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Music History

Resources for music history library research

Find Books

Finding Books in OneSearch

OneSearch is Ball State Libraries' integrated discovery tool for books, scores, articles, recordings, and other library materials. It also indexes selected trustworthy online resources and incorporates subscription databases such as Academic Search Complete. On the Libraries' home page, you will see a simple search box:

Screen snip of the OneSearch search box from the Libraries main webpage.  Text reads:  "OneSearch.  Find articles, books, Music, DVDs, and more"  Beneath the text box for searching is a link for Advanced Search.

After searching for your topic, you may find more resources than you need. You can narrow your results by using the filters listed to the left of the search results. For both physical and online books owned by Ball State University Libraries, check "Library Catalog." For physical books, the location (Music Collection) and call number (beginning with "M") indicate the books' location in Bracken Library. To specify online books (ebooks) only, check "eBook Full Text Online." Some eBooks require log in with Ball State University authentication to view the book.

More information on OneSearch can be found at the research guide here:

Advanced Searching in OneSearch

You can specify books on a specific Library of Congress topic by clicking on Advanced Search and selecting "Subject Terms" from the pull-down menu. Additional choices include Content Type (Book, Music Recording, Score), language of item, and limiting to items in the Library Catalog:

Screen snip of the Advanced Search page showing two textboxes for text with pull-down menus to the left of each, an option to limit by date, and other filters.




Classification and Call Numbers

The Music Collection at University Libraries uses Library of Congress Classification, or LCC, for organizing books and scores on the shelves. This system, maintained by the national library of the United States and utilized by libraries across the country and around the world, groups together items on similar subjects. Each item is then assigned a unique call number which combines alphabetical and numerical characters. These features are designed to make browsing library collections easier for users and librarians alike. Tip: Enter the first part of a call number into OneSearch to see all items in a given section.

Call Numbers for Music History:

ML 55 - 89   Aspects of the field of music as a whole

ML 79 - 80   Literary authors and music

ML 82   Women and music

ML 85   Music in art. Musical instruments in art

ML 159 - 3785   History and criticism

ML 159 - 161   General works

ML 162 - 197.2   By period

ML 198 - 360.6   By region or country

ML 385 - 429   Biography

ML 410   Composers

ML 417   Pianists

ML 420   Singers

ML 421   Performing groups

ML 422   Conductors

ML 430 - 458   Composition and performance

ML 459 - 1380   Instruments and instrumental music

ML 1400 - 3275   Vocal music, including opera

ML 3300 - 3351   Program music

ML 3400 - 3465   Dance music

ML 3469 - 3541   Popular music

ML 3544 - 3776   Folk, national, and ethnic music

ML 3797 - 3799.5   Musical research

ML 3845 - 3877   Aesthetics

ML 3880 - 3915   Criticism

ML 3916 - 3918   Social and political aspects of music

How to Read a Call Number

A call number is an item's address in a library. Just like you have a unique mailing address, each library item has its own unique call number. Also like the components of a mailing address (i.e., street number, zip code, etc.), each part of a call number means something. The first letter or two letters is called a subclass. In music, there are only three subclasses. M is the subclass for music scores. Music books are in either ML or MT. ML is the subclass for music literature while MT is the subclass for music instruction and study, so usually music education or theory. The digits which follow indicate the specific topic of the book or score within each subclass. See the chart above and similar mappings to better understand how topics are classified.

Typically two alphanumeric signifiers called cutters follow the subclass. Cutters often correspond to the author or composer's last name or derive from the subject or title of the work. The numbers which follow the letter then offer clues as to the next letters of that name or title. Scores by Bach, for example, might be cuttered as B334, but could also be B2 or B24 depending on how nearby books fit on the shelves. This provides an alphabetical ordering for each topic. The final number in a call number, for example 1991, is typically the date of publication.

Although some call numbers have other components, these are the basic ones that most books and scores will have in some capacity. Shelves are also given numbers called ranges. For example, the music reference shelves are numbered 36 through 40. The more familiar call numbers become, the more you will also become acquainted with particular ranges where they are shelved. You can practice and test your knowledge of call numbers with this tutorial from Kent State Libraries.

Subject Headings and Subject Search

University Libraries also uses Library of Congress Subject Headings, or LCSH, to facilitate subject searching of its online records. This integrated and multilayered system of tagging establishes a controlled vocabulary whereby users can search the catalog with agreed upon terminology. Use Advanced Search to specify books on specific topics. Select "Library Catalog," and "Book / ebook" for the content type, then type your search. For complex subjects, use the following formats for subjects:

[composer name] -- Bibliography

For example, Machaut -- Bibliography  (includes books from both the circulating and reference collections)

Music -- [country]

For example:  Music -- Ghana

Music -- Country-- Century -- History and Criticism

For example:  Music -- France -- 19th Century -- History and Criticism

Musicians -- Biography or [Specific Musician or Composer] -- Biography

For example: Ellington -- Biography

Genre -- Country-- Century -- History and Criticism

For example:  Opera -- Italy -- 19th Century -- History and Criticism


After finding a book that is pertinent to your topic, click on "Details" to find links to further reading:

Recommended Books

The recommended books below represent a wide sampling of topics in music history research and include biographies, stylistic analyses, and investigations into different social and aesthetic issues. Perhaps one or more of these topics will inspire your next research project. Books are sorted by their call numbers for ease of browsing. Hover over the info icon to see a description.

Interlibrary Loan

Users are encouraged to search for items beyond University Libraries' catalog via RILM Abstracts of Music Literature and WorldCat. Materials not available in print or online may be requested through Interlibrary Loan. Please allow up to seven days for electronic delivery and up to fourteen days for delivery of physical items.