Most serious research uses a mix of primary and secondary sources. Both types of sources have their own value, and you should learn to distinguish between the two.
- Primary sources are original documents or first-hand accounts
- First-hand accounts
- Performances, recordings, scores
- Secondary sources comment on and interpret primary sources
Advantages of primary and secondary sources
- Primary sources are closer to the events
- They may give us an unvarnished view of people and developments
- Secondary sources provide perspective
- They take into account differing viewpoints and later scholarship
Some helpful resources
Compilations of primary sources in music
- Oliver Strunk, ed. Source Readings in Music History. Rev ed. Leo Treitler, ed. New York: W W Norton, 1998.
- Piero Weiss and Richard Taruskin. Music in the Western World: A History in Documents. 2nd ed. Belmont, CA: Schirmer Cengage Learning, 2008
- Michael L. Mark. Music Education: Source Readings from Ancient Greece to Today. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge, 2002.
- Nicolas Slonimsky. Music Since 1900. 6th ed. New York: Schirmer Reference, 2001
- Thomas Forrest Kelly. First Nights: Five Musical Premieres. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000