The Ohio State University Libraries | Research Guides

Searching Effectively

World Music Resources

Quick reference sources and starting points for research

Oxford Music Online contains substantive articles and bibliographies on the art music and traditional music of all countries. The bibliographies cite books, articles, and other literature on the music of each country. 

New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments (ML102 N48), Musical Instruments of the World (ML102 I5 D5), and Musical Instruments: A Comprehensive Dictionary (ML102 I5 M3) are good sources of information on — and photographs or illustrations of — non-western musical instruments, as well as bibliographies of source materials on specific instruments.

Garland Encyclopedia of World Music presents in-depth essays on various musical cultures, grouped in volumes organized by geographic region (Africa, Southeast Asia, Europe, etc.). Each volume contains a detailed index, which is the recommended form of access for this set. Unlike most encyclopedias, Garland does not present its articles in alphabetical order by topic. Accompanying CDs available.

Finding articles and other literature

RILM Abstracts of Music Literature is an annotated index of articles from scholarly journals, as well as dissertations and books on music, and offers more than one million pages of full-text.

Additional articles in periodicals may be found by searching two other music periodical indexes, Music Index (online: c.1976-present; print: 1949-present) and Music Periodicals Database (online: c.1996-present, with selective coverage for earlier years).

These indexes will tell you which publications contain information on your topic, but you will have to search the OSU Libraries Catalog to determine if OSU owns the publication. For articles in periodicals, search the periodical title (not the article title) using a TITLE search in the OSU Libraries Catalog to find the location and call number of the periodical. Books and dissertations listed in RILM may be searched by title or author in the OSU Libraries Catalog.

Finding books and printed music

Search by SUBJECT in the OSU Libraries Catalog using heading patterns such as: 
Music -- [continent, region, country, culture, or language]

Example: Music--Pakistan

      Folk music--[continent, region, country, culture, or language]

Example: Folk Music--Hungary

      Songs--[continent, region, country, culture, or language]

Example: Songs--Hebrew

      Children's songs--[continent, region, country, culture, or language]

Example: Children's songs--Japan

      Folk songs--[continent, region, country, culture, or language]

Example: Folk songs--Japanese

      Popular music--[continent, region, country, culture, or language]

Example: Popular music--Africa

      Musicians--[continent, region, country, culture, or language]

Example: Musicians--Afghanistan

A KEYWORD search in the OSU Libraries Catalog can also be used for the most wide-ranging retrieval. For broadest coverage, type an asterisk (*) after each keyword root to pick up all forms of the word. A KEYWORD search on Music* and Nigeria* will retrieve all items that contain words music, musicians, musical, musicology, etc. and the words Nigeria, Nigerian, Nigerians, etc. in the title, subject heading(s) or notes

Try also a SUBJECT search using World music as your term -- followed by a country, or by a limiter such as Bibliography, or Dictionaries, or Databases. For example:

    World music -- Canada
    World music -- China -- Tibet
    World music -- Computer network resources
    World music -- Economic aspects

Finding sound recordings

A search of the OSU Libraries Catalog can retrieve recently acquired items. Use the same types of subject heading searches as listed under Finding books and printed music. Once you have entered  a SUBJECT search and retrieved a list of items, you can limit the display to sound recordings by choosing LIMIT, MATERIAL TYPE, and MUSIC RECORD. The call numbers LP0, LP1, LP2, and LPR  designate long-playing vinyl records; LP3, LP4, LP5, and LP6 designate CDs.

Citations for additional recordings can also be found in specialized discographies. To learn whether we have a discography for the country or region you are researching, enter a SUBJECT search in the OSU Libraries Catalog for "Discography--Music" and choose from the listed headings. For example, the heading Discography--Music--Africa retrieves the following source:

Merriam, Alan P. African Music on LP: an Annotated Discography. Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern Univ. Press, 1970.

World Music video recordings

The JVC Video Anthology of World Music and Dance is a set of video recordings and accompanying booklets. You can view them in the Music & Dance Library Media Center.

Finding "World Music" through bibliographies of vocal literature

Search in bibliographies with subject indexes to vocal literature. To find these indexes, search the OSU Libraries Catalog by SUBJECT -- for example:
    Children's songs--Indexes
    Songs--[country or culture]--History and Criticism

Example: Children's songs--Japan--History and Criticism

Two excellent subject indexes are found in the following sources:

De Charms, Desiree and Paul F. Breed. Songs in Collections: An Index. Detroit: Information Service, 1966. See especially pp. 151-272, "Anonymous Songs and Folk Songs" (arranged geographically). ML128 S3 D4.

Peterson, Carolyn Sue and Ann D. Fenton. Index to Children's Songs: A Title, First Line, and Subject Index. New York: H. W. Wilson, 1979. "Subject Index": pp. 169-318 (contains geographic and topical headings). ML128 S3 P48

For example, under "Nigeria" in Peterson's index, an entry indicates that the song "Everybody Loves Saturday Night" can be found in its original form in two song collections (nos. 64 and 148, listed in the front of the book) and in a third in a varied form ("see also 89: [p.] 279"). The Music & Dance Library owns collection no. 64:

Fowke, Edith and Joe Glazer. Songs of Work and Protest. New York: Dover, 1973.
"Everybody Loves Saturday Night" is found on p. 200.

Arrangements of songs can also be found in catalogs of choral music (e.g., the Choral Music in Printseries). A song can also be searched in the title index to general graded music collections (call numbers beginning with M1994).

Books, scores, recordings in other libraries

Books, scores, and recordings not owned by OSU can be searched in the OhioLINK central catalog,  a "union" catalog of about 90 Ohio libraries, mainly college and university libraries. You can request items on line, and receive them in 3 to 5 business days at a campus library, office, or dorm room of your choosing.

Consult a librarian for reference assistance of any kind. You can also request reference help by phone at 614-292-2319 or by email at Ask OSU Libraries.


Useful links


British Library International Music Connection

English Folk Dance and Song Society

World Music Central