Historical Musicology: A Reference Manual for Research in Music

Historical Musicology: A Reference Manual for Research in Music

Historical Musicology: A Reference Manual for Research in Music

Historical Musicology: A Reference Manual for Research in Music

Excerpt

One individual cannot today know the entire literature of music or the entire bibliography of the whole field of music. The area is enormous, and one lifetime is hardly sufficient to obtain detailed knowledge of all the present books on music and publications of music. We can, however, come to know the most important publications and how to locate such additional information and material as occasion might demand. We can also, by becoming specialists, develop a reasonably exhaustive knowledge in one or more regions of specialization. The publications and manuscript materials of past centuries present the twentieth-century musicologist with a mass of such scope that one can no longer "take all knowledge to be one's province," as Francis Bacon once wrote in the latter years of a far simpler age. One may specialize (and one should in this twentieth century) but, even in specialization, musicological "knowledge" is not so much an amassing of enormous amounts of fact and figure as it is an understanding of how and where to learn more. To apply this basic principle is far better than attempting to learn the shape, color, and contents of every book of or about music. This is the basic reason for making a study of bibliography and learning how to use the volumes which librarians so carefully and lovingly order, arrange, and catalogue for our benefit.

An understanding of the use of bibliographical materials, complete editions, musical Denkmäley, periodicals, etc., can best be achieved empirically, i.e., by actually doing research. No amount of rules for learning the aims and methods of bibliographical musicology will really teach one the fundamentals of research. Research itself requires patience and an infinite capacity for persistent and unrelenting investigation: the patience to be exhaustively thorough and the persistence to continue until an entire subject has been completely explored.

A few basic principles may be indicated regarding bibliography. In general, dictionaries and encyclopedias provide our first source of information. In these, we find basic facts and definitions, as well as concise surveys of subject material. Most good dictionaries and encyclopedias will also provide bibliographical references. Histories of music and histories of special categories provide our second source of information. Music histories are able to present a more extensive discussion and correlation of facts than is possible in the confines of most dictionaries. Since histories vary greatly in quality, it is always wise to consult more than one.

Periodical articles provide our third source of information, and it is there that we most often find the latest information on a subject.

The music itself is most important for almost any research problem; it is the ultimate source of information. Regardless of the amount of writing that may have been done on a subject, the music is the final, irreducible arbiter of fact. It may be in the form of monumental editions, complete works of a single composer, original editions, early prints, or manuscripts. Microfilm and . . .

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