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Classical Music: Biographical Information

Resources for the study of all genres of classical music, including opera.

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USC Upstate Library Catalog
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Search Tips for finding biographical information:

  • A Subject search will find basic books, biographies and documentaries. Enter last name, first name.

       beethoven, ludwig van

  • A Keyword search can be useful in finding information in book chapters. Use quotes if you want to keep first and last names together.

         "george gershwin"

Biographical Reference Sources

In addition to the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians and Grove Music Online, these reference books are good sources of biographical information.

Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, 8th ed. – REF ML 105 .B16 1992.  Detailed, fact-filled biographical entries on musicians, worldwide, as well as individuals who affect or affected the lives of musicians.  Considered one of the most authoritative dictionaries for biographical information on musicians.

Contemporary Composers – REF ML 105 .C75 1992. A reliable guide to significant twentieth-century Classical composers.

Dictionary of American Classical Composers – REF ML 106 .U3 B87 2005. Includes a broad selection of important American composers from all periods.

Harvard Biographical Dictionary of Music – REF ML 105 .H38 1996. Brief entries on composers and musicians of all periods and kinds of music. Also available in Credo Reference.

International Dictionary of Black Composers – REF ML 105 .I5 1999. An important source for African-American Classical composers.

Norton/Grove Dictionary of Women Composers – REF ML 105 .N67 1995. A basic encyclopedia of the most important women composers contributing to Classical music.

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Browsing the Collection

The Library of Congress classification system for music is divided into three broad areas:

M = Musical scores and audio and video recordings of actual performances of music. Most of the library's CD collection and many videos are shelved in the Ms.

ML = Literature about music. Biographies, histories, documentaries, and some historically-based CD anthologies are shelved in the MLs.

MT = Materials for the teaching and study of music. Some historical or practical materials with a strong analytical or didactic bent are also shelved in the MTs.

Here are some of the most important LC number ranges for classical music and opera:

M 1000-1075 Orchestral music

M 1500 Opera

ML 50 Opera librettos

ML 198-360 history by region or country

ML 410 Biography of composers

ML 550-1380 Musical instruments and instrumental music

ML 1700  history of opera

Be aware that in the USC Upstate Library, music materials may be found in three locations:

Reference (Library Use Only) - The most useful and up-to-date reference books.

General Circulating Collection - Books, Scores, CDs, Videos that are available to check out.

Oversize Collection - Books, Scores, CD sets that do not fit on standard library shelves. These are also available to check out.


Selected Biographies

Here are some recent biographies about Classical composers and artists! Find more by searching the Library Catalog.