Primary Sources of Music History—A Call for Suggestions

As a part of our interregnum between volumes, we are going to update our musicology must-reads feature. Please feel free to add suggestions of your newest or rediscovered favorites in the comments section of that page.

I especially would like suggestions for a new section of the must-reads list: Primary Sources of Music History. This will be a list of texts not only on the topic of music history/musicology, but that have historical value themselves as influential texts to music history/musicology. They will be generally pre-1950. Some examples are below:

1773. Herder, Johann Gottfried von. Shakespeare.

1776. Burney, Charles. A General History of Music from the Earliest Ages to the Present Period. Vol. I (1776); Vol. II (1782); Vol. III (1789); Vol IV (1789).

1824. Stendhal, Life of Rossini.

Please include as much bibliographic information as you have, especially year of publication, and perhaps where the resource can be found online (if applicable). I’m hoping that this turns into a useful resource for music historians, including students, professionals, and enthusiasts.


  1. codyloyd says:

    not sure if this applies to what you are looking for, but this is a collection of documents, letters, articles etc. written by composers throughout history.

    2008. Weiss, P. and Taruskin, R., “Music in the Western World: a history in documents” Schirmer Books

  2. Mark Samples says:

    Good suggestion Cody—Collections of excerpts from primary source readings are incredibly valuable. In addition to the Weiss/Taruskin, there’s also the Strunk source readings in music history. These are invaluable entry points, for their curated nature and the introductions by the editors. I suppose one could just page through one of these and collect references—though I think there could also be some use for a crowd-sourced, annotated list that parallels it. I’d love to see a pooling of links to sources that are available online.

  3. Juli says:

    I would add these:

    Holmes, Edward. A Ramble Among the Musicians of Germany. London, 1828. Da Capo Press edition, New York, 1969.

    Heine, Heinrich. The Romantic School and Other Essays. The German Library: vol. 33, New York: Continuum, 2002. First published in 1985.

  4. liz garnett says:

    Good question! How about:

    Weingartner, Felix. The Symphony Writers Since Beethoven. Trans. Arthur Bles. London: W. Reeves.

    Drinker, Sophie (1945/1995) Music and women: the story of women in their relation to music. Feminist Press.

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