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Music of the 20th century

Last Updated: 15-Apr-2013

Resources for the study of 20th century music.

Subject Librarians

Ray Heigemeir, Music Library
Public Services Librarian for Music
(650) 384-9985

Reference works



[Oxford, England] : Oxford University Press
Stanford University Libraries » Online resource » (no call number)
Includes Grove Music Online, the best place to begin research on any musical topic.

In the Reference Room

New York : Oxford University Press, 2005.
Music Library » Reference (non-circulating) » ML160 .T18 2004 V.1
See volume 4: "The early twentieth century", and volume 5: "The late twentieth century".  Avaliable onlne and in print.
6th ed. New York : Schirmer Reference/Gale Group, c2001.
Music Library » Reference (non-circulating) » ML197 .S634 2001
Part one is a descriptive chronology; part 2 reprints significant letters and documents. Includes a dictionary of terms.
New York : Routledge, 2002.
Music Library » Reference (non-circulating) » ML161 .H17 2002 V.1
Volume 2 covers 1901-2000. Entries are arranged by year and include historical highlights, art and literature highlights, births and deaths of pivotal composers, singers, performers, craftsmen, publishers, musical debuts, new positions, prizes and honours awarded, biographical highlights, cultural beginnings, musical literature and compositions.

Printed music

The Music Library collects much of the music published in the 20th century. Always begin your search in the SearchWorks library catalog.  Search by composer or by work title, and limit the format to "music--scores".

You may also search the WorldCat unon catalog to confirm that a work has been published.  If it isn't in Stanford's collections, you may request a loan via Interlibrary Borrowing services. The OCLC accession number in the WorldCat record will be useful information to include on the request form.

Digital scores: Classical Scores Library presents about 4000 20th- and 21s-century scores in digital form.  You may also search the IMSLP database for scores in the public domain.


Two featured score collections containing a wealth of 20th century works are:

Women's Philharmonic Collection (orchestral music; scores may be browsed in the Reference Room)

Kronos Quartet Collection (chamber music; search the database by title or composer)

Audio and video

Circulating CDs and DVDs may be identified in the SearchWorks library catalog; search by work title or composer name.

These streaming databases are also recommended:

[New York, N.Y. : New World Records : New York University, 2001?]-
Stanford University Libraries » Online resource » (no call number)
The basis for the collection is the diverse catalogue of New World Records, from folk to opera, Native American to jazz, 19th century classical to early rock, musical theater, contemporary, electronic and beyond.
Hong Kong : Naxos Digital Services, 2004-
Stanford University Libraries » Online resource » (no call number)
"...the most comprehensive collection of classical music available online."
New York : Alexander Street Press., [2000]-
Stanford University Libraries » Online resource » (no call number)
"...the world's largest multi-label database of Classical music recordings for listening and learning in libraries."  Browse by time period.
Paris : MUSEEC, 2008-
Stanford University Libraries » Online resource » (no call number)
Webcasts of live performances and an archived collection of masterclasses and documentaries.


Find books in the SearchWorks library catalog. Try a search using subject words, following these examples:

Opera 20th century

Music Paris 20th century

Music trade 20th century

Composition music 20th century

Browse the stacks:

ML197 General works on 20th century music history and  criticism
ML200.5 United States--works on 20th century music history and criticism
  (music history books on other countries are also divided by time period)
ML1705-06 Opera history, 1850-2013

Some recommended titles:

Cambridge ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 2004.
Music Library » Stacks » ML197 .C26 2004
Also available online.
3rd ed. Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, c2010.
Music Library » Stacks » ML197 .G76 2010
Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 2004.
Music Library » Stacks » ML197 .M58 2004
This work offers not only important statements by composers and critics, but also musical speculations by poets, novelists, philosophers, and others - all of which combine with Daniel Albright's commentary to place modernist music in the context of a broader intellectual history. 
(source: Nielsen Book Data)
2nd ed. New York : Schirmer Books ; London : Prentice Hall International, c1996.
Music Library » Stacks » ML197 .S585 1996
The author weaves together history, theory, and analysis to bring to life both the stylistic evolution of music since 1900 and the new principles by which this music is organized. 
(source: Nielsen Book Data)
Minneapolis : University of Minnesota Press, c2006.
Music Library » Stacks » ML197 .A313 2006
3rd ed. Upper Saddle River, N.J. : Pearson Prentice Hall, c2006.
Music Library » Stacks » MT40 .K8 2006
New York : Routledge, 2002.
Music Library » Stacks » MT125 .L44 2002