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Canadian music: Home

Canadian music

Sources for background information



Music in Canada: A Research and Information Guide
ML120 C2 M67 1997
Updated in ICM: Institute for Canadian Music Newsletter, vol. 2, no. 3 (September 2004)

Canadian Music and Music Education: An Annotated Bibliography of Theses and Dissertations
ML120 C2 P47 1997

Répertoire bibliographique de textes de présentation générale et d'analyse d'oeuvres musicales canadiennes (1900-1980)
ML120 C3 R425 1983

Searching the Library catalogue

WorldCat catalogue

To search for electronic resources, print and physical items, use the basic search or advanced search in the WorldCat catalogue.

Classic catalogue

To search only for print and other physical items, use the basic word(s) anywhere or advanced keyword search in the Classic catalogue.

Catalogue search tips

You can search using words for such things as historical periods (e.g., baroque, renaissance, romantic), musical genres (e.g., punk, folk songs, symphonies), musical styles (e.g., galant, bop, minimalist music), instruments, and individual musicians.

Truncation symbol: ? or * e.g. canad? or canad* will retrieve catalogue records containing the words canada, canadian, canadien, canadiennes, etc.
Phrase searching: "___" e.g. "tuning of the world" will retrieve catalogue records containing the exact phrase tuning of the world
Boolean operators: ( ), AND, OR, NOT
default: AND
e.g. "popular music" AND (quebec OR canada) will retrieve catalogue records containing the phrase popular music AND either of the words quebec OR canada

Browse by call number

From the Basic Search screen of the Classic Catalogue, select Call number begins with... and enter one of the call numbers below, or simply browse the Music Library shelves at:

ML21 C... Directories to music resources in Canada
ML120 C... Bibliographies - Canada
ML205 Music - Canada - History and criticism
ML3484 Popular music - Canada - History and criticism
ML3509 C... Jazz - Canada - History and criticism
ML3563 National music - Canada
MT3 C... Music education in Canada

Search by subject heading

From the Basic Search screen of the Classic Catalogue, select Subject heading begins with... and enter one of the suggested subject headings below (the dashes are not necessary).

Music – Canada
Music – Quebec
Composers – Canada
Composers – Quebec
Folk music – Canada
Folk Music – Quebec
Popular music – Canada
Popular Music – Quebec
Specific composers names: e.g., Pentland, Barbara; Mitchell, Joni

Core and additional databases

The most efficient way of finding periodical literature is to search in literature databases, since individual articles are not indexed in the Library catalogue.

Core databases

  • CMPI: Canadian Music Periodical Index
    Citations only to nearly 30,000 articles in Canadian music periodicals published from the late 19th century to the present
  • RILM Abstracts of Music Literature Full Text
    Citations and abstracts of music scholarship – articles, books, theses, conference proceedings, etc. – from around the world
  • Music Index Online
  • Citations only to a mix of scholarly and more popular periodical literature – some links to full-text articles
  • Music Periodicals Database (formerly IIMP - International Index to Music Periodicals)
    Citations and abstracts of scholarly and popular music periodical literature; more than 80 titles have at least some full text

Additional databases

Canadian music is covered in many journals of interest to the general reader. The indexes below will provide relevant citations and sometimes full text of articles not found in the music-specific databases above.

  • CPI.Q
    Canadian Periodicals Index indexes 400 Canadian and international periodicals and newspapers, several with full text.
  • Repère
    French Canadian periodical coverage


Newspapers are often useful sources of profiles of Canadian composers, musicians, and music societies; performance reviews; or broader discussions of the arts and Canadian / Québécois identity. Consult McGill Library's Newspapers page to gain online access to recent Canadian and international newspapers.

Online Canadian historical newspapers include the complete run of The Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star.

  • The Globe and Mail (1844-2010)
    Offers pdfs of original pages from The Globe and Mail, allowing full text search in advertisements as well as articles and reviews
  • Toronto Star (1894-2012)
    Offers pdf images of original pages from the Toronto Star, allowing full text search in advertisements as well as articles and reviews

In general, however, pre-1990 newspapers are searchable only through print indexes and full-text is found on microfiche only.

