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Preparing for a Recital

Choosing music and writing program notes using library resources.

Questions to ask

  • When was the composer born? When did they die?
  • Where was the composer born?
  • For what is the composer best known?
  • What is the composer's most significant contribution to music history?
  • What other works did the composer write in the same/similar genre(s)?
  • When was the piece written?
  • What else was going on in the composer's life or in the world around him/her when they were writing the piece?

Places to find answers

If off campus don't forget to access all databases through Research Port!

Google it!
One way to start is to search for the composer and/or piece using Google. You might find websites (such as Wikipedia) that may give you an overall picture of what to look for.

PLEASE NOTE: It is always important to check the accuracy of Wikipedia or information found through Google by carefully evaluating the sources that that website author used to find that information. When in doubt, look for that information somewhere else to confirm it.

Oxford Music Online (formerly Grove Music Online)
Gives an overview of composer's life and musical contributions. Most entries include a works list. Access through Research Port.

TIP: Check the works list for when a piece was written, then scroll through the information about the composer to that date to see what else was going on around that time.

Composer Biographies
Biographies give much more detailed and comprehensive information about a composer, their life, works, styles, impact, etc.

Composer Websites
Often, late 20th century composers will have information about themselves and their works on their websites. This is especially helpful when a search in Oxford Music fails.

Arkivmusic.com
This website is a great place to go to look for the dates of when specific pieces were written, as well as to find recordings.

JSTOR
This database allows you to search many core journals in the humanities for articles that may pertain to your music. Access through Research Port.

RILM
This database allows you to search scholarly works in music including books, articles, bibliographies, dissertations, etc. Access through Research Port.

Textbooks
Textbooks can provide biographical details about a composer and their repertoire, as well as background information for what was going on in history at the time a composer was writing a particular piece.