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Antiracist Music Theory Assignment

Resources for Researching Antiracist Music Theory

Getting Started

This research guide will help you get started finding sources about music theory for non-Western music and music theory by people of color. The best place to get started is by looking for general information about the theorist, genre of music, or music of the culture that you are interested in. Use these four resources to find basic information and bibliographies of resources relevant to your topic.

Garland Encyclopedia of World Music

The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music is the standard starting point for research on non-Western music. This 10-volume encyclopedia is available online and is divided into volumes on the major geographic areas of the world: 

  • Volume 1: Africa

  • Volume 2: South America, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean

  • Volume 3: The United States and Canada

  • Volume 4: Southeast Asia

  • Volume 5: South Asia: The Indian Subcontinent

  • Volume 6: The Middle East

  • Volume 7: East Asia: China, Japan, and Korea

  • Volume 8: Europe

  • Volume 9: Australia and the Pacific Islands

  • Volume 10: The World's Music: General Perspectives and Reference Tools

Most Importantly: 

Each volume has a "Guide to Publications" at the end with extensive sources organized by region and topic. Some volumes also have sections that are specifically about music theory for different kinds of music. Use the table of contents on the right side of the screen to navigate this encyclopedia. Here is an example of several sections that might be useful in Volume One

Screenshot of the table of contents to Volume 1 of the Garland Encyclopedia, Africa, highlighting relevant chapters for music theory, such as "Time in African Performance," "Notation and Oral Tradition," "Issues of Timbre," "Compositional Practices in African Music," "Art Composed Music in Nigeria," and "Theory and Technology in African Music"

Note that this encyclopedia was published in the late 1990s, so the bibliography only extends so far. However, there is nothing that rivals the Garland encyclopedia when starting to research non-Western music.

Grove Music Online

Grove Music Online, includes the full texts of The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2nd edition (2001), The New Grove Dictionary of Opera (1992), and The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, 2nd edition (2002), The Grove Dictionary of American Music (2013), as well as the Oxford Dictionary of Music , and the Oxford Companion of Music.

These encyclopedias are particularly helpful for learning more about individual composers, genres, and periods of the Western tradition and Jazz. At the end of each entry is an extensive bibliography, which may include writings by the composer, where they may discuss their theories. You can then search for these titles in Library Search or request them through Interlibrary Loan

For example, here is the section of the entry for Duke Ellington, listing his own writings about music:

Screenshot of the Grove Dictionary entry on Duke Ellington, showing the Bibliography section detailing Ellington's own writings

You can also search and browse articles by location under the tabs "Region" and "Place Type." Every country should have an entry with a history of music in that country, and a bibliography.

Screenshot of Grove Music Online, pointing out the Tab for Place Type, including City, Country, Region, Site, and State, and a Browse feature

African American Music Reference

This database has reference entries and books about a variety of genres of music by African Americans and biographical information about hundreds of artists. 

Smithsonian Global Sound

This database contains recordings of music from all over the world. Particularly useful for your assignment may be the liner notes that come with each recording. You can find them on the right-hand side of the screen under "Related Documents."

Screenshot of the database Smithsonian Global Sound, highlighting the available Liner Notes for the album Tradicion, Arte y Pasion, available under the "Related" tab as a PDF