Music Citation Guide (Chicago Style)

Creating an annotated bibliography and not sure how to start?

Annotations should provide a description of and evaluation of your source, and they should be short and to the point.

Some things to keep in mind:

  • In your annotation, briefly summarize the source's content, evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the source, and explain why it's significant and valuable for research on your topic. What role will this source play in helping you craft the argument you'd like to make? An annotation should show your reader why and how the source fits into your research.
  • An annotation may compare the source to similar writings/publications; in this sense, annotations are slightly different from abstracts because abstracts don’t compare the source to other publications and instead just describe a source's content. What led you to select this particular source above others that were similar?
  • Remember: Even a deeply flawed source may still be useful if it tells you something about the state of scholarship on your topic!


Think about the following questions when deciding what information you might want to include in your annotations (and note that not all of these questions apply to every source!):

  • Purpose and scope of the source:
    • Why would you use this source?
    • What type of content does it include?
    • Why does it exist?
    • What is the author trying to do with or say through their research?
    • What questions is the source trying to answer?
  • Strengths of the source:
    • What do you like about the source?
    • What's helpful about it?
    • What's unique and interesting about it?
  • Weaknesses of limitations of the source:
    • What does the source NOT include that you wish it did?
    • What do you think it doesn't do well?
    • Is there something you would do differently if you were the author/creator of the source?
  • Special features and/or type of arrangement or organization:
    • Is the source alphabetical?
    • Is it chronological?
    • Does it include an introduction that helps you to understand how to use the source?
    • Does it include an index?
    • Does it include any other special features?

Examples of thorough and detailed annotations

Included with permission of the authors.


Example 1:

This item is an examination of William Billings and the work he did throughout his life with a special emphasis on his role as a pioneer of music education in public schools. It is a valuable and concise look at William Billings, containing basic biographical information as well as background regarding his impact on music. It also makes mention of the New England Psalm Singer and the Singing Master’s Assistant, which were the source material for Schuman’s compositions. While this source is ideal for my purposes, it likely does not contain enough information for a researcher needing more detailed information on Billings’. If the scope of my research was more narrowly focused on Billings, I would likely want to look elsewhere.


Example 2:

Howland’s book was created with the purpose of implementing a feminist-gaze look into Wagner as a person, specifically as it relates to Der Fleigende Holländer, and how his societal surroundings and experiences were shaped by patriarchal norms. Howland also delves into some of the other aspects of late-nineteenth century society present in this opera, including the Christ-like presence of Senta. As with any lens-focused writing, it’s worth noting that there’s always the chance for author bias or privilege to be present. In addition, it’s rare to find a book about music completely from the feminist perspective, especially one from an accredited gender scholar with an extensive background in music.


Example 3:

The author, Frederick Neumann, is a violinist and conductor. Therefore, he knew well string instruments. This book covers how ornaments play a huge role in the music of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and uncertainties in their notation, as well as their frequent absence in the score, which has left doubt as to how composers intended them to be interpreted. The author argues that strict constraints are inconsistent with the freedom enjoyed by musicians of the period. I agree with his thinking. Therefore, I will quote his thoughts in my paper.


Example 4:

In this remastered CD recording, Marcel Moyse performs selections from his oeuvre including the 24 Little Melodic Studies in addition to select studies by Soussmann, Furstenau, and Andersen. As with the books, there is no verbal guidance; one must rely on his phrasing and interpretation to properly learn each study. It includes the first several little melodic studies from 24 Little Melodic Studies and the popular Andersen Etude Op. 15 no. 3.

One downfall of the CD is that the titles are in Japanese so the listener needs to have an understanding of the pieces on the recording to know which piece is playing. This is documented in the discography section of McCutchan’s biography when the Muramatsu Flute Company purchased rights to several of Moyse’s recordings and publications from his own recording label and publishers.

There are few audio recordings of Moyse available for purchase. This one was made available by the Marcel Moyse Society.

Last Updated: Jun 26, 2024 5:25 PM