Music Collection Development Policy


The music collection supports the educational and cultural missions of New York University, whose collective interests embrace the musics of all peoples, all places, and all times. This broad imperative constitutes the core purpose of the library’s music collections; the rest is emphasis, refinement, and commentary.

NYU offers music studies through the School of Arts and Sciences, the Steinhardt School of Education, the Tisch School of the Arts, the Gallatin School of Individualized Study and the School of Continuing Education, with degree programs as follows:

General Music FAS + Steinhardt (Music major and music minor) --- ---
Historical Musicology --- FAS FAS
Ethnomusicology --- FAS FAS
Music Theory --- FAS FAS
Music Composition and Songwriting FAS + Steinhardt FAS + Steinhardt FAS + Steinhardt
Performance: Instrumental (brass, woodwinds, strings, percussion, piano) Steinhardt Steinhardt Steinhardt
Performance: Vocal Steinhardt Steinhardt Steinhardt
Performance: Jazz Steinhardt Steinhardt Steinhardt
Film Scoring --- Steinhardt ---
Music Business Steinhardt Steinhardt ---
Music Technology Steinhardt Steinhardt Steinhardt
Music Education Steinhardt Steinhardt Steinhardt
Music Therapy --- Steinhardt ---
Recorded Music TSOA --- ---
Musical Theatre: Performance TSOA + Steinhardt --- ---
Musical Theatre: Writing --- TSOA ---

Besides music-centered degrees, music is basic to the “Expressive Culture: Sounds” segment of the Morse Academic Plan (MAP) sequence in FAS, the Gallatin School's individualized program designs often incorporate music at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, and the School of Continuing and Professional Studies offers a variety of music-related courses each year. Throughout the university, music is routinely a part of teaching and research in acting, dance, design, drama, cinema, performance studies, anthropology, area studies (Africana, American, East Asian, Hebrew and Judaic, Hellenic, Latin American and Caribbean), and other disciplines.


  1. Languages

    English is primary; other Western languages are considered indispensable for advanced graduate studies; and no language is excluded for essential materials related to a particular topic.

  2. Geographical

    The music policy maintains its long-standing commitment to Western traditions, especially the multiplicity of traditions of the United States.

    Coverage of global traditions is both substantive and broad, embracing the musics of all peoples, places, and times.

    Recognizing the library's unique opportunities and responsibilities  to document localia, particular attention is given to music and musicians associated with NYU and with Downtown New York City.

  3. Chronological

    All historical periods are collected in representative balance, but with added stress on the music of recent and contemporary times.

Types of Materials

  1. Included

    Books, periodicals, scores, sound recordings, video recordings, and electronic formats are all included under the music policy.

    • Books

      Any book of potential scholarly interest is included. University and other academically oriented presses are automatic, with general-interest books collected more selectively as justified by their topical significance and quality of content. Single copies are generally the rule. Successive revised editions are routinely acquired; unrevised reprints, when the originals are already held, more selectively so. E-books are the major exception to the reprint principle: in the present-day publishing climate these often duplicate the content of a physical book already held, but the library will still acquire the e-book because of the widespread and growing preference among our reader community for electronic delivery. Textbooks that meet a curricular need or that serve as essential introductions to a subject (as is often the case in music) are routinely acquired.

    • Periodicals

      As with books, the emphasis is on academically oriented titles, with a more selective approach to journalistic or popular periodicals based on their centrality to the topic.

    • Scores

      Scholarly anthologies and collected editions of composers are intensively acquired. For the major composers throughout history, complete works are always the aim; concurrently, the policy strives to represent the whole of musical culture and history contextually through a meaningful selection of secondary and minor composers. For the most important composers and works, multiple editions are appropriate and routine, with special attention always to new critical editions. The library shall maintain an up-to-date core collection of performing editions of solo and chamber music; otherwise, study and full scores are preferred. Facsimiles of manuscripts and of historically important printed sources are a high priority.

