Music and Literature

For an introduction to the interdisciplinary study of literature and music, see Steven Paul Scher, “Literature and Music,” pp. 225–50 in Barricelli and Gibaldi, Interrelations of Literature (U5955). Researchers should note that many reference works on drama and theater cover musical theater and opera (see, e.g., section L: Genres/Drama and Theater), as do several in section U: Literature-Related Topics and Sources/Interdisciplinary and Multidisciplinary Studies.

Guides to Reference Works


Duckles, Vincent H., and Ida Reed. Music Reference and Research Materials: An Annotated Bibliography. 5th ed. rev. New York: Schirmer-Simon; London: Prentice, 1997. 812 pp. ML113.D83 016.78.

A selective international guide to reference sources (through 1995) important in the study of music worldwide. The entries are organized alphabetically by author, editor, or title in variously classified divisions for dictionaries and encyclopedias, histories and chronologies, guides to systematic and historical musicology, bibliographies of music literature, bibliographies of music, reference works on individual composers, catalogs of music libraries and collections, catalogs of musical instrument collections, histories and bibliographies of music printing and publishing, discographies, yearbooks and directories, electronic resources and bibliography, the music business, and library science. Most entries are accompanied by succinct but informative annotations that cite important reviews and are frequently trenchant in evaluating works. Indexed by persons, titles, and subjects. Duckles and Reed is the indispensable guide to reference sources for the study of music. The fifth edition, although more selective than its predecessors and offering fewer cross-references, draws on the expertise of several contributors and is far more accurate and trustworthy than the ineptly revised fourth edition and its so-called revision. Review: John Wagstaff, Notes: Quarterly Journal of the Music Library Association 54.4 (1998): 911–13.

For more recent resources, see Laurie J. Sampsel, Music Research: A Handbook (New York: Oxford UP, 2009; 323 pp.; last updated 30 Sept. 2009 at

Handbooks, Dictionaries, and Encyclopedias


Grove Music Online (GMO). Oxford Music Online. Oxford UP, 2007–13. 1 Feb. 2013. <>. Updated three times a year.

An updated electronic version of

  • The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (New Grove II). Ed. Stanley Sadie. 2nd ed. 29 vols. New York: Grove, 2001.

  • The New Grove Dictionary of Opera. Ed. S. Sadie. 4 vols. London: Macmillan; New York: Grove’s Dictionaries of Music, 1992.

  • The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz. Ed. Barry Kernfeld. 2nd ed. 3 vols. New York: Grove, 2002.

  • The Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments. Ed. Laurence Libin. 2nd ed. In progress.

  • The Grove Dictionary of American Music. Ed. Charles Hiroshi Garrett. 2nd ed. In progress.

An encyclopedia of music and musicians from all periods and countries. Although encompassing non-Western and folk music, New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (which is the principal component of Grove Music Online) emphasizes the European art tradition in Western music, with more than half of the approximately 29,000 entries devoted to composers and the rest to performers of international achievement, writers about music, other persons of importance in musical history, terminology, genres and forms, instruments, places with a significant musical tradition, institutions and organizations, concepts, and countries. Written by major scholars, the articles range from a paragraph to more than 160 pages; most conclude with a selective bibliography. Some articles are taken unaltered from the 1980 edition; earlier editions remain valuable for the historical perspective they offer as well as for entries on individuals and topics dropped from subsequent editions. Those on major composers provide a complete list of compositions (including locations of manuscripts); those on lesser figures, a selected list. On the development of New Grove, see S. Sadie, ““ The New Grove, Second Edition”,” Notes: Quarterly Journal of the Music Library Association 57.1 (2000): 11–20.

