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How to find media materials

Media material is found in the library's main catalogue but you can limit your searches by format (Audio or Video) or location (Sound and Moving Image Collection) by choosing the Advanced Search option.  Similarly, a Basic Search allows you to apply limits after the search has been performed.  The end results are the same in both cases.

For most searches, the general keyword approach will work if you choose a combination of terms that are unique or at least uncommon. Bear in mind that assigned subject headings in the library catalogue may not be the same as used in everyday language.  One strategy is to find at least one item that fits your criteria and then check the subject headings to see if they will lead you to other related items.

How to find jazz reissues

When record companies reissue jazz recordings, they often package them according to original record label or session series rather than original album title. So, for example, Wes Montgomery's album So Much Guitar doesn't show up in the library catalogue, but it is available in its entirety as part of the CD box set The Complete Riverside Recordings. To find an album in its reissued state, you should do a keyword search using the performer and the name of the record company.

Things can get even more confusing when albums are repackaged according to original label and then issued under the name of a different performer. Miles Davis' album Blue Moods doesn't show up in the catalogue, but is available as part of the CD box set The Complete Debut Recordings by Charles Mingus. Although this is unusual, it indicates the kinds of problems you can have in determining whether or not we have something.

How to find classical music compositions 

Finding classical--or more accurately, western art music/concert music--in the library catalogue can be very tricky because of the the wide use of non-distinctive titles such as "Symphony No. 1" or "String Quartet No. 6." Titles also appear in different languages, depending on the record company's origin. Keyword searching provides the most flexible options, but if you know a little bit about how uniform titles are used you're better off. There are three types of uniform titles:

  • Distinctive titles, such as The Nutcracker, which uses as uniform title "Shchelkunchik," chosen because it was the original language of the composer.
  • Types of compositions, such as symphonies, string quartets, etudes. These are usually qualified by medium (eg, Septet, woodwinds, horn, strings), serial number (eg, Symphony No. 3), opus number (eg, Op. 10), thematic index number (eg, BWV 988 or K. 550), or key (eg, G-major). These qualifications are best searched through keyword by combining, for example, a number with a medium or a composer's name.
  • Broad medium, such as Vocal music or Piano music, in instances where it is a collection.

Here's an example illustrating some of the problems: To find a recorded version of Beethoven's fifth symphony, you need to consider:

  • that there are recordings with more than one of Beethoven's symphonies (eg, all nine symphonies), so that the uniform title becomes "Symphonies"
  • that symphonies can be spelled in German ("Symphonien") in the title field
  • that searching with the number "5" will not guarantee that you get everything since some recordings are catalogued as the complete symphonies or the number five is spelled out

Remember that when you use the title field in keyword or title searching, you are searching both the actual container title and the uniform title.

How to find collected editions (complete works)

Collected editions are sets of complete works of scores by a given composer or in a specific genre. Examples are Polyphonic Music of the Fourteenth Century and Complete Works by Schubert or Samtliche Werke by Schoenberg. Since many of the titles are in German, it is important to use the uniform title Works in searching.

How do you find individual pieces in these sets? Most of the older collections are indexed in Anna Heyer's Historical sets, collected editions, and monuments of music : a guide to their contents (ML 113 H52 1980).  For other sets, you'll have to check out the individual series.

To get an idea of the range of material found in the collected editions, do a call number browse search, using M2 or M3 as your search terms.

How to find song titles in songbooks

This is a very hit-and-miss search, since so many songbooks are not indexed online or in hard copy. Scott Reference houses a number of song indexes, the most useful probably being Song Finder: A Title Index to 32,000 Popular Songs in Collections, 1854-1992 (ML128 S3 F47 1995) but even if you do find a song listed, you still need to get your hands on the book in which it appears. There are many online song indexes, good example being the music collection at the New York Public Library. In Toronto, a good place to look for printed music is the Toronto Reference Library at 789 Yonge Street (Yonge and Bloor).