Music Majors Research Skills

What Should Music Majors Know?

By the time they graduate, music majors should

  • be able to read and to think conceptually and critically about a musical performance, a musical composition or score, a theoretical analysis, an historical inquiry, a cultural study, a musical institution;
  • have an understanding of the nature of an array of musical practices and of the nature of the various relationships among performance, improvisation, composition, and written and oral reflection about music;
  • have a vocabulary of specific pieces or repertories of music, a knowledge of the traditions from which they derive, and the ability to form analytical statements about them;
  • be able to do research in libraries, archives, private collections, and online; to discriminate between serious and trivial sources of information; to cite sources with ethical appropriateness; 
  • have the ability to write cogently and coherently about musical matters: performances, compositions, essays, books, and films.

Writing Intensive Classes

FYS 152, The Voice of the Courtesan and the Lover, a first-year seminar concerned essentially with nineteenth-century operas associated directly or indirectly with France, is designed to offer intensive training in writing about music.

MUS 325, Writing About Music is the capstone course of the music major.  Whatever the subject—this is up to the professor in any given year—the goal is to have students produce writing for general and specialist audiences and to refine skills in seeking and presenting information, and in setting down proper footnote and bibliographical references.

Information Literacy Objectives for Music Students

Music students should be able

1.  To define information needs: to understand

a) how information is organized for research purposes;
b) what types of information can be obtained from online sources;
c) the various formats that contain performance works and how to access them;
d) the differences among the various formats and how they suit differing research needs.

2.  To access information: to know

a) where to find basic reference sources for the performing arts;
b) how to find reviews of live performances and recordings;
c) how to find journal databases for performing arts subjects;
d) search strategies for locating non-text materials;
e) how to identify and access full-content multi-media materials online.

3.  To evaluate information: to demonstrate the ability

a) to recognize bias (in critical reviews, for example);
b) to recognize differences between original and interpretive work;
c) to understand the definition of a primary source in the performing arts.

4.  To present information: to select

a) the most appropriate types of media to best convey information or illustrate a point;
b) the best method for presenting excerpts of recorded work;
c) the best method for copying portions of recorded work to another medium.

5.  To comprehend ethical use: to demonstrate

a) awareness of fair use;
b) the knowledge of when permissions or royalty fees are required;
c) understanding of legal and illegal methods of obtaining multimedia clips from the internet;
d) understanding of appropriate methods of citation for media and for electronic source materials.

Students in music history courses and in First-Year Seminars taught in the Music Department will become familiar with the traditional rules for writing papers, preparing bibliographies, citing sources and setting down footnotes, and formatting papers dealing with music.  Students are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the Smith Handbook of Style as well as with other established writing guides such as The Elements of Style by Strunk and White, Simple & Direct by Jacques Barzun, and Writing With Power by Peter Elbow.

Online Resources for Research

Music Databases Description
African American Music Reference Biographies, chronologies, sheet music, images, lyrics, liner note & discographies. Covers blues, jazz, spirituals, civil rights songs, slave songs, minstrelsy, rhythm & blues, gospel, etc.
Classical Music Reference Library Standard reference materials on Western classical music, from the Medieval period to the present. With definitions of musical terms & biographies for major classical composers and artists.
Encyclopedia of Popular Music Online Featuring a broad musical scope covering popular music of all genres and periods from 1900 to the present day, including jazz, country, folk, rap, reggae, techno, musicals, and world music.
Garland Encyclopedia of World Music Online Entries by more than 700 expert contributors from all over the world, make this the most complete body of work focused on world music.
IIMP (International Index to Music Periodicals) Lists articles in hundreds of music journals & magazines from 30+ countries. Topics include music education, performance, ethnomusicology, musical theatre, theory, popular music forms & composition.
JSTOR Complete full text backfiles of 32 core academic music journals, excluding the most recent 2 to 5 years.
Music Index Online Indexes 850+ international music periodicals on musicological or organological topics, plus book reviews, record reviews, first performances, and obituaries.
Oxford Music Online

Full text coverage of Grove and Oxford reference titles in music including classical, jazz, opera, and popular music.