Grove Music Online (which currently includes more than 50,000 entries) not only allows for the continual updating of the New Groves but also offers multimedia enhancements, most notably audio clips illustrating musical concepts or composers’ styles and links to image files on other Web sites and to resources such as Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (M1425) and RILM (U6240). It uses the Oxford Music Online (OMO) search interface, which allows users to restrict a search to GMO or to include Oxford Companion to Music (see below), Oxford Dictionary of Music (ed. Michael Kennedy, 2nd ed. rev. [Oxford: Oxford UP, 2006; 985 pp.]), and Encyclopedia of Popular Music (ed. Colin Larkin, 4th ed., 10 vols. [New York: MUZE; Oxford: Oxford UP, 2006]). Basic Search allows a keyword search of all content. Advanced Search allows five options: Main Search allows a keyword search to be restricted to the text of full articles, entry titles, bibliographies, contributors, or musical works; Biography Search allows for a search by name, occupation, nationality or country of activity, year of birth, year of death, place of birth, and place of death; Bibliography Search allows a keyword search to be restricted to author or editor, title, and publication date; Discographies and Compilations allows a search by artist or group, album title, year of release, label, and rating; Videographies allows a search by artist or group, title, label, and year of release. In addition, users can browse all content, biographies, subject entries, and tools and resources. Results are ordered by relevance and can be printed or e-mailed. The OMO interface is a marked improvement over the primitive one that accompanied the original release of GMO. Although plagued by misprints and some uneven coverage (especially of pop music), Grove Music Online and New Grove are, overall, authoritative guides that are noteworthy for their scholarship, breadth, and general impartiality. Reviews: (print) Andrew Porter, TLS: Times Literary Supplement 23 Nov. 2001: 3–4; Charles Rosen, New York Review of Books 21 June 2001: 29–32; (electronic) John Wagstaff, Notes: Quarterly Journal of the Music Library Association 66.1 (2009): 129–31; (print and electronic) Peter Phillips, Musical Times 143.1879 (2002): 74–77.

Several related Grove products offer fuller treatment of groups, topics, and kinds of music:

  • The Norton/Grove Dictionary of Women Composers. Ed. Julie Ann Sadie and Rhian Samuel. New York: Norton, 1995. 548 pp. (Some entries have been incorporated into Grove Music Online.)

  • The New Grove Dictionary of American Music. Ed. H. Wiley Hitchcock and Stanley Sadie. 4 vols. London: Macmillan, 1986. Review: Peter Dickinson, Music and Letters 70.2 (1989): 233–36.

  • The New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments. Ed. S. Sadie. 3 vols. London: Macmillan, 1984.

New Grove Dictionary of American Music, New Grove Dictionary of Opera, and the first edition of New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians are indexed in Biography and Genealogy Master Index (J565).

The other major general dictionary of music and an essential complement to New Grove is Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart: Allgemeine Enzyklopädie der Musik (MGG), ed. Ludwig Finscher, 29 vols. (Kassel: Bärenreiter; Stuttgart: Metzler, 1994–2008).

Because of the length of many articles, New Grove is frequently unsuitable for quick reference. On those occasions, one of the following will offer better service:

  • Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of Musicians. Ed. Nicolas Slonimsky and Laura Kuhn. Centennial [i.e., 9th] ed. 6 vols. New York: Schirmer-Gale, 2001. Online through Gale Biography in Context (J572). Entrants, from classical, rock, jazz, and other forms, include the famous and obscure among composers, performers, musicologists, critics, scholars, conductors, patrons—in short, nearly anyone (even bibliographers) connected with music. The typically succinct entries offer essential as well as merely interesting biographical details, a list of important works, and a selected bibliography of scholarship. Indexed by musical genre, nationality, and women composers and musicians. The sixth through ninth editions are indexed in Biography and Genealogy Master Index (J565). Although still accurate and reliable, the current edition edits out much of Slonimsky’s irreverence, opinionated commentary, and wit that made Baker’s one of the most entertaining biographical dictionaries of any field.

  • The Harvard Dictionary of Music. Ed. Don Michael Randel. 4th ed. Cambridge: Belknap–Harvard UP, 2003. 978 pp. Online through Credo Reference ( Although it includes both non-Western and popular music, Harvard Dictionary emphasizes Western art music in entries on terms, concepts, instruments, genres, national and ethnic traditions, styles, major works, and movements. It excludes separate entries on composers and musicians. Many of the longer articles are signed and conclude with a selective bibliography.

