Primary Source Literacy at USC Libraries & Beyond

Working with Music-related Primary Sources

What are Primary Sources in Music?

Primary sources are original documents that directly represent the work of a composer or author. They reveal information about how the music was produced and performed, the history of the composition, music theory, technique, and information about individuals and cultures. 

What is the Difference between Primary and Secondary Sources (in Music)?

While primary sources are original works, secondary sources are an analysis or restatement of primary sources.  The main function of secondary sources is to interpret primary sources and draw conclusions to the information revealed in the primary source. The descriptions and explanations of primary sources that secondary sources offer can also be used to express a certain opinion.

Examples of Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Sources in Music


Sources & further reading:

Reference and Research Materials in Music
Music: What Are Primary Sources?
Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Sources
Music Bibliography and Research: Primary Sources
Music: Primary VS Secondary Sources

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