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This series of web pages presents data (about 4,000 database records) from the RECORDS.MDB classical record collection database as CSV (Comma Separated Values) plain text. It has the contents of record albums, record company ID#s, and my brief reviews and comments about the composers, compositions, and performances.
To browse, use the navigation buttons at the top and bottom of each page. The pages are alphabetized by Composer name, so, for example, Bach is on the A-Ba page, but unfortunately not all composers are in the database last-name-first, so a site search is more likely to discover all references to a composer. The "blank" page is for entries where the Composer field is blank, which is mostly popular music or spoken records from about 1900 to 1970.
This file tracksforbrowsingandsearching.zip (298 KB) has the information from all these pages neatly formatted into a single table. The full unzipped table is 1.8 MB, too big to put on a single web page because no one would wait for it to load. Unzip it and open the .htm file with your browser.
If you arrived at this page searching for audio files or hard to find information about classical music or early 1900's popular music, the following tips organized by category might help you continue your search.
Search engines try to find pages containing the text that matches what you type in the search box. Many people ask questions in the search box, as though the search engine is a person who will try to answer the question. This is unlikely to bring the best results.
Instead, use search terms and phrases that will be in the answer to your question. If you ask "What is a fugue?", you will get an answer because there are pages containing that as a topic heading, but if that doesn't work, try "A fugue is", "The fugue is", or "Fugues are" since those are the phrases that will be in the answer. Try to match the text that will be on the pages you want to see. (Click on the four links above to see the differences in the results.)
Learn the advanced options of the search engine you use, and construct your query especially carefully if you're having trouble getting good results. If you know you're looking for an exact phrase (such as when searching for song lyrics), put it in quotes, but only put inside the quotes the part you know is exactly correct.
The Google ~ (tilde) operator can be helpful because it expands the search to include synonyms of the word it precedes.
Search engines to try
Google ranks its results by popularity. The pages it ranks highly are not necessarily the best, most useful, or most informative. It seems to have more pages indexed than any other search engine, even if many of the pages aren't particularly good.
Yahoo! is less focused on the popularity of pages, and orders results differently from Google. You can find useful sites that were buried far down in the Google results.
Bing, formerly Windows Live Search, has undergone a major overhaul. In its earlier form, it occasionally returned useful results on searches where Google returned nothing at all.
Ask.com once seemed to be gaining in popularity.
AltaVista is said by some to be good for finding obscure information.
If you hit a dead end with one search engine, try at least one more. Different search engines give different results.
If your search still turned up nothing, remember the "invisible web"...
There are many music and other resources on the internet that will not turn up directly in search engine result pages. This is called the invisible web.
Data in the invisible web cannot be found by search engines because it is not presented on static web pages or in text files that search engines can read. It is buried inside databases. The only way get the information is to go to the website and run a query on the database. Search engines don't do that, so they can't index what is in the database.
The fact that those databases exist, however, can be discovered using search engines. Use the search term "database" to discover sites with searchable databases that are part of the invisible web. For example, try this Google search for classical music database.
Some general resources that might help you find music-related information, in approximate order of how useful I think they're likely to be:
http://www.classical.net/ Their Classical Music Links section has several thousand links to other sites for MIDI files, scores, information about composers, music review sites, and a lot of other classical music information.
Wikipedia. Their article about Antonio Vivaldi demonstrates how good a source it can be for biographical and liner-note type information, sheet music scores, audio files, and links to external sites with more information.
http://www.answers.com/. Another good encyclopedic reference site, with articles drawn from Wikipedia and a variety of other sources.
The University of California's INFOMINE tool helps search the invisible web.
The Library of Congress.
Your local public library will have books about many musical genres and might also have LP records and/or CDs, songbooks, and possibly sheet music. Many libraries have websites with online catalogs so you can find out what they have before you go there. The catalogs are part of the invisible web.
Project Gutenberg. Mainly of interest for the possibility of downloadable eBooks about music and composers, or songbooks, but they also have some recorded music, some downloadable sheet music in various formats including .PDF, .MID, .MUS for Finale NotePad, .SIB for Sibelius, and MusicXML. Their Catalog page has Yahoo and Google site search boxes at the bottom of the page that are more useful than their own site search box at the top of the page.
eBay auctions can sometimes have useful information about old LP record contents or for other media items. If time isn't a concern, create a Favorite Search and wait for something to turn up. It's not a great source for detailed information on demand, but sometimes a seller goes overboard with their auction description, and you get that one piece of information you need, plus you get an idea what the item is worth. No matter how obscure it is, it seems everything turns up on eBay eventually.
There are online vintage LP record stores that might have useful information, but I've not studied any of them and have none to recommend.
