Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Music Index Online

We subscribed to the Music Index from its first issue in 1949 through its final printed volumes in 2009.  The Music Index has simultaneously existed as a searchable database since the 1990s.  We are now happy to be able to offer the Music Index online to all San Francisco Public Library library card holders.

The Music Index online is a very comprehensive resource.  It thoroughly indexes nearly 500 music periodicals and partially indexes many more.  The magazines indexed here range from the popular to scholarly.

One important fact to note is that retrospective indexing of the earlier print volumes only goes back to the early 1970s.  For that reason it may still sometimes be necessary to return to the annual printed indexes.  The extent of the details indexed also varies over time.  The more recently indexed articles tend to have fuller description, and are thus more easily searched.

Since this database contains such a vast amount of information, it pays to use the Advanced Search feature.

Here one can limit the search to:

Authors (sometimes by full name, sometimes using only initials for surnames)
Full Text
Title of the article
Subject Terms used by the database (unfortunately these are not the same as those used in the print index)
Abstract Text - the text of an article summary, sometimes written by the authors (note that many indexed articles have no abstract)
Author-Supplied Keywords (names, terms and concepts highlighted by the authors)
Geographic Terms (this may be the country, state, province, or city)
People (the principals discussed in the article) 
Reviews and Products (to search for reviews of books, recordings, musical instruments, television programs, stage productions, etc.)
Company Entry (the manufacturer of a product, an organization or a company)
Publication Name (the name of journal)
ISSN - the International Standard Serial Number (may be useful if a journal has changed names over time)
ISBN - the International Standard Book Number (does not appear to be used in this database)
Accession Number - is the unique number the database assigns to each entry

The resulting information is broken down into a number of fields, many of corresponding to the search limiters. Any of the text in blue is a link that can be followed.  Thus, in the example below, we are one click away from a listing of articles in Fanfare magazine, articles written by Christopher Abbot, and articles discussing John Adams.

The note "This title is held locally" reflects that the Library subscribes to Fanfare.  The Music Index online, however, is still a little buggy.  The result notes that this article is available in full text in another one of our other databases - Academic Search Complete.  Unfortunately, while that database does index and provide full text for many reviews by Christopher Abbot in Fanfare magazine, it omits the above article.   Thankfully, if one follows the blue link for the product "San Francisco Symphony at 100" one sees abbreviated version of this entry that includes a link to a .pdf file of this review.

One important feature of this database is the ability to refine search results.  Methods of refining your results include limiting them to only those with full text articles.  While the number of full text articles in the Music Index online represents only a very small percentage, the total number of full text articles is actually substantial.  (It also pays to check our online catalog to see whether we have full text of an article in non-Ebsco databases, for instance JStor).

This option also provides the opportunity to limit the results to a given range of dates, to the type of publication, to subjects within the wider search, to a given journal, and by place. 

Another important feature of the Music Index is that it is possible to simultaneously search other Ebsco databases.  Following the "Choose Databases" link above the search window, one can include other related databases like the Film and Television Literature Index, the International Bibliography of Theatre and Dance, the Readers' Guide Retrospective, the Art Index Retrospective and the Art Full Text.

For instance, one might find results for a group like the San Francisco Mime Troupe listed in multiple databases.  A cross-database search produces 72 results, while a search of the Music Index alone results in only 6 articles.

Please feel free to call our reference desk if you need any help using this powerful research tool.

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