Writing about Music: A Style Sheet / Edition 2

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How do you spell "Mendelssohn"? Where do you place the hyphen in "Beethoven" if it breaks between two lines? Is it "premiere" or "premiere"? The answers and much more can be found in this completely revised and updated resource for authors, students, editors, concert producers-anyone who deals with classical music in print. This essential volume covers some of the thorniest issues of musical discourse: how to go about describing musical works and procedures in prose, the rules for citations in notes and bibliography, and the proper preparation of such materials as musical examples, tables, and illustrations. One section discusses program notes; another explains the requirements for submitting manuscripts and eletronic files. A new section outlines best practices for student writers. An appendix lists common problem words.

About the Author:
D. Kern Holoman is Barbara K. Jackson Professor in the Department of Music at the University of California, Davis, where he conducts the UCD Symphony Orchestra

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Editorial Reviews

“Leavened with an elegant, gentle wit [and] features levelheaded, common-sense advice. . . . Holoman’s excellences of style, content, and advice prosper.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520256187
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 7/1/2008
  • Edition description: Second Edition
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 120
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.80 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

D. Kern Holoman is Professor Emeritus of Music at the University of California, Davis, where he conducted the UCD Symphony Orchestra for more than three decades. He is the author of Berlioz; Evenings with the Orchestra; Masterworks; The Société des Concerts du Conservatoire, 1828–1967; Charles Munch; and The Orchestra: A Very Short

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Writing about Music

A Style Sheet

By D. Kern Holoman


Copyright © 2014 D. Kern Holoman and The Regents of the University of California
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-520-95881-4


Music Terminology

Titles of Works

1.1Classical Titles. The formal title of a work from the classical repertoire includes the key, index identifier, and sometimes its familiar or traditional name.

Beethoven, Symphony No. 3 in E? Major, op. 55 ("Eroica")


Beethoven, Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major, op. 55 ("Eroica")

Either solution is correct. (The use of lowercase b and the number symbol in place of the flat and sharp symbols, respectively, is not.) For most applications the spelled-out version ends up posing fewer challenges to design and layout.

1.2Other Titles. Examples of titles from the countless other repertoires of music, and the many sources that preserve them (manuscripts, prints, albums, digital media), appear in the appropriate locations throughout this book; see especially "Songs," 1.8. Here are some samples for consideration.

the Song of Moses

Metallica (the Black Album)/The Black Album (Prince)

Ch'unhyangga (Song of Ch'unhyang, [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII])

"Witchi-Tai-To" (Comanche peyote chant)

"Jesus Shall Reign" (DUKE STREET

"Oklahoma!" the title song from Oklahoma!

1.3Generic Titles. Generic titles are those, in English, that use such describers as symphony, concerto, fantasia, and the like, often with an identifying opus number or index number appended. These titles are given in roman type. Consider the forms below.

Bach, Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, BWV 565

Haydn, Baryton Trio No. 71 in A Major, Hob. XI:71

Beethoven, String Quartet No. 1 in F Major, op. 18, no. 1

Beethoven, Violin Concerto in D Major, op. 61

Beethoven's Fifth Symphony

Schubert, Mass No. 6 in E? Major, D. 950

Schumann, Variations for Piano, op. 9

the Schumann Variations, op. 9

Beach, Piano Concerto, op. 45

Rakowski, Etude No. 37, "Taking the Fifths"

(See, for more samples, 1.16, and, for catalogs, 1.30.)

Capitalization styles vary but should be consistent throughout a work. CMS (8.190), for instance, prefers Symphony no. 3. The style strongly preferred in the profession, from performing artists to record producers, uses the uppercase No. for the title—and lowercase no. for a constituent of the opus number, as in the case of the Beethoven string quartet above.

1.4Composers' Titles. Titles assigned by the composer (usually in their original language) are given in italics. (For capitalization of foreign titles, see 1.20, 2.42–49.)

Bach, Das wohltemperierte Clavier (or The Well-Tempered Clavier)

Mozart, Vesperae solennes de confessore

Beethoven, Missa solemnis

Rossini, La gazza ladra

Berlioz, Symphonie fantastique

Debussy, La Mer

Stravinsky, Le Sacre du printemps (or The Rite of Spring)

Boulez, Le Marteau sans maître

Takemitsu, Rain Tree Sketch II: In Memoriam Olivier Messiaen

Radiohead, In Rainbows

1.5Common Names. Many works are referred to by widely recognized popular names. These are generally put in quotation marks.

Mozart, Symphony No. 41 in C Major ("Jupiter")

Beethoven, Piano Sonata No. 23 in F Minor, op. 57 ("Appassionata")

Beethoven, Piano Trio in B? Major, op. 97 ("Archduke")

Schubert, Symphony No. 8 in B Minor ("Unfinished")

the "Archduke" Trio

