Library and Information Services, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Craft a Great Music History Essay - Delight Your Tutors!

Find great resources for your essay, in the library or at home!


We’ve been looking at the Music History 2 essay questions to see how our online resources could help you.  Here are some general hints, followed by more specific ones:-

A. You need to look in SEVERAL PLACES.   First the catalogue:- Type your search term.  
·         Start with a precise search (eg the composer’s name and  perhaps the piece) then broaden it if you don’t get what you need.  If you don’t find the right information under a composer’s name, try MUSIC HISTORY - and maybe the century you’re interested in. 
·         If a piece of music has an English title as well as its original title, search both!
·          There’s nothing wrong with older literature, if it informs the question you are answering. (But remember that opinions may have changed, if an article is very old indeed!!)

Look down the left-side bar in catalogue, then click on “More” to find other formats eg electronic resources.

B.  Click on the link to the Library Website to check E-resources, E-books and E-journals. Please come and see us if you need a quick refresher course in finding e-resources!

C. You can often find a score online.   Use your computer’s snipping tool to copy little excerpts for examples.  We subscribe to Alexander Street Press Classical Scores Library (accessible online wherever you are), and Library Music Source (accessible on site) - both at:-
You probably already know about IMSLP (the Petrucci library), too.

D. You can look for information in Oxford Music Online.

E. You can find loads of really useful information on JSTOR.  (It can be a good idea to keep a record of the search terms you’ve used, so you don’t waste time repeating yourself!)  Be clever with your searching – if the essay is asking you to link concepts (eg Liszt and literature), make sure your search terms reflect that.  More about this later, read on …

F. If you’re working from home, limit your results to e-resources to see if there’s anything you can read online :-   

·         There are plenty of electronic journals on the e-journals page.  Start by looking for suitable journals under the List of Music Titles.
·         Don’t forget we have publishers’ collections of e-books on the e-books page.  Try the Cambridge University Press and Oxford University Press collections. 
G.  You can stream music by Naxos or Alexander Street Press Music Library.  Check our e-resources page.

Now please scroll down to read further hints about your essay questions!

HIP – Historically Informed Performance
Legal public domain image of Liszt (Pixabay)
If you don’t find what you want, try searching for related phrases – 

·         Historically informed (a broad term) or Historically informed Baroque (more precise)
·         Historically appropriate (broad) or Historically appropriate performance (narrow)
·         Modern instruments
·         Authenticity

Liszt – Try using JSTOR Advanced Search.  Search smart!  Liszt literature isn’t a very precise search!  Try Liszt Literary Allusions and scroll down to the journal filter, to check the Music Box.  That way, you only retrieve music journals, and you don’t just get literature about Liszt.  But don’t forget to search our own catalogue for books on Liszt – we have dozens!

Soviet music
·         Again, use JSTOR Advanced Search.  Socialist realist ideology is a great search, so long as you use the journal filter for music journals!
·         If you’re searching the e-books collections, remember the publishers publish on a wide range of disciplines, not just music, and they don’t give you e-access to EVERYTHING they publish.   (Cambridge University Press only gives books from certain years, for example.)  Experiment with your search terms.  Eg, searching Oxford University Press Scholarship Online for Socialist realist ideology music may be too precise, Socialist realist ideology may be too general, but Socialist music, or Soviet music, might have worthwhile results.

Shostakovich, Stravinsky, Schoenberg, Boulez, Stockhausen – in our catalogue, entering a composer’s name then limiting to books, or e-books, is a good start.  Similarly, you can’t go wrong searching publishers’ e-book collections because you know your search term will retrieve material about the composer!
However, if you’re searching JSTOR, remember many articles are by specialists on very precise research topics, so you may need to add extra search terms to your search.

Jazz culture and gender inequality – in the publishers’ e-book collections on our website, Oxford University Press Scholarship Online is a good place to start.  Search jazz culture gender, for example. The Sage e-book collections also look good.  Then try the same search on JSTOR Advanced Search, making sure you check the Music Journals box.

Berio, Andriessen – Try JSTOR Advanced search for Berio Sinfonia Postmodern – then try again substituting Postmodernism.  Be sure to check the Music Journals box.  Remember, you can always take words away from a search, so you could search for Andriessen De Staat Postmodern, or leave off the last word!  This applies in any search.   And just a wee reminder. We have an e-book on Postmodernism, and one on Berio, but we have several paper books. Don’t forget the “real” books!  Also, why not look up the works on Naxos? There are sleeve notes!

John Cage – JSTOR is a great start, so is our catalogue (limit your search to books), and so is the Oxford e-book collection we mentioned earlier.

Tips to Take Away!

JSTOR Advanced Search (and select Music Journals)
Experiment with broader or more specific searches
Cite your references with care
Ask the Performing Arts Librarians if you need advice with resources 

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