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Finding Relevant Information

15 January, 2016 - 09:13
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There are many different types of sources of knowledge about music. You will probably find some easier to understand, more useful, or more persuasive than others. (See Ways of Knowing about Music.) In this first step, you are simply looking for information that seems to be relevant to your investigation. It might contain an answer to your question, or someone's opinion about the answer, or definitions or examples that will help you understand the answer, or facts or discussions that would be useful in comparing different answers or constructing an answer for yourself.

For this investigation, try to find at least one relevant resource from each of the following categories. If you find it frustratingly difficult to find any particular type of resource, you can skip that category; but every time you skip a category, substitute a second resource from an easy-to-find category. For example, if there are no local experts available, but video lectures are easy to find, choose two video lectures and skip the local expert. You should have nine resources in all.

  • Local experts - Can you get useful help by talking to someone you know? This might be a music teacher; a director of a choir, band, or orchestra; a band mate; or a friend or relative who knows more than you do about the subject of your investigation. Your local "expert" may be able to offer or demonstrate an answer to your question, or may be able to suggest useful resources such as a favorite book on the subject or a useful hands-on investigation to try.
  • Online text definitions and explanations - In Internet search results, look for an educational website, online dictionary or encyclopedia, commercial question-answering forum, or paper or journal article that has been published online.
  • Video lectures, explanations, or demonstrations - These can be online videos published at educational or commercial sites. Informational videos may also be available at a local library. If there is a live lecture or demonstration available to you, this is of course even better, as it may give you a chance to ask questions.
  • Blogs, magazine and journal articles, and music reviews - Articles and discussions in popular venues help give you an idea of what other people are thinking, wondering, or arguing about. If you have no idea what controversies may exist in your area of interest, this can be a good place to start. This category includes hard-copy magazines and journals as well as online articles.
  • Books - If you have no books of your own on the subject, search in a local library's catalog to find a book that looks relevant. Then go to that shelf and see whether there are other books that might be even more useful. You can also find on the Internet free versions of books that are in the public domain.
  • Original documents - The experts base their books and lectures on information that was gathered by looking at what is out there in the world. Can you find some of that real-world information and look at it for yourself? There are many different ways to go back to an original source; in music, this includes listening to the music for yourself, as suggested below. Useful original documents might include a copy of a piece of music, an interview with a performer, a composer's published letters, or the data collected in an acoustics experiment.
  • Audio recordings and online audio clips - This is another great way to "go to the source." Consider your music question. Is it focused on a particular instrument, a composer, a style or genre of music, an aspect of music theory? What recordings of music would help you "hear" and understand what you are reading?
  • Live performances, online video clips, and video recordings - Along with the music itself, live performances or video recordings may also contain clues that would help you understand what you are reading or put it into context. Pay close attention to the particulars of the performance (the who-what-where-when-and-why), and to what the performers and audience are doing.
  • Hands-on personal investigation - Can you test what you think your resources are saying by playing on an instrument, or by singing, dancing, conducting, or tapping your foot along with a music recording?