Every year at the beginning of term we welcome our new students to the music collections in our libraries by explaining what we have on offer. Over the past years this has involved quite a lot of walking around the Pendlebury and University Library Music Department, especially for our graduate students who get a peek behind-the-scenes right from the start.
Cambridge has so much to offer that we have to be selective and focus on the essentials. But there is so much more out there in the world of freely available online resources.
Here are some of my current favourites:
The RISM online catalogue of musical sources has been extended last May to include the entire contents of A/I, Individual Prints before 1800 and a portion of B/I, Recueils imprimés, XVIe-XVIIe siècles (Printed collections of the 16th-17th centuries), covering the years 1500-1550. Not only is this making my life as a music librarian much more comfortable, I would have absolutely loved this in my student days.
A bit more niche perhaps, but nevertheless worth mentioning, is the Ricordi online numerical catalogue. This online resource covers Ricordi’s main 19th-century published catalogs as well as a portion of the libroni. It isn’t the most intuitive of resources and requires creating a free login but the content makes it worth the effort. A recent review provides some useful tips on getting the most out of this resource.
With my “notated music” collection development hat on, I’m constantly on the lookout for what is available online, both free and on subscription. As far as contemporary music is concerned, the world of music publishing has gone into music hire big time, which basically means it’s not always possible for us to buy, let’s say, the latest full score of the latest opera. Some publishers however do let us have a peek online. Good examples of these online perusal scores can be found with most major music publishers, including Boosey & Hawkes, Faber, Music Sales and Schott.
Fully digitized manuscripts and printed music are a rapidly expanding area and it can be difficult to know where to start. It’s relatively easy when researching known collections at known locations, but otherwise it can be a little bit more complicated. Although not exhaustive, the List of Online Digital Musical Document Libraries could be a good first port of call, as is the Virtual Library of Musicology or Digital Resources for Musicology.
Last, but not least, Europeana has developed the Europeana Music Channel. Although still in test version, this magnificent recourse brings together music, images and sound, all “showcasing western classical music as well as classical music from non-western cultures, traditional, folk and popular music.”