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Choral Literature Subject Guide

Resources to support MUS 428 & MUS 528 from Dr. Reddan.

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.

Nebulous names

Name searching can be challenging in a few instances that come up frequently in music research. 

  • The written form of the person's native language uses characters other than the Roman alphabet that English uses. 
  • Common names that can be confused with other people
  • Variations of names used over a lifetime
  • Names that don't conform to the {first name + last name} structure standard in most of the western world. 

Databases such as Primo, Worldcat, and Music Index use a standardized name form to simplify searching. To search by a standardized name:

  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 seems to match the target person. It might include life dates or sometimes a qualifier.
  3. Re-do the search using the standardized name.  
Examples of moving from initial keyword search to a standardized name search
Original keyword search Primo & Worldcat use the same standardized names Music Index
hildegard bingen Hildegard, Saint, 1098-1179. HILDEGARD, Saint, 1098-1179.
kurupt Kurupt (Rapper) KURUPT (Performer)
Hsien Hsing-hai Xinghai Xian, 1905-1945 XIAN Xinghai
john williams guitar Williams, John, 1941- WILLIAMS, John (not disambiguated)
Mrs. H.H.A. Beach Beach, Amy, 1867-1944 beach, amy marcy cheney

Books about a composer and scores by or recordings of the person's music will use the standardized name. However, articles that you find through Primo and Worldcat are not fully cataloged and do not have the standardized names.