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.Music Subject Guide

Recommended library and web resources for the study of music.

Tricky titles

Searching music scores and recordings can be tricky due to generic form titles (like "symphony" or "concerto") and to variations in publisher "packaging." See Name that work! for an example.  But in library catalogs such as Primo and Worldcat, a work's preferred (or uniform) title groups all versions of the work together. To search by preferred title:

  1. Do a general keyword search. Your initial results will likely be a mix of relevant and false hits. 
  2. Open the full record for one of the relevant hits, and find a text string that starts with the composer and life dates, the work, and often additional information. 
  3. Re-do the search using the preferred title. 
Examples of moving from initial keyword search to preferred title search
Original keyword search Preferred title
grieg violin "op. 8" Grieg, Edvard, 1843-1907. Sonatas, violin, piano, no. 1, op. 8, F major 
Amy Beach mass e-flat Beach, Amy, 1867-1944. Mass, op. 5, E♭ major 
The Rider on the White Horse  Gubaidulina, Sofia, 1931- Der Reiter auf dem weissen Pferd 
"rite of spring" Stravinsky, Igor, 1882-1971. Vesna svi︠a︡shchennai︠a︡


Or alter the preferred title to expand your search
o quam mirabilis hildegard bingen Hildegard, Saint, 1098-1179. Symphonia armonie celestium revelationum. Selections  A movement of a larger work with a distinctive name.
vivaldi spring four seasons Vivaldi, Antonio, 1678-1741. Cimento dell'armonia e dell'inventione. No. 1 arranged The first in a collection of twelve concerti published together.
mozart magic flute Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus, 1756-1791. Zauberflöte. Vocal score. English.   
nadia boulanger cantique Boulanger, Nadia. Songs. Selections  "Songs," "Cantatas" or other plural versions of musical forms are collections just of that form by the composer. Often complete, sometimes selective
hastings blessed are they that dwell in thy house Hastings, Thomas, 1784-1872. Works. "Works" means a collection of various forms by the composer. Often complete, sometimes selective.

Books about the work will also have the preferred title applied. Indiana University Libraries has a fuller explanation of preferred titles. However, articles that you find through Primo and Worldcat are not fully cataloged and do not have the standardized titles. 

Look for similar standardization of titles within the article databases such as Music Index.