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Music Courses & Research: Web
(Music Theory)

Researching Composers Online


Current composers often have their own websites--or their agent or publisher keeps a bio page current. This information should be considered credible. ALWAYS find the most official site possible (for example, avoid citing fan pages, but use their links).


Current composers have often conducted interviews with the press or others, and these interviews may be posted online. This information should be considered the same credibility as that of a newspaper article--it's benefits are that it's current at the time of publication, it gives specific data about one thing (the composer), but note that if the interview is edited, then editing bias could come into play. Also, if this is the only info you can find, then you must rely on it more heavily--but be honest in your in-text references that you understand what the source is. Normally, a NY Times article would obviously be "more credible" than someone's blog--but if they're all interviewing the composer (and this is verified), you can use anything a composer has said, just consider the context if necessary.


Current composers may be reviewed in more scholarly publications--and thus, more easily to appear in databases such as RILM--or they may only be reviewed here and there, in online news sources or music review sites. In this case, you want to be sure you find everything you can find, verify it is sufficiently credible, and then be honest about the source of your information if you feel it is marginally questionable. ALWAYS work hard to find the most credible source--in this case, if you can find a NY Times review, definitely use that instead of someone's blog post--unless it's the blog of a well-known musician/music critic/musicologist.


Online lists are always garbage sources--but if you're down to picking through the dregs of information, they can be quite useful as breadcrumbs to more official sources. Be aware you may have to click links, do google searches, click more links, and so on until you FINALLY find the original source that is quoted. Listicles are notorious for "hat tipping" an "original source," but then that "original source" itself turns out to be citing something else. Sometimes this is a 5-step process to the actual original.
Adjacent information If you have trouble finding sources on a specific current composer, artist, or piece, but you still need to write about it, consider using what might be called "adjacent information." Is this composer like another composer, or is there more information about the composer's mentor, or is the composer's style in the wheelhouse of more well-known works? Consider bringing in sources about this adjacent information. But be aware--this does require more original analysis on your part.

Music Theory Websites

WHAT is it - WHY should you believe it - WHY is it right for you now

PATS: Acronym for Evaluation indicators
Purpose Is the intent to INFORM or PERSUADE?
Authority Scholar? Journalist? Experienced in the topic? Whatever it is, what does it mean in the context of history? Of a country? Of a time period?
Timeliness Depends on your topic whether currency is important
Scope Do you want something that covers the topic broadly, specifically, or in-depth? (e.g., respectively, encyclopedias, news or scholarly articles, and books)