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MUSIC 141: Comtemporary Composer Assignment

How to evaluate a contemporary composer's musical works.



Search for books, journals, music scores and sound and visual recordings listed in the Vassar Online Catalog.*

HINT: for effective music searches DON'T use keyword.

*Can't find something? Not all Music Library materials can be found through the online catalog. For a complete search, you must check both the online catalog and the Music Library card catalog.

Full-length book or chapter of a book


A database of the cataloged publications in an Internatonal membership of Libraries.  Search for the composer you seek in the "subject" field.  If the book is owned by the Vassar College Music Library the word VASSAR COL will appear next to the citation in green. Look it up in the Vassar Libraries' Online Catalog to get the call number.

RILM Abstracts of Music Literature (1967-)  [Use your computer's find command to search "RILM"]

Covers many scholarly  music journals and chapters of books. Provides an abstract of an article or chapter, not the full text. 

A composer may not have an entire book-length biography, but a chapter of a book may be devoted to his/her life and works.  RILM Abstracts covers chapters of books, unlike most other periodical indexes.


Did the composer "make it" into a major music encyclopedia or dictionary?

[Mus Ref Book ML100 .N48]

The New Grove dictionary of music and musicians. London : Macmillan Publishers ; Washington, D.C. :

Oxford Music Online now inlcudes the Grove Music Online plus other Oxford music reference works.  Grove Music Online comprises the full text of The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell (London, 2001), The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, edited by Stanley Sadie (London, 1992), and The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, second edition, edited by Barry Kernfeld (London, 2002).

Grove Music Online

Grove music online is "the first stop for music research." In English. Both online and print versions include extensive bibliographies and lists of composers works ("works lists') Online version is updated periodically. Includes biographies and subjects; arranged alphabetically.

**In the online version be sure to check for instances of the name you are seeking in artiles OTHER than the biographical article for the composer. 

Is the name listed as an example of a style? 

is it listed as someone who has had infludence on another?

[Mus Ref Book ML100 .M92 1994]

Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart : allgemeine Enzyklopädie der Musik. 2., neubearbeitete Ausg. Kassel ; New York : Bärenreiter ; Stuttgart : Metzler, c1994-2007. 27 volumes.

In German. Excellent bibliographies and works lists. Arranged in 2 sections: Sachteil (subjects) and Personenteil (Biographies) V.17 of the Personenteil arrived last week! Arranged alphabetically in both sections.


Did the composer "make it" into a music reference source?


[Mus Ref Book   ML105 .S612 1997]

Slonimsky, Nicolas, 1894-1995  Baker's biographical dictionary of twentieth-century classical

Musicians.  New York : Schirmer Books, c1997.


An interrum publication, published four years before the centennial edition of Baker's biographical dictionary of musicians.  As a result, the Baker's biographical dictionary of musicians may have more information. 



[Mus Ref Book   ML105 .B16 2001 v.1-6]

Baker's biographical dictionary of musicians.  Centennial ed.  New York : Schirmer Books, c2001.


Appendices at the end of volume 6 include: General index of names by broad period in music, Nationality index, and List of women composers and musicians.

[Mus Ref Book ML105 .N67 1995]

The Norton/Grove dictionary of women composers. New York ; London : W.W. Norton, [1995], 1994.

Music Journals Indexes

Is there a biographical article or interview available?

Music Periodicals Database (Full-text)

Covers many scholarly and popular music journals.  Music Periodicals Database (Full-Text) indexes and provides full text for some, not all, journal articles cited.

RILM Abstracts of Music Literature (1967-)

Clear, verified bibliographic information, fully cited, abstracted, and indexed. RILM Abstracts turns up citations for both print and electronic sources. Covers scholarly periodicals, dissertations and chapters of books in a variety of languages.

A young composer may not have an entire book-lenth biography, but a chapter of a book may be devoted to his/her life and works.  RILM Abstracts covers chapters of books, unlike most other periodical indexes.

Backfiles of selected electronic journals

You may use JSTOR to limit your searching to texts of just music journals in JSTOR.