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20th and 21st century composers: primary sources and documentation

When there's not enough in Grove...

So you're searching for information on a composer, possibly a living composer, and you can't find much if anything in Grove (Oxford Music Online), what next?

  • does the composer have a website? 
  • does the composer teach at a university? 
  • are reviews available either openly on the web or through various newspapers or journals?
    • New York Times (2015-present)
    • check FSU's OneSearch for full text of various online resources -- if a popular composer, do a subject search in the library catalog to see if books have been written on the composer
  • what's available on Wikipedia (and who made it available?)?
  • what's available on YouTube, Vimeo, and other resources (and again, who made it available?)?
  • is this composer still alive? Obituaries are often available in the newspaper of record (e.g., New York Times), professional publications, electronic interest lists, Find-A-Grave, and
  • are the composer's papers/collection held at a particular library or institution? Hint: use the Google search extension,, or to help limit the search.
  • are the composer's recordings represented in various online streaming databases (including DRAM) that may have liner notes available? 
  • are the composer's recordings available from another library (search WorldCat)?
  • are the composer's recordings available through SoundCloud or some other service?

Perspective, context, other tools

Resources for gaining perspective and/or historical/social context of a given era, decade, movement:

What did we do before RILM and Music Index?

A super secret librarian tool or two

  • Library of Congress Authority File
    • Particularly helpful to verify name spellings and variants (particularly for those names originating in a non-Roman alphabet)
    • Look for the "authorized heading" entry to get the full list of spelling variants
    • Can be helpful to track down dates or to find basic biographical information sources.
    • Birth/death dates are not available for each name because of the guidelines for establishing the authoritative form of a name, and how those guidelines have changed over time.
      • For example, no birth date is needed for this entry, because no other person with the same name has works published and cataloged at participating libraries.
      • Other unique names may have dates because guidelines or practices have changed.
  • VIAF (Virtual International Authority File)
    • Same notion as the LC authority file, but across the world. Ustvolskaya example below:
    • VIAF example
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