  • Music — United States
  • Folk music — United States
  • Popular music — United States
  • Rock music
  • Jazz (a predominantly American form, so adding "United States" is optional)

You can also narrow your search by adding subdivisions to the subject heading. "United States" is a subdivision.


  • History and criticism
  • Dictionaries
  • Encyclopedias
  • Biography

time periods, such as

  • 18th century
  • 19th century
  • 20th century

Keyword suggestions for searching the Catalog

  • Jazz
  • Blues
  • Rock
  • Piano
  • Songs
  • Analysis
  • Composers

Names of composers, arrangers and groups

Use the * (asterisk) as a truncation symbol to retrieve variant forms of a word root. Use the Boolean OR to expand your search by including synonyms and related terms. When using two different Boolean commands in the same search statement ("and" and "or" in the preceding examples) you must include parentheses to indicate which command is to be performed first.

Some recommended General Collection books found using Subject and Keyword searches in the catalog:

America's Musical Life:  History, by Richard Crawford
     ML200 .C69 2001

Christian Hymnody in Twentieth-Century Britain and America:  An Annotated Bibliography,
by David W. Music
     ML128.H8 M87 2001

A Race of Singers:  Whitman's Working-Class Hero from Guthrie to Springsteen,
by Bryan K. Garman
     ML3477 .G36 2000

Beautiful Mornin':  The Broadway Musical in the 1940s, by Ethan Mordden
     ML1711.8.N3 M768 1999

Visions of Jazz:  The First Century, by Gary Giddins
     ML385 .G53 1999

One good source of information that is often overlooked:  CD liner notes.

If you are unable to locate materials in the Geisel Library Catalog, search libraries worldwide using WorldCat.


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Find Journal Articles

Contains the largest selection of Music periodicals of any of Geisel Library's online resources.    See JStor III Journal List.

MasterFILE Premier
Similar to the Readers' Guide to Periodical Literature, "this multidisciplinary database provides full text for nearly 1,950 general reference publications with full text information dating as far back as 1975. Covering virtually every subject area of general interest, MasterFILE Premier also includes 316 full text reference books, 88,000 biographies, 83,500 primary source documents, and an image collection of 107,000 photos, maps and flags. This database is updated daily via EBSCOhost."

Academic Search Premier
Gain access to full-text as well as indexing and abstracting for a wide range of journal titles covering business, social sciences, humanities, general science, and education.

America: History and Life
Provides abstracts to journal articles, book/media reviews, and dissertations with a focus on United States and Canadian history and culture from prehistoric times to the present. (1964–present)    Journal List (PDF/59KB)

Arts & Humanities Citation Index
Provides indexing to the world's leading arts and humanities journals and selections from social science and science journals. Includes articles, bibliographies, editorials, letters, and reviews. (1980–present)

New York Times
"The New York Times (1851–2001) offers full page and article images with searchable full text back to the first issue. The collection includes digital reproductions providing access to every page from every available issue."

LexisNexis Academic
Find full-text newspaper articles from local, national and international papers. Gain access to full-text law reviews as well as company news and financial information, medical information, laws and regulations, polls and surveys, and general reference information.


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Selected Websites

American Music (General)

Library of Congress Performing Arts Encyclopedia
The Performing Arts Encyclopedia (PAE) is a guide to performing arts resources at the Library of Congress. The PAE provides information about the Library's unsurpassed collections of scores, sheet music, audio recordings, films, photographs, and other materials. Users can find digitized items from the collections; special Web presentations on topics and collections; articles and biographical essays; finding aids to collections; databases for performing arts resources; information on concerts at the Library; and a special Performing Arts Resource Guide which contains entries for hundreds of Library collections, Web sites, databases and exhibits.

Library of Congress American Memory Project: Performing Arts, Music
Text, images and music including special archives of American composers. Part of the Performing Arts Encyclopedia.

American Music
Journal articles on American composers, performers, publishers, institutions, events and the music industry, as well as record reviews, bibliographies, and discographies.

Folk Music

Library of Congress American Memory Project: Culture & Folklife
Text, images and music on several periods and styles of American folk music.

Library of Congress: Folklife Center
Describes and links to projects preserving American folk music.

Folk Music: An Index to Recordings
Find songs by keyword or performer. Internal page has numerous links to other folk music web indexes.

Gospel Music

International Gospel Hall of Fame
10 video biographies of Hall of Fame inductees.

Hispanic/Latino Music

LANIC:  Latin American Network Information Center
From the University of Texas. Contains links to a variety of online sources on Hispanic music in the United States as well as Latin America.

Jazz Histories & Definitions

Jazz Roots:  A History of Early Jazz
Focuses on the first thirty years, and includes biographies, pictures, suggested recordings, etc.

All About Jazz
From Includes articles, audio and video, forums, directories, news, bios, photos, and streaming audio.

The Styles of Jazz
A graphical chart of jazz styles derived from Joachim Berendt's The Jazz Book.

What is Jazz?
Four hours of lectures and examples on jazz and jazz history by Dr. Billy Taylor, recorded live at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. You can listen to the entire lecture in various audio formats, or select the portions dealing with a particular artist or style.

History of Jazz
Lengthy article by Ted Gioia.

All-Music Guide
The AMG is a complete online database of recorded popular music. Includes the following music styles: rock, folk, jazz, reggae, blues, Cajun, etc. Has biographies and discographies of artists and rates recordings.

Old Time Popular Music

Popular Songs in American History
To 1900, with lyrics, history, sound, and links.


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Citing Sources

Style Manual for Music

Writing About Music by Richard Wingell
     ML 3797.W54 2002

See the library's Citing Sources guide for resources on how to properly cite research materials. Always confirm the style required by your instructor.


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