Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Writing about Music

Writing about Music: A Style Sheet

D. Kern Holoman
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 3
Pages: 136
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Writing about Music
    Book Description:

    Where do you place the hyphen in "Beethoven" if it breaks between two lines? How do you cite John Coltrane's albumA Love Supreme? Is it "premiere" or "première"? The answers and much more can be found in this definitive resource for authors, students, editors, concert producers-anyone who deals with music in print. Extending the principles devised for the classical repertoires, this revised and expanded edition now includes examples from world music, rock, jazz, popular music, and cinema. This essential volume covers some of the thorniest issues of musical discourse: how to go about describing musical works and procedures in prose, the rules for citations in notes and bibliography, and proper preparation of such materials as musical examples, tables, and illustrations. One section discusses program notes, while others explain the requirements for submitting manuscripts and electronic files, and outline best practices for student writers. An appendix lists common problem words. Updates include greatly simplified citations of Internet locators, the recognition of multiple platforms, and the expectation of paperless transmission and storage of work. Cited as the authority byTheChicago Manual of Style, this classic handbook is the go-to source for anyone writing about music.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95881-4
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Preface to the Third Edition
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction: FIRST PRINCIPLES
    (pp. 1-2)

    If writing about music is meant to be read and understood by ordinary thinking people, it follows that the running text or narrative should be as uncluttered as possible—moving off site, one way or another, anything that interrupts our ability to concentrate on the reasoning. This ideal should affect our basic approach to annotation and citation, which must be brief and neat, relying on the immense electronic options at our fingertips. Browsers, search tools, and databases are so intelligent that it is pointless to transcribe long URL addresses into printed texts. Nobody ever retypes those, anyway: one merely cuts...

  5. 1 Music Terminology
    (pp. 3-19)

    The formal title of a work from the classical repertoire includes the key, index identifier, and sometimes its familiar or traditional name.

    Beethoven, Symphony No. 3 in Eb Major, op. 55 (“Eroica”)


    Beethoven, Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major, op. 55 (“Eroica”)

    Either solution is correct. (The use of lowercaseband the number symbol in place of the flat and sharp symbols, respectively, is not.) For most applications the spelled-out version ends up posing fewer challenges to design and layout.

    Examples of titles from the countless other repertoires of music, and the many sources that preserve them (manuscripts,...

  6. 2 Narrative Text
    (pp. 20-50)

    This chapter concerns matters encountered in preparing the running text of your work. For now let your software do the work as far as layout is concerned. Following the admonitions in 8.8 and 8.9 (single space after sentence, use 1 and not l for arabic numeral one, no underlining) will save everyone precious minutes as your work is prepared for publication. So will calling for the correct characters from the get-go.

    Unicode (presently version 6.3, 2013) is a standard for character encoding that has been under continuous development since the late 1980s. It seeks nothing less than to describe a...

  7. 3 Citations and Credits
    (pp. 51-71)

    Citations (notes, bibliography) endeavor to present publication data on sources used, in order, first, to give appropriate credit to research and critical work done by others and, second, to refer the reader to material for further consultation.

    In the world of audio and visual media and live production, credits typically recognize every participant in a collaborative effort by the role they fulfilled. Deciding which of these individuals to cite and when to cite them is a matter considered in 3.33.

    Reference management software—such as EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, and Zotero—stores your references and is supposed to generate citations...

  8. 4 Musical Examples
    (pp. 72-84)

    It is best to keep the number, length, and complexity of musical examples to whatever minimum level still allows the readers to make their way through the author’s reasoning. Musical examples are shockingly time-consuming, and errors slip past even the most perceptive in the process of publication. Here we consider individual musical examples kept in separate files.

    If possible, reduce the example to one or two staves; see exs. 1, 2. Always remember the expense. If your reference is to the melody line of a song, do not include a piano part in your example, let alone an orchestral score....

  9. 5 Tables and Illustrations
    (pp. 85-91)

    For purposes from the student paper to web publishing, tables and illustrations may be placed within the primary file using the word-processing software. For publication these, like the musical examples, will be typeset separately and thus should be submitted as separate files.

    The conditions noted in 4.1 apply just as well to tables as to musical examples. If they can be avoided, they should be: complex tables, in particular, are nightmares for author, editor, and typesetter. (Tables in html and some word-processing tasks are, on the other hand, fine formatting aids: don’t confuse the concepts.)

    Tables wider than about 100...

  10. 6 Programs, Program Notes, and Concert Reviews
    (pp. 92-108)

    The heading of the concert program should list the presenter, the performing group, and the solo artists.

    University of California, Davis

    The Department of Music presents the


    David Nutter, director

    Jeffrey Thomas, tenor

    Include the names of financial underwriters, if appropriate.

    The foot of the program should give the time, date, and venue of the performance. Make certain to include the year, as this information is required by the tax authorities; without the inclusion of the year, moreover, the concert program is virtually worthless as a historical document.

    Friday, 6 December 2013

    8:00 p.m.

    Church of...

  11. 7 File Preparation and Control
    (pp. 109-112)

    It seems just yesterday that authors, editors, and publishers alike dreamed of—and worked very hard at—harnessing the computer on behalf of a seamless throughput of the written word, where retyping manuscripts, then rekeying the whole for typesetting, would be a thing of the past. Today it makes no difference whether you are a Mac person or a Windows person, whether you use Microsoft Word or something you found for free on the web. Anything can be converted to anything else in a few keystrokes. An author’s job—other than writing the text to begin with—is to submit...

    (pp. 113-120)

    In addition to your notes and drafts, have your sources at hand, as well as authoritative reference works you may need as you go. I keep, within reaching distance, the dictionaries mentioned in the introduction and bibliography of this book, foreign-language dictionaries, two Bibles (Latin and King James), a complete Shakespeare, and copies of my own books. Plus some “comfort” books like Bartlett’sFamiliar Quotations, Oxford collections of English and American poetry, and all Michael Steinberg’s program notes. The point is: get your gear.

    You may wish to organize the bookmarks in your browser for easy access to online resource...

    (pp. 121-124)
  14. Works Cited
    (pp. 125-126)