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Primary Sources in Music

Where can I find primary sources?

Welcome to the library guide to primary sources!

You will find a wide variety of primary sources available to researchers. Some of them are in print, some available through on-line subscription databases, and many are freely accessible on the Web. Use the tabs above to navigate to these various sources.


Aaron Copland in Paris, 1920s.  From Music Division, Library of Congress: Aaron Copland Collection, ca. 1900-1990 (accessed 11 February 2015).

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).