    • Sound Recordings

      Like scores, the overall aim of the sound recordings collection is to represent musical arts throughout the world and throughout history with a scope and depth appropriate to the educational imperatives of the University. For Western classical music, performance is an important dimension in itself, so that a choice among various recorded interpretations is the rule for the core repertory, as is a systematic, though selective attention to the preeminent performing artists themselves. For all musics outside the Western classical milieu, this policy recognizes the extraordinary importance of recordings as the primary source sine qua non in documenting traditions in which written notation plays little or no part.

    • Video Recordings

      The objective and scope are the same as for sound recordings. See also the Avery Fisher Center collection development policy.

    • Electronic Media

      Selection of electronic materials (understood as of this writing primarily to be internet-delivered) is based on content, according to the same criteria as for conventional books, scores, or recordings.

  2. Excluded

    Entirely Excluded (except as part of archival collections)
    • Sets of orchestral and choral parts
    Mostly Excluded
    • Parts without scores (exceptions: historically important primary sources or modern works for which parts are the only available format)
    • Non-academic or ephemeral writings (except when these have substantial value as primary sources or when they contribute essentially to the definition of a subject's collection level as indicated in Part VI below)
    • Highly specialized materials for individual dissertations or for individual faculty research

Strengths & Weaknesses of the Collection

The archive of the American Institute for Verdi Studies, located in Bobst Library, houses a collection of primary source materials on Giuseppe Verdi, mostly on microfilm but internationally peerless in its completeness. It includes music, librettos, letters, institutional records, periodicals, and more. To complement this archive, Bobst Library’s general music collection is also exceptionally strong in Verdi-related books, scores, audio recordings, and videos.

The music collection's deep commitment to contemporary and experimental music, particularly that of Downtown New York, is ongoing has been reinforced in recent years with the establishment of the Downtown Collection at the Fales Library.

The Avery Fisher Center's substantial collection Irish and Irish-American music recordings complements the NYU Archives of Irish America and supports the academic enterprise of NYU's Ireland House.

A methodical retrospective collection-building program, pursued throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, solidified the music collection at its foundations and successfully remedied the major deficiencies identified in the music librarian's collection-review report of 1992 and in the last full-scale collection development policy revision of 1995. A persistent weakness even today, however, is the not insubstantial number of important pre-1990 publications that are out of print and cannot, within the limits of practicality, be acquired any longer. This circumstance accounts significantly for the continuing disparities between "existing" and "desirable" levels in the conspectus below (even when the "current" and "desirable" levels are in harmony), the other chief factor being the vastness of the still unfinished task of building high quality collections in areas of music outside the Western classical canon, which were not central to the Library's collecting program prior to 1990. To keep pace with the evolving academic interests and needs of the University today, the Library's challenge under the current collecting policy is: 1) to maintain momentum and quality with respect to new publications; 2) concurrently, to continue enriching our holdings retrospectively; 3) ultimately, to achieve genuine parity between all the “existing” and “desirable” levels.

Conspectus: Subjects & Collection Levels

ECS = Existing Collection Strength
CCL = Current Collecting Level
DCS = Desirable Collection Strength

0 = Out of scope; not collected
A = Basic or general studies level
B = Undergraduate studies level
C = Masters and beginning (qualifying) doctoral level
D = Advanced doctoral and post-doctoral level*
E = Archival or special collections level**

* A genuine Level D is exhaustive in its inclusion of all publications pertinent to the subject. Given the large number of scores and audio recordings published each year, to achieve this ideal is not a practical possibility even for the largest research libraries, unless the subject itself is rather narrowly focused. In the context of the music conspectus below, therefore, a Level D- means very intensive yet still selective with respect to marginally important publications.

