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Music Subject Guide

Get started with your music specific research!

What is a primary source?

“Primary sources” are the raw materials of history — original documents and objects which were created at the time under study. They are different from secondary sources, accounts or interpretations of events created by someone without firsthand experience.

Stephen Wesson

Using primary sources in your research can help to make your arguments more compelling and substantiated because they have the unique ability to capture personal insight and testimony of a particular moment in history. 


Primary vs Secondary Sources

Primary Sources in Music

  • Manuscript/facsimile scores
  • Composer/performer notes and correspondence
  • Early/field recordings
  • Footage of live performances/rehearsals
  • Performance reviews
  • Musical instruments

Secondary Sources in Music

  • Books
  • Articles
  • Dictionaries
  • Encyclopedias