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Reference Books from Literati

Need more background information about Music History but don't have time to go to the library? UMass Lowell Libraries gives you access to these full-text electronic reference books through Literati. Click here for a short tutorial about what else is available through Literati.

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Metropolitan Opera Encyclopedia: A Comprehensive Guide to the World of Opera
This book aspires to be at once a guide to the world of opera and a compendium of information specifically related to the Metropolitan Opera, its history, repertory, and performers.

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The Harvard Biographical Dictionary of Music
A guide to the thousands of characters, from humble artisan to lofty genius, who people the unfolding history of music, this volume brings together all the pertinent biographical information about composers, performers, music theorists, and instrument makers from the days of praise chants to the bop and pop of today.

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The Harvard Dictionary of Music
Wide ranging and reliable, this treasure trove includes entries on all the styles and forms in Western music; comprehensive articles on the music of Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Near East; descriptions of instruments enriched by historical background; and articles that reflect today's beat, including popular music, jazz, and rock.

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The New Penguin Dictionary of Music
Succinct and comprehensive guide to the history, forms, and personalities of classical music. Readers will find biographies of thousands of composers from Albinoni to Zappa, with in-depth treatment of major figures, coverage of individual works, including plot summaries of operas and ballets, articles on the history of music and instruments, entries on musical forms, from medieval plainchant to contemporary minimalism, and clear definitions of technical terms and jargon.

Composers and Musicians

  • Hildegard of Bingen (1098 - 1179)
    From The Harvard Biographical Dictionary of Music: Born into the German nobility but early entrusted to the church: a novice at age 8, a nun at 15, a mother superior from 1136, founder of a monastery (Rupertsberg) near Bingen between 1147 and 1150 and of a daughter house nearby, ca. 1165. MORE
  • Machaut, Guillaume de (c. 1300 - ?1377)
    From The Encyclopaedia of the Renaissance: Probably born in Reims, Machaut entered the service of John of Luxembourg, King of Bohemia, in around 1323, and was his secretary until the king's death at Crécy (1346). MORE
  • Josquin Desprez (c. 1440 - 1521)
    From The Harvard Biographical Dictionary of Music: Although his association with Condé may extend back to before 1477, a document found there indicates that he registered with the authorities as an alien shortly before his death, and thus was born in France. MORE
  • Claudio Monteverdi (1567 - 1643): Topic Page
    Composer, born in Cremona, N Italy. A proficient violist, he learned the art of composition in Cremona, publishing a set of three-part choral pieces at the age of 15. MORE
  • Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 - 1750): Topic Page
    German composer and organist; one of the greatest and most influential composers of the Western world. He brought polyphonic baroque music to its culmination, creating masterful and vigorous works in almost every musical form known in his period. MORE
  • George Frideric Handel (1685 - 1759): Topic Page
    English composer, b. Halle, Germany. Handel was one of the greatest masters of baroque music, most widely celebrated for his majestic oratorio Messiah. MORE

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Musical Periods and Genres

  • Greek Music
    From The Columbia Encyclopedia: The music of ancient Greece was inseparable from poetry and dancing. It was entirely monodic, there being no harmony as the term is commonly understood. MORE
  • Byzantine music
    From The Columbia Encyclopedia: The music of the Byzantine Empire composed to Greek texts as ceremonial, festival, or church music. MORE
  • Gregorian Chant
    From The Harvard Dictionary of Music: The plainsong or liturgical chant of the Roman Catholic Church. It is one of the five principal repertories of Latin liturgical chant of the Middle Ages, the others being Old Roman, Ambrosian, Gallican, and Mozarabic. MORE
  • Ars Nova
    From Britannica Concise Encyclopedia: Musical style of 14th-century Europe, particularly France. MORE
  • Music Through Time: Medieval Music
    From The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather guide: The Middle Ages or medieval period of musical history spans from around the 11th century to the 15th century. MORE
  • Baroque
    From The Harvard Dictionary of Music: The period of Western music history extending from the end of the 16th century to ca. 1750; also the musical styles of that period. MORE
  • Music Through Time: Renaissance Music
    From The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather guide: The term ‘renaissance’ means ‘rebirth’ and refers to a period in history when music and the arts developed further, experimenting with new sounds and breaking away from the constraints of the Middle Ages. MORE
  • Classical
    From : The period or style that has its tentative beginnings in Italy in the early 18th century and extends through the early 19th century. MORE
  • Music, Romantic
    From Encyclopedia of the Romantic Era, 1760-1850: The Romantic style in music is frequently described as radically opposed to its predecessor, the classical style. MORE
  • Chamber Music: Topic Page
    Music intended for performance in a small room or chamber, rather than in the concert hall, and usually written for instrumental combinations, played with one instrument to a part, as in the string quartet. MORE
  • Folk Music: Topic Page
    Traditional music, especially from rural areas, which is passed on by listening and repeating, and is usually performed by amateurs. MORE
  • Opera: Topic Page
    Dramatic musical work in which singing takes the place of speech. MORE

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Articles and Essays

  • Music Through Time – the Basics
    From The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather guide: There are many ways to study the history of music. For example, you can study composers in detail and look at their biographies and their main works. MORE
  • Music, Women Composers, and Musicians (c.300-c.1450)
    From Women in the Middle Ages: An Encyclopedia: Developing a portrait of the musical activities of women, particularly in Western Europe but also in other parts of the world, from the fourth to the fifteenth centuries is rather like creating a tapestry from a variety of fibers and textures. MORE
  • Music
    From Late Antiquity: A Guide to the Postclassical World: The late antique world was filled with music. MORE
  • Music in Medieval Nunneries
    From Women in the Middle Ages: An Encyclopedia: Nunneries offered women in the Middle Ages an arena for leadership, scholarship, and musicianship. Many women, both unmarried and widowed, found the nunnery a place where their talents and creativity could be used. MORE
  • Music Medieval
    From All Things Chaucer: An Encyclopedia of Chaucer's World: Although music was perhaps the most popular and widely available pastime of the Middle Ages, much of it has been lost or was never written down. MORE

World Music Types

  • Indian Music
    From The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather guide: There are many types of Indian music. The classical style and more traditional style of ragas comes from the northern parts of India and uses complex melodies and rhythms. MORE
  • Chinese music
    From The Columbia Encyclopedia: Chinese music can be traced back as far as the third millennium B.C. Manuscripts and instruments from the early periods of its history are not extant, however, because in 212 B.C., Shih Huang-ti of the Ch'in dynasty caused all the books and instruments to be destroyed and the practice of music to be stopped. MORE
  • African Music
    From The Columbia Encyclopedia: The music of the indigenous peoples of Africa. Sub-Saharan African music has as its distinguishing feature a rhythmic complexity common to no other region. MORE
  • American Indian music
    From The Harvard Dictionary of Music: Also termed Native American music and, in Canada, First Nations music. MORE
  • Aboriginal Song and Narrative (Australia)
    From Encyclopedia of Post-Colonial Literatures in English: Speaking more than two hundred languages and with a traditional culture reaching back thousands of years, the indigenous peoples of what came to be called ‘Australia’ faced a total invasion of their lands by a European group with nineteenth-century assumptions about the inferiority of ‘primitive’ peoples. MORE
  • Music and Dance IV—Indigenous
    From Iberia and the Americas: Culture, Politics, and History: Ancient cultures of the Americas used music and dance for religious and most likely for social purposes as well. MORE

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