** Level E is understood as consisting of an in-depth, precisely circumscribed collection of rare or unique materials.


  1. Books by Genre of Topic

    Reference Books D- D D
    Dictionaries and Encyclopedias D- D D
    Bibliographies D- D D
    Indexes and Abstracts D- D D
    Catalogs of Composers D- D D
    Catalogs of Libraries D- C+ C+
    Catalogs of Exhibitions, Dealers, &c. C C C
    Discographies D- D D
    Directories, Almanacs, Yearbooks, &c. C+ C+ C+
    Discipline and Methodology of Music Scholarship D- D D
    Music Theory and Analysis D- D D
    History of Music Theory D- D D
    Physics of Music, Acoustics, and Tuning D- D D
    Psychology and Physiology of Music D- D D
    Sociology of Music D- D D
    Gender and Sexuality Studies D D D
    Philosophy and Aesthetics of Music D- D D
    Business and Industry of Music D- D- D-
    Music Printing and Publishing D- D D
    Music Technology D- D- D-
    Musical Instruments D- D- D-
    Music in Art C+ D- D-
    Music Therapy D- D- D-
    Music Education D- D- D-
    Vocal and Instrumental Technique C+ C+ C+
    Historical Performance Practice D- D D
    Stage Production C+ D- D-
    Librettos to Operas and Musicals C+ D D
    Lyrics and Texts to Songs and Choral Works C C+ C+
    Juvenile Literature on Music A B B
  2. Scores by Genre of Topic

    Anthologies, Monument Sets, &c. D- D- D-
    Collected Works of Composers D- D- D-
    Study or Full Scores C+ D- D-
    Piano-vocal and Piano-choral Reductions C C+ C+
    Piano Reductions of Instrumental Works B+ C C
    Chamber Music Part Sets C C+ C+
    Choral Part Sets 0 0 0
    Song Sheets 0 0 0
    Orchestral and Band Part Sets 0 0 0
    Facsimiles of Manuscripts D- D D
    Facsimiles of Historical Printed Editions D- D D
    1. Music History and Literature

      In each of the three columns (ECS, CCL, and DCS) the three values are for Books/Scores/Sound and Video Recordings respectively.

      Western Classical Music (by Period)ECSCCLDCS
      General Surveys C+/C+/C+ C+/C+/C+ C+/C+/C+
      Antiquity D-/D-/D- D-/D-/D- D-/D-/D-
      Medieval D-/D-/D- D/D/D D/D/D
      Renaissance D-/D-/D- D/D/D D/D/D
      Baroque D-/D-/D- D-/D-/D- D-/D-/D-
      Classic D-/D-/D- D-/D-/D- D-/D-/D-
      Romantic D-/D-/D- D-/D-/D- D-/D-/D-
      Verdi E/E/D E/E/D E/E/D
      Early Modern D-/D-/D- D-/D-/D- D-/D-/D-
      Later Modern and Contemporary D-/D-/D- D-/D-/D- D-/D-/D-
      Downtown music D-/D-/D- D/D/D D/D/D
      NYU composers D-/D-/D- D/D/D D/D/D
      Western Music (by Selected Genres)ECSCCLDCL
      Opera D-/D-/D- D-/D-/D- D-/D-/D-
      Musical Theatre D-/D-/D- D/D/D D/D/D
      Electroacoustic Music D-/D-/D- D/D/D D/D/D
      Liturgical Plainsong D-/D-/D- D-/D-/D- D-/D-/D-
      Jazz & Blues D-/C/C+ D-/D-/D- D-/D-/D-
      Rock, Pop, Soul, Rhythm & Blues, Hip Hop C+/C+/C+ C+/C+/C+ C+/C+/C+
      Country B/B/B C/C/C C/C/C
      Film & Television Music D-/C/C+ D-/D-/D- D-/D-/D-
      Historical Sound Recordings D-/**/C+ D-/**/C+ D-/**/C+
      Historically Informed/Period Instrument Performances of Early Music **/**/D- **/**/D **/**/D
      Folk, Traditional, and Non-Western Classical MusicECSCCLDCL
      Sub-Saharan Africa C/C/C C+/C+/C+ C+/C+/C+
      North Africa, Middle East, Central Asia C/C/C C+/C+/C+ C+/C+/C+
      South Asia C/C/C C+/C+/C+ C+/C+/C+
      Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, Oceania C/C/C C+/C+/C+ C+/C+/C+
      Latin America & Caribbean C/C/C C+/C+/C+ C+/C+/C+
      North America C+/C/C C+/C+/C+ C+/C+/C+
      Europe C/C/C C+/C+/C+ C+/C+/C+
      Irish and Irish American C+/C+/C+ D-/D-/D- D/D/D
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