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Music: 57-480/780: History of Black American Music: Start

Reference Books



Black Music Research Journal

Getting Started

Undergraduate Students Working in Groups

Since you're researching a broad music genre, it would be good for you to read about that genre in Grove Music Online and the African American Studies Center. After that you could look for books in the CMU library catalog and Worldcat (worldwide library catalog). There are Cameo search results on broad subject terms in box to the left. See if you can find recordings for your presentation in American MusicNaxos Music Library, and Naxos Jazz.

Graduate Students Trying to Decide on a Topic

We have several reference books that focus on black composers and musicians in classical music. You could take a look at these to find a person or several people to focus on for your research paper.

Another approach might be to think about a time period that interests you and take a look at a chronology to see what was going on in history at that time. We have African American Music: A Chronology 1619-1995 in our African American Music Reference database.

Browsing ProQuest Dissertations and ThesesMusic Index and RILM Music Abstracts will give you a sense of topics others have chosen to write about. Granted your paper is not going to be dissertation length, but you could take a look at one aspect of a topic and investigate it further. Music Index and RILM provide journal articles to support your research paper. 

You might think geographically about a research topic. The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh in Oakland has a Pittsburgh Music section on their website. It might be fun to research a local person and use some primary resources if they are available. Think about where you grew up and how the music of black Americans influenced your city or town.

Once you decide on a topic, see of it is covered in Grove Music Online and the African American Studies Center. After that, look for books in the CMU library catalog and Worldcat (worldwide library catalog), and then journal articles in Music Index and RILM Music Abstracts. You may also try an Articles & More search from the library home page. This search will provide results from interdisciplinary databases that you won't find in Music Index/RILM.

Library Databases & Websites to Browse

African American Music Reference
Includes online biographies, background information, liner notes, and sheet music. You can browse by genre.

African American Studies Center
Good for background information on specific musicians and genres.

American Music
Find recordings for your presentation. They have a list of genres on their home page than can help get you started.

The Black Music History Library
This is a living collection of books, articles, documentaries, series, podcasts and more about the Black origins of traditional and popular music dating from the 18th century to present day. Resources are organized chronologically and by genre for ease of browsing. 

Database of recorded American music. There are about nine albums with music by African-American composers. Enter the search terms African American in the search box.

The nation's largest African American video oral history collection. 

Naxos Music Library
Find recordings for your presentation. Playlist User Guide (PDF)
Video tutorials: Create an Account in NaxosCreate a PlaylistBrowse by GenreStatic URLs for ppt, Word, or Canvas 
If you're not hearing sound on the video tutorials with Google Chrome, try another browser. 

Naxos Jazz
Find recordings for your presentation.

National Jukebox (pre-1925)
Historical Recordings from the Library of Congress. You can browse Popular Music by genre. This is a free database open to anyone.

Explore what isn't in Google

CMU Library Catalog

Go beyond CMU Libraries to find books and music worldwide:

Oxford Music Online (includes Grove Music Online)

The interface for Oxford Music Online changed on December 7, 2017. Oxford no longer supports the search box widget I had set up within this box so you will need to go directly into the database by clicking on the link above. 

Oxford Art Online
If your topic crosses over into art you may want to search Oxford Art Online as well. I noticed that there is an article for John Cage in both Oxford Art and Oxford Music. The content differs enough that depending on your focus one might be better than the other for your topic. There is also an article on 'music and art' in Oxford Art but there isn't a comparable article in Oxford Music. There is an article in Oxford Music for Impressionism that could be useful if you're more interested in composers who contributed to that movement.

MGG Online
Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart (MGG) is a general encyclopedia of music. MGG is encyclopedic in the true sense of that term: it offers in-depth articles on every aspect of music as well as many related areas such as literature, philosophy, and visual arts. MGG Online contains the second print edition of MGG, published from 1994 to 2008, as well as current, continuous online updates and additions.

Music Index/RILM Music Abstracts
Search in:

Need help? See the "How to Search JSTOR" guide.

Helpful Links

Journal Search
Look up journal titles to see if they are available full text online through one of our database subscriptions.

Global Communications Center (GCC)
Located on the 1st floor of Hunt Library. An excellent resource to enhance your written, oral, and visual communication skills. 

Interlibrary Loan
Not finding what you need in our library? Use ILLiad or EZ Borrow to get books, journal articles, music scores and recordings, etc. from other libraries. Free of charge in most cases.

Need more help?
Kristin Heath
Music Librarian
Music Libguide
Available for research consultations in the CFA Great Hall (across from room 102) on Wednesdays, 12-2pm or by appointment.