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This guide is designed for people of all ages who are looking for information on composers of classical music. Included are print-based and Web-based resources. Its sources are geared toward general knowledge as well as scholarly research.
There are many good collections of brief biographies about composers that are written for the layman. The following examples are likely to be found in your public library:
Lives of the Great Composers,
by Harold C. Schonberg. W.W. Norton, 1981.
Great Composers : 1300-1900,
by David Ewen. H.W. Wilson, 1966.
Composers Since 1900,
by David Ewen. H.W. Wilson, 1981.
Each of these books is a single volume work which contains chapters on the lives and music of the best known composers of western classical music. Be aware that works lists and bibliographies in these sources will not be the most current scholarly information available. For facts about contemporary or lesser known composers, try the following two sources:
Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of Musicians,
edited by Nicholas Slonimsky. Schirmer Books, 1991.
International Who’s Who in Music and Musician’s Directory.
Melrose Press, 1988.
For those beginning serious research on a particular composer, the following sources are the best places to begin your searching:
Index to Composer Bibliographies,
by Richard D. Green. Information Co-ordinators, 1985.
New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians,
edited by Stanley Sadie. MacMillan, 1980.
Green’s book is a thorough listing of bibliographies for individual composers, while the twenty volume Grove set contains articles, works lists, and bibliographies on hundreds of composers. Grove’s is considered the scholarly source on classical music in English.
If you are looking for magazine and journal articles about a composer, perhaps you will find the information you need in The Music Index, published by Information Co-ordinators. Available in CD-ROM and print forms, this publication lists articles written on myriad musical subjects and covers music journals on an international scale. You are likely to find the index in a specialized music library.
If browsing is what you prefer, check out the 780’s in your public library. In the 780.92’s, you will find individual biographies about musicians. In most universities, the ML 410’s are the corresponding classification area for musician biographies.
The World Wide Web is an information resource with literally hundreds of pages devoted to classical music composers. These sites vary in their scholarship and accuracy, so judgment on the part of the user is critical. The following sites are good starting points for general knowledge about composers:
The Internet Public Library’s Music History 102 /exhibit/mushist/ is an excellent collection of pages geared toward the layperson or young adult. Composers are discussed within the context of their time, while short audio clips further enhance the exhibit.
GMN.com’s Classical Composers http://www.gmn.com/composers/section. It offers biographical profiles of numerous composers from a respected reference work, the The Grove Concise Dictionary of Music, and it also lets you listen to music by the composer.
The Timid Soul’s Guide to Classical Music http://www.azstarnet.com/public/packages/reelbook/contents.htm is another self-contained site which sets out to summarize the accomplishments of many of the most renowned composers.
Another good place to search for general information on composers is Yahoo’s Classical Music Index, http://www.yahoo.com/Entertainment/Music/Genres/Classical. Though it can be a bit overwhelming, this index does a good job of placing classical music sites in understandable categories. Of course, searching on any composer’s name with a decent search engine is bound to yield some results.
For those interested in composer sites that have presumably been reviewed by musicians before inclusion in an index, these three sites come to the fore:
The Classical Net Homepage http://www.classical.net/ is a great place to find biographical facts, as well as works lists for composers. This site also has links to classical music UseNet Newsgroups which may prove valuable. Similarly, you may want to find a good listserv if you have questions you want to pose to the musical community at large. Try Music Listservs – http://www.csupomona.edu/~library/tutorials/Music/internet.html#Music%20Listservs/ – from “Finding Music Information on the Internet”, compiled by the University Library at Cal Poly Pomona University for a start.
The Sibelius Academy Composer Index http://www.siba.fi/Kulttuuripalvelut/composing.html and Indiana University’s Worldwide Internet Music Resources Composer Index http://www.music.indian.edu/music_resources/composer.html are both fantastic sources for high quality information on classical music on the Internet. Indiana’s site also has a listing of classical music UseNet Groups, as well as listings for magazines and journals with homepages. If you should visit the Sibelius Academy and Indiana University sites, make sure to check out their home pages, which have numerous other categories besides composers. You will find yourself turning to these homepages whenever you need information about anything musical!
This pathfinder created by David Chalick, December 3, 2002. Revised March 2005.
You may also wish to see IPL: Musicians &Composers Resources