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Music 396: Musical Geographies

What is a primary source?

A primary source is an original material created during the time under study. Primary sources can be original documents (such as letters, speeches, diaries), creative works (such as art, novels, music and film), published materials of the times (newspapers, magazines, memoirs, etc.), institutional and government documents (treaties, laws, court cases, marriage records) or relics and artifacts (such as buildings, clothing, or furniture).

Finding Primary Sources

Primary sources are in print as well available via Websites. A creative imagination is your best resource for finding them -- think about what you 'd like to find and then decide how to go about getting it. Remember to watch prefaces, footnotes, and bibliographies of secondary works and watch for references to primary sources in journal indexes. But you can also find primary sources in collections or published separately. In the center boxes you will find several categories of documents, with examples to whet your appetite, and suggested strategies for finding them. Remember to discuss your needs/ desires with a reference librarian.


The music library has many CDs of authentic music as well as online streaming (see other tab).  To find them:

Keyword search (or subject) your topic of interest and limit to StO Sound Recordings

For instance, KW Civil War limited to StO Sound Recordings brought up

Cheer Boys Cheer!  Music of the 26th N.C. Regimental Band, CSA


You can also add the word "Music" to keyword searches in other disciplines. 

For example, KW Pawnee Indians Music brings up the important first transcriptions of Pawnee music by Frances Densmore.



Published Material of the Time

Remember that you can always limit the dates of any publication to the time period in which something occurred!

Primary Sources Gathered Together in a volume

Authors will sometimes gather important documents on a topic and publish them as a sourcebook.  These may be found by searching Bridge this way:

By Subject:  "Subject Heading" Sources 
[e.g.  Music -- United States -- Sources]

By title keyword:  Document* or reading* or source*
[e.g.  Music and document*]

For example:

Music in the USA : a documentary companion
ML200 .M89 2008

Personal Writings

People write of their experiences -- and they are often later published as memoirs, journals, letters, autobiographies, or collected papers

To find personal writings, try the following searches:

By subject:  [Subject Heading] and (Correspondence or "personal narratives" or reminiscences or interviews)

By keyword:  [composer's name] and (memoir* or autobiograph* or diary or diaries or letters or correspondence or papers)

For example,

The Leonard Bernstein Letters
Carleton ML 410.B566 A4 2013


Bibliographies and Directories

Bibliographies can be enormously helpful when you are trying to do comprehensive searching on a topic.  Book-length bibliographies relating to composers can be found in ML134.

A useful directory of archival collections of American history is Resources of American Music History: A Directory of Source Materials from Colonial Times to World War II. REF ML120.U5R47.