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Music Research

General Encyclopedias and Dictionaries

Ammer, Christine. A to Z of Foreign Musical Terms: From Adagio to Zierlich. Boston: ECS Publishing, 1989.
Three thousand foreign words or phrases that appear in scores, translated to English.

Blume, Friedrich, founding editor. Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart : allgemeine Enzyklopädie der Musik. 2nd ed. 28 vols. Edited by Ludwig Finscher. Kassel ; New York : Bärenreiter, 1994-2007. [at RBI]
A thorough, scholarly encyclopedia in German. The first edition was published from 1949 to 1979. The nine-volume Sachteil contains entries on subjects, while the seventeen-volume Personenteil covers persons. Each part is supplemented by an index or Register. Includes very good work lists for many composers. The bibliographies are still a little difficult to use.

Grigg, Carolyn Doub, comp. Music Translation Dictionary. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1978.
A unique dictionary of musical terms in thirteen languages, arranged alphabetically by the English word, but with an index that lists the terms in all thirteen languages. By necessity somewhat imprecise but very convenient.

Kennedy, Michael. Oxford Dictionary of Music. 2nd ed. Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press, 1994. [at Ritter Library; Available online at; Jones has 1st ed.]

Kennedy, Michael. Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music. [Oxford]: Oxford University Press, 2007.

Latham, Alison, ed. Oxford Companion to Music. Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2002. Also available online at and
A single-volume encyclopedia with signed articles. No work lists. Bibliographies are either brief or absent. Includes brief summaries of concepts such as hermeneutics and semiotics.

** Porter, James and Timothy Rice, eds. Garland Encyclopedia of World Music.  10 vols. Bruno Nettl and Ruth M. Stone, advisory editors. New York: Garland Pub., 1998-2002. [at Ritter Library] Also available online at
A thorough, scholarly encyclopedia of music from around the world, arranged by continent and other geographic divisions. Includes bibliographies and discographies. Each volume is accompanied by a CD.

** Randel, Don Michael, ed. Harvard Dictionary of Music. 4th ed. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2003.
Concise definitions of terms and articles on everything from “Harmony of the Spheres” to “Port de Voix” (a vocal ornament). Longer articles are signed. Includes occasional musical examples and illustrations.

** Root, Deane, ed. Grove Music Online. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001-2009.
The online version of the New Grove, incorporating not only the main New Grove set but also New Grove Opera and New Grove Jazz.

** Sadie, Stanley, ed. New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. 2nd ed. 29 vols. London: Macmillan, 2001.
The pre-eminent English-language music encyclopedia. Contains scholarly, signed articles on persons, places, concepts, terms, and instruments. Work lists (comprehensive for major composers, selective for less well-known figures) can be one of the best sources of information on a composer’s works. Selective bibliographies list what are considered to be important writings on a subject. One of the best places to start research.

** Slonimsky, Nicolas, editor emeritus. Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians. 6 vols. New York : Schirmer Books, 2001. Also available online as part of Classical Music Reference Library at
Signed biographical articles on over 15,000 composers, musicians, and other musical figures. Many of them are very accessible and give a good overview. Includes indexes by genre and nationality, and an index of women musicians.

Slonimsky, Nicolas. Lectionary of Music. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1989.
A selection of concepts, terms, places, and titles, defined by Slonimsky in his own very personal fashion.

** indicates a particularly basic or important resource