These seem to be very difficult to find. Search terms that in various combinations might lead toward this information are: discography, "track listing", "track list", "sleeve notes", duration, timings, details.
For the types of biographical and background information about composers and their compositions that you'd find on record liner notes, these should be helpful:
If using the search term "lyrics" gets you nowhere, try searching for whatever portion of the lyrics you know. Use exact phrases whenever possible. A score, sheet music, or text file might have the lyrics without ever using the term "lyrics" anywhere on it. Also possibly useful are:
Project Gutenberg. Songbooks (songbook OR "song book" OR songs) or other similar compilations and anthologies.
Library of Congress. Appears to be especially strong for American folk music (including blues).
Your local public library. Songbooks or other similar compilations.
Search terms to try: score, "sheet music", parts, arrangement, tab, tabs, tablature, chord. Limit your search to only the words you are absolutely sure of, and try some misspellings. Some old popular songs (early 1900's) exist in multiple versions with widely varying titles and word spellings.
Wikipedia. Has links to scores.
http://www.sheetmusicarchive.net/. Has many scanned public domain scores, including full orchestral.
Project Gutenberg. Has some scores.
Expand your search to include MIDI files, which can be converted to scores.
Library of Congress has sheet music you can print.
Databases of sheet music (the hidden web). Use the search terms: "sheet music" database. Some universities and public libraries have large sheet music collections.
Your local public library. Even if their own collection isn't large, you might be able to obtain an item from another library using the Interlibrary Loan system.
Sibelius. Large library of user-contributed scores that you can listen to with their free Sibelius Scorch player; some arrangements of classics, but mostly original. This is part of the "invisible web".
Finale Showcase. Library of user-contributed scores that you can listen to with their Finale NotePad player and inexpensive music notation/composition program. Also part of the "invisible web".
The Classical Music Archives has a very large listening library in MIDI (free) and MP3 (most of these require a subscription). Because many of their files are MIDI, which anyone can create, this is your best bet for small or obscure pieces that are seldom professionally recorded.
Wikipedia. Often has links to media files.
Search terms to try: AAC AIF AU M3U MID MIDI MP3 MPA OGG RA RAM REALAUDIO WAV WMA
Expand your search to include scores (sheet music) encoded as file types that can be converted to MIDI and played. Examples: .MUS SCORCH .SIB MUSICXML
Project Gutenberg. Has some links to media files.
Your local public library might have a music media collection.
Napster.com. Classical music is well represented, but you are limited to 30-second clips unless you subscribe.
Amazon.com allows you to listen to clips of CDs it sells. This probably isn't enough to determine whether you'll love a piece or a performance, but it probably is enough to decide whether you'll hate it.
Live365 Internet Radio. Search for a station that plays what you want to hear. You'll have to wait a while, but you might hear interesting things in the meantime. There are other internet radio websites, but this one works with a dialup modem connection, which some of the others don't. Live365 is also a way to explore unfamiliar musical genres. The stations are run by people who like their particular genre and are therefore likely to give you a good introduction to it.
Amazon.com user reviews can be a source for commentary and opinion about music CDs that Amazon sells. Since many old LPs have been re-released on CD, the comments can be relevant for those, as well.
Wikipedia. Each time I visit Wikipedia, I'm more impressed with the amount and quality of the information I find there. They might not have what you're looking for, but it's always worth a try.
http://www.answers.com/. Reviews and commentary on compositions and specific recordings of them.
Google Groups about classical music. Archived threads sometimes turn up in result pages for general Google searches, but rarely high up in the rankings, so it's best to go to Google Groups and search there. If all else fails, join a group and ask a question or start a discussion.
Project Gutenberg for commentary in old books about composers and compositions; not so much for performances, and certainly not for recent ones.
Your local public library.
Search terms: commentary, review, criticism, opinion, discuss
Expand your search to include terms and phrases that people might use when writing a review or opinion about a composer, composition, recording, or performance.
You are lucky if you have this old reference book, now back in print but incredibly expensive: A Dictionary Of Musical Themes, by Harold Barlow and Sam Morgenstern.
Crown Publishers has allowed a website to be created with the book's content for browsing and searching online. It's free: http://www.multimedialibrary.com/barlow/index.asp. You can enter the notes of a theme and search for the classical music pieces in which it appears.
The page at http://www.satie-archives.com/web/notation.html has a discussion of the problems of indexing and searching for musical themes, and links to some other sites where you can do it.
A Google search on: musical themes will turn up other potentially interesting sites in this area.
Copyright ©2012 Steven Whitney. Last modified Sun 07/29/2012 11:58:54 -0700.