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MUS 300: Music History: Finding repertoire

Library research guide for Music 300 taught by Caitlin Carlos, Fall 2020

This page will help you...

Practice three strategies for learning about early-music composers or works that you never knew existed.

Strategy 1: Find performers and recordings

Tweet from early music ensemble Voices of Music mentioning composer Nicola Porpora

You can discover composers and works through performers and ensembles specializing in early music, or through recently released recordings.

Try searching online for early music performers or ensembles and check their social media presence. For example, the renowned San Francisco early music ensemble Voices of Music recently tweeted about Nicola Porpora and included a link to a recording.

Search for recordings of early music online or in Naxos Music Library. For example, this Porpora piece is also in Naxos:

Screen shot of Naxos Music Library player


Strategy 2: Search the news

Screen shot of a google search for "lute composers"

News articles and concert or recording reviews written by music journalists are another way to learn about previously unfamiliar composers.

Search engines like Google and DuckDuckGo let you limit your results to view News articles. These results include publicity for upcoming concerts as well as stories about performers and ensembles - all of which could contain names of lesser-known period composers (as well as the usual big names, so be patient and keep looking)

If you run into online paywalls, try searching for the full text of your article in a library news database.

In this example, a Google search for "lute composers" turned up a news item from a British classical-music radio station, announcing an upcoming broadcast devoted to lute music by little-known composers.

Strategy 3: Consult published lists

screen shot of library search results for "madrigals"

Books in Armacost Library are excellent sources for names and biographical information on early music composers.

The Recent Researches series of scholarly scores publishes authoritative texts of music manuscripts by Renaissance and Baroque composers (as well as more recent periods). These are excellent scores to choose for your assignment!

Use printed bibliographies to discover lesser-known composers and masterworks beyond the core concert and recital repertoire. These books appear in the library catalog with the subject heading [genre] -- Bibliographies.

Several examples of printed music bibliographies in the library collection are presented here.

Alternatively, use Advanced Search to search subject headings related to musical genres or historical periods, such as:



part songs


Renaissance music

Baroque music

This strategy will get you books of scholarly commentary as well as musical scores. Use the Resource Type limiter as needed.

In this example, a subject search for "madrigals" limited to scores turns up several Recent Researches volumes. Here's an example:


Examples from Armacost Library

Key point

  • Use library books or online searches for performers, ensembles and news articles to find out about historical composers.