Project Muse Full text of 400+ scholarly journals in the arts and humanities, social sciences and mathematics.
RILM Music Abstracts 1967+ Lists articles, books, bibliographies, catalogues, conference proceedings, discographies, dissertations, films, and videos. From 500+ scholarly journals in 100+ languages.
RIPM: Retrospective Index to Music Periodicals 1800-1950 Index to musical history and culture from U.S., Canadian, and European journals.
Scores Description
Classical Scores Library In-copyright and public domain scores from the Renaissance to the present. Includes full scores, study scores, piano & vocal scores, and piano reductions.
IMSLP/Petrucci Music Library The free public domain sheet music library.
Streaming Music Description
Music Online Cross-searchable database of Alexander Street Press products (American Song, Contemporary World Music, Classical Scores Library, Opera in Video, Dance in Video, etc.)
Naxos Music Library Streaming audio; Naxos, Albany, BIS, Bridge, Cedille, Celestial Harmonies, Chandos, Col Legno, Da Capo, Danacord, Delos, Gimell, Hänssler, Hungaraton, Music and Arts, Opera Rara, Vanguard Classics, Wergo, and many other labels.
DRAM Streaming audio (CD-quality, 192kbps/MP4), from New World Records, CRI, Albany, Artifact, Cedille, Cold Blue, Deep Listening, Frog Peak, Innova, Lovely, Mode, Mutable, Open Space, Pogus, XI and many other labels.

Online Journals

From the journal locater, one learns that over one hundred journals with “music” in the title are available online.  These date from the nineteenth century through the current day. 

For those who might wish to pursue historical musicology, it is especially important to see the history of music as the history of styles and works as the products of the cultures that produced them, and to be familiar with

a) the critical editions of the works of the leading composers, such as the New Josquin Edition, the Neue Bach Ausgabe, or the Œuvres complètes de Claude Debussy;
b) the thematic catalogues that exist for many of the leading composers, such as the Köchel Catalogue for Mozart or the Holoman catalogue for Berlioz;
c) the principal biographies of the leading composers, such as Thayer’s biography of Beethoven or Newman’s biography of Wagner; and
d) the principal encyclopedias and musicological journals that feature traditional and recent research on the figures, monuments, and styles of the western tradition from the middle ages to the present, such as the Grove Music Online and the Journal of the American Musicological Society.

For those who might wish to pursue American music, it especially important

a) to be familiar with recordings by major twentieth- and twenty-first-century artists, from Louis Armstrong to Elvis Presley to John Cage to Public Enemy and beyond;
b) to know chronology of major American music genres, such as blues, jazz, country, rock, rap, and classical;
c) to understand something of the structure of the commercial music industry in the U.S. and its influence on popular taste; and
d) to recognize the breadth of the secondary literature on American music styles, and to read widely in scholarly works and popular criticism.

For those who might wish to pursue world music, it is especially important to respect all the world’s musics

a) by approaching the study of music as a cultural phenomenon;
b) by attempting to look at any of the world’s cultures and to listen to any of its musics without being judgmental;
c) by developing culturally and musically appropriate ways of understanding particular musical cultures; and
d) by viewing one’s own musical culture from a larger cultural perspective.

For those who might wish to pursue music theory and analysis, it is especially important to be able

a) to locate scores and recordings in library catalogues and other data bases as well as analytical studies in monographs and periodical literature, and
b) to be familiar with certain standard methods and vocabularies of analysis that apply to the music of the last three centuries.

For those interested in musical composition and digital music, it is especially important

a) to understand the technology of the current age;
b) to understand the history of musical composition;
c) to acquire the skills necessary for the realization of works whose syntax involves acoustical pitch;
d) to be conversant in conventional harmony, counterpoint, and analysis; and
e) to be familiar with a variety of modal, tonal, and serial procedures.

Further Skills

In the Department of Music, the practical skills of performance are taught by means of private, individual lessons in voice, piano, and a wide variety of instruments, and by means of participation in a number of choral and instrumental ensembles.

March 17, 2011