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Music theory

Sources for background information


There are no encyclopedias or dictionaries dedicated solely to music theory. The two major Western classical music encyclopedias, however, have several pertinent articles.

See such articles as "Theory, theorists" and "Analysis."


Form and Analysis Theory: A Bibliography
ML128 T5 P45 1998

Harmony Theory: A Bibliography
ML128 T5 P47 1997

Music Analyses: An Annotated Guide to the Literature
ML128 A7 D5 1991

Music Theory from Boethius to Zarlino
ML128 T5 B35 2007

Music Theory from Zarlino to Schenker (aka Damschroder and Williams)
ML128 T5 D27 1990
The Bible of theory bibliography

Analyses of Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Music, 1940-2000
ML113 H695 2007
Also consult earlier editions and supplements of this work in the regular book shelves (5th floor) under the same basic call number.

Heinrich Schenker: An Annotated Index to His Analyses of Musical Works
ML423 S33 L4

Ancient Greek Music Theory: A catalogue raisonné of Manuscripts
ML113 I6 ser BXI (1988)

Bibliographie der musiktheoretischen Drucke des 16. Jahrhunderts
ML128 T5 D38 1962

The Theory of Music from the Carolingian Era up to 1400: Descriptive Catalogue of Manuscripts
ML113 I6 ser.B III (1961) (6 vols.)

In ML134 may be found bibliographies dedicated to specific composers (which cite, among other literature, theoretical analyses of individual works).

Searching the Library catalogue

Use the basic word(s) anywhere or advanced keyword search in the library catalogue. 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: ? e.g. theor? will retrieve catalogue records containing the words theory, theorem, theories, theoretical, etc.
Phrase searching: "___" e.g. "music theory" will retrieve catalogue records containing the phrase music theory
Boolean operators: (), AND, OR, NOT
default: AND
e.g. schoenberg AND ("music theory" OR "musical analysis") will retrieve catalogue records containing the word schoenberg AND either of the phrases music theory OR musical analysis

Browse by call number

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

ML432 Biographies of theorists
ML430-ML455 History of composition
ML3800-ML3921.8 Philosophy and physics of music
MT5.5-MT7 Music theory: instruction and study
MT50-MT55 Harmony textbooks and treatises
MT90-MT146 Analytical guides

Subject headings

Subject headings are the standardized descriptions of library documents found in the catalogue. They capture what an item is "about" regardless of the terminology or language used by an author so that all items on a particular topic may be found more easily. A search using the following words and phrases should retrieve relevant resources:

Music theory
Musical analysis
Music philosophy and aesthetics
Harmonic analysis
Keyboard harmony
Schenkerian analysis
Music intervals and scales
Musical form
Musical meter and rhythm
composition (music)
Music notation
Add time periods:
To 500
Early works to 1800
15th century
16th century
17th century...

Core 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

Selected Internet sites

  • Johannes Tinctorus: Complete theoretical works
    A digital edition of music treatises by the 15th-century theorist developed by Ronald Woodley and others of the Birmingham Conservatoire
  • TMI Thesaurus musicarum italicarum
    An electronic corpus of Italian music treatises from the Renaissance and early Baroque. Nearly thirty full-text works including those of Pietro Aaron and Gioseffo Zarlino
  • Thesaurus musicarum latinarum
    Hosted by Indiana University, TML is "an evolving database of the entire corpus of Latin music theory written during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance"
  • Saggi musicali italiani
    Another database developed by the Center for the History of Music Theory and Literature, SMI is a full-text database of major music theory treatises written in Italian from 1400-
  • Texts on Music in English from the Medieval and Early Modern Eras
    From the Center for the History of Music Theory and Literature, TME provides full-text access to English-language treatises from the 14th century to the 17th century.
  • Traités français sur la musique
    From the Center for the History of Music Theory and Literature, Tfm will "eventually comprise all relevant manuscript and printed materials written in French from the Middle Ages through the nineteenth century"

Other resources

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