  • The Oxford Companion to Music. Ed. Alison Latham. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2002. 1,434 pp. Online through Oxford Reference (I530) and Oxford Music Online (above). Emphasizing the Western tradition (and including non-Western and popular musics only as they influenced that tradition), the work treats a wide range of topics (with composers and compositions predominating). A few entries are signed and conclude with a brief list of selected readings. Indexed in Biography and Genealogy Master Index (J565). The broadest in coverage of the compact music dictionaries.

For a fuller list of music dictionaries and encyclopedias, see pp. 1–114 in Duckles and Reed, Music Reference and Research Materials (U6230).

See also

Gänzl, Encyclopedia of the Musical Theatre (L1145a).

Pipers Enzyklopädie des Musiktheaters (L1145).

Guides to Scholarship


RILM: Répertoire international de littérature musicale. RILM, 2013. 1 Feb. 2013. <>. Updated monthly.

RILM Abstracts of Music Literature [1967–98]. New York: RILM, 1967–99. Annual, with five-year cumulative indexes. ML1.I83 780′.5.

Abstracts of significant books, articles, reviews, dissertations, and other materials produced since 1967 (along with selective coverage of earlier material). In the print version, entries are organized alphabetically by author within classified divisions; of most interest to literature researchers are those for reference materials, music and other arts (including sections for dramatic arts and poetry and other literature), and music and related disciplines (including linguistics and semiotics, printing and publishing). The descriptive abstracts tend to be brief but adequate. Indexed by authors and subjects in each volume. The subject indexes should be consulted with a copy of the most recent RILM Thesaurus in hand. The database is far easier to search than the print version (see the publisher’s Web site for a list of current vendors; click Access). Its breadth of coverage and thorough subject indexing make RILM the best source for identifying music scholarship that treats literary works or authors.

Although The Music Index: A Subject-Author Guide to Music Periodical Literature, [1949–2009] (Warren: Harmonie Park, 1949–2010; quarterly, with annual or biennial cumulations; <>; updated regularly) does not approach the breadth of RILM, it offers better coverage of popular music. The subject indexing has improved in recent cumulations, but it still remains less refined, thorough, and consistent than it should be. Since cross-references appear only in the cumulations, users must approach each quarterly issue with the annual Subject Heading List in hand. The online Music Index (formerly Music Index Online) uses the EBSCO (I512) search interface; coverage begins with 1970 (click Publications for coverage information on individual journals).

Scholars doing extensive research in music and literature should consult the following comparisons of the coverage of RILM, Music Index Online, and International Index to Music Periodicals ( Leslie Troutman, “Comprehensiveness of Indexing in Three Music Periodical Index Databases,” Music Reference Services Quarterly 8.1 (2001): 39–51, and Alan Green, “Keeping Up with the Times: Evaluating Currency of Indexing, Language Coverage, and Subject Area Coverage in the Three Music Periodical Index Databases,” Music Reference Services Quarterly 8.1 (2001): 53–68.

For a fuller list of bibliographies, see pp. 163–233 in Duckles and Reed, Music Reference and Research Materials (U6230).

See also

“Bibliography on the Relations of Literature and the Other Arts” (U5965).

Brogan, English Versification, 1570–1980 (M1600).

Haywood, Bibliography of North American Folklore and Folksong (U5875).

Humm, Annotated Critical Bibliography of Feminist Criticism (U6170).

Miller, Folk Music in America (U5910).

MLAIB (G335): See the headings beginning “Music” and “Musical” in the subject index to post-1980 volumes and in the online thesaurus.

Rice, English Fiction, 1900–1950 (M2840).

Salzman, American Studies: An Annotated Bibliography (Q3335).

Wildbihler and Völklein, The Musical: An International Annotated Bibliography (Q4295).