All print indexes to Canadian newspapers and general-interest periodicals are available at the Humanities and Social Sciences Library in the Reference Section. Ask a reference librarian for assistance in selecting the proper index for the newspaper and year of interest. Please note: performance reviews may not be found in every index or may be grouped under a specific heading such as “Concerts, review…” or “Performance” or “Reviews.”

Dissertation databases

Dissertations are book-length papers written by graduate students in partial fulfillment of a Ph.D. or other doctoral degree requirements. Because they represent new areas of research and undergo a rigorous academic evaluation process, dissertations can be excellent resources for finding information on Canadian music topics. Be sure to check their bibliographies for further reading.

For more online dissertation resources, consult the theses page.

Recordings databases

The Music Library audio / video recordings collection includes many Canadian works and performances by Canadian musicians. For further information on locating these recordings consult the How to find recordings page.

The Music Library subscribes to several recordings databases. The following contain significant Canadian content:

  • Naxos Music Library carries the Canadian recording labels CBC, Analekta, and ATMA.
  • Classical Music Library carries CBC recordings.
  • DRAM focuses on avant-garde contemporary music released on smaller labels such as New World, Albany, and XI Records. Canadian artists appear on the performers' roster.
  • Smithsonian Global Sound offers an array of Canadian traditional and folk music recordings (access via BAnQ; requires free subscription to remote services).

For free online streaming audio sites dedicated to Canadian music, see the next section, Selected Internet sites.

Selected Internet sites

Accessible to anyone with an Internet connection.

  • CMC CentreStreams
    The Canadian Music Centre provides streaming audio access to complete recordings of over 8000 works by its member composers. These recordings, known as the Ann Southam Audio Archive, are drawn from concerts and other programming first aired on the CBC and Radio-Canada.
  • CBC Radio 2 Music Channels
    24-hour online music streaming channels including 2 dedicated to Canadian compositions: "Canadian Songwriters" and "Canadian Composers." All channels feature significant Canadian content.
  • CBC Concerts on Demand
    Music of all genres performed in all regions of Canada.
  • Radio-Canada ICI Musique
    CBC's sister French station, Radio-Canada, offers streaming of concerts in all genres featuring Quebec and franco-canadian artists, ensembles, and composers.
  • Institute for Canadian Music (University of Toronto)
    Includes a list of CanCon music websites

Other libraries

  • Canadian Music Centre / Centre de musique canadienne
    The local office, located as of May 9, 2012, at 1085 Côte du Beaver Hall, suite 200, has many scores, recordings, and other resources for Quebec composers as well as other member composers from across Canada. Reference service is available (in French preferably) with an appointment.
  • Library and Archives Canada / Bibliothèque et Archives Canada
    The LAC has created several excellent sites dedicated to Canada’s music and musicians based on its collections. The Music and Performing Arts site (in French or English) guides the visitor through these resources.
  • Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec
    The BAnQ collects, organizes, and provides access to all aspects of cultural production in Quebec. The circulating music collection of the Grand bibliothèque (475 de Maisonneuve E.) includes books, scores, and recordings of a general nature. Significant Quebec music materials are found in the Collection national de musique and the legal deposit and private archival fonds of the Collection patrimoniale québécoise. Digital resources include several historical Quebec newspapers and magazines (including La Lyre, 1921-1931), musical scores and books, and over 2000 online sound recordings produced between 1900 and 1952.
  • Richard Johnston Canadian Music Archives Collection
    This collection houses the archives of a number of Canadian composers, musicians, music educators and music societies.

Borrowing from other university libraries

All libraries above require registration for full use of their on-site resources and services. Please inquire at the individual libraries for further details.

A BCI card allows its holder to borrow materials from other academic libraries. McGill undergraduate students, graduate students, and faculty can request a card from the service desk of any McGill branch library. Graduate and faculty BCI cards grant their holders borrowing rights at participating university libraries across Canada. For more information, visit McGill Library's "Borrowing in person at other universities" page.

Students and faculty may use other libraries' collections - possibly with certain restrictions - even if they do not have borrowing privileges.

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