An introduction to music research
An introduction to music research

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An introduction to music research

3.8 Musical sources

The study of notated musical texts takes place through:

  • the sources themselves – manuscript and printed music
  • musical editions based on the sources, which record the evidence on which the editor’s text is based
  • literature concerning a work and its sources.

For many years, the study of manuscripts and early printed editions could take place only in a library, and this is still the case for much western art music. However, many musical sources have now been scanned and digitised, allowing their analysis at a distance. In 2013, the Britten manuscripts in the British Library [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] were digitised as one of the projects marking the composer’s centenary. This is an extraordinarily rich resource, from which we can learn about his composing methods. Two other good examples are:

Activity 12

Working with certain types of music can come with particular problems. Read Ben Winters, ‘Using film music sources’, which explains some of the issues.


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