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Doing Historical Research in Music: Related Disciplines

Music and other disciplines

Research in music may lead you into other subject areas:

  • The other arts: dance, theatre, visual arts
  • Literature
  • Religion
  • Social sciences: history, politics, women's and gender studies, anthropology, sociology, psychology
  • Philosophy (such as aesthetics)
  • Education
  • Natural sciences: physics (such as accoustics), neuroscience (how we process sound)
  • Health sciences: sports medicine (which also treats performing artists), physical therapy

Following are some tips on expanding your research into other fields as needed to gain context or perspective on a musical topic.

Reference Sources


These can give you a basic overview and some bibliography to get you started in an unfamiliar subject area. Encyclopedias can be located using the following strategies:

Go to our "Databases" page, and explore the databases listed under "Reference Sources".

In the Library's catalog, use the following subject heading: [Discipline] -- Encyclopedias.


Research guides

We may also have other online research guides like this one for relevant disciplines. On our hompage, click "Research Guides."

Journal articles and primary sources

The following databases (available on our “Databases” page) may be helpful:


Arts and Humanities Citation Index

Humanities International Index

Social Sciences Citation Index



Art Full Text

BHA (Bibliography of the History of Art)

International Bibliography of Art

Oxford Art Online



ATLA Religion Database



Historical Abstracts

C19: the Nineteenth Century Index

America: History and Life

International Medieval Bibliography

ITER: Gateway to the Middle Ages and Renaissance



MLA International Bibliography

Eighteenth Century Collections (English literature)

Early American Imprints

Nineteenth Century U.S. Newspapers

American Periodicals Series

Womens Writers Online


Social Sciences:

Anthropology Plus

Sociological Abstracts

ERIC (education)

eHRAF World Cultures

Handbook of Latin American Studies (HLAS)


Natural Sciences:

Web of Science



Search the Library's catalog or WorldCat using subject headings like these:


For composers

[Composer's name] -- Knowledge -- [Discipline]

[Composer's name] -- Influence.

[Composer's name] -- Political and social views.

[Composer's name] -- Views on [topic]


   Wagner, Richard, 1813-1883 -- Knowledge -- Drama.

   Wagner, Richard, 1813-1883 -- Views on race.


For music related to other disciplines

Music and [discipline or topic]


   Music and literature

   Music and society

   Music and dance


Music in [discipline or topic]


   Music in literature

   Music in art


[Topic] in music


   Symbolism in music.

   Death in  music.


Music -- [Discipline-related] aspects


   Music -- Psychological aspects.

   Music -- Religious aspects.

   Music -- Social aspects.

   Music -- Economic aspects.


Subject headings for topical music (songs etc. about historical events or social issues)


Indexes in books

Don't forget that scholarly books have bibliographies and indexes. You can use these to identify more resources, and to quickly locate discussion of related topics within a book.


Literary authors set to music

If you're researching a particular poet, etc., whose work has been set to music, try the following strategies:


To identify musical settings of the author's works:

  • Search the Library's catalog or WorldCat using the following subject heading: [Author's name] -- Musical settings.

For further background on the author:

  • Consult reference sources in literature.

For the composer's relationship with the author:

  • Consult biographies and other critical works on the composer. In the index, the literary author's name is likely to appear, leading you to discussion of the composer's relationship with the author.
  • Search online databases for articles in music journals. Many databases, in their "advanced search," allow you to limit your search to journals in a particular subject area (like music) or to a specific journal. Select one of these options, and enter the literary author's last name as a title keyword or as a subject or descriptor.


Bibliographies of Musical Settings

There are bibliographies, catalogs, and indexes that collect literary works in general categories, and identify musical settings that have been done. Some examples:

  • Musical setttings of American poetry.
  • Musical settings of early and mid-Victorian literature: a catalogue.
  • Index to poetry in music: a guide to the poetry set as solo songs by 125 major song composers.


These and similar bibliographies can be searched in the Library's catalog using the following subject heading:

  • [Literary genre] -- Musical settings -- Bibliography.
  • Example: English poetry -- Musical settings -- Bibliography.


You can also find most of them shelved under the following call number (check both the Reference room and the main stacks):

  • ML128  V7

Subject Guide

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Leslie McCall
Office: 251 ZSR Library
Phone: 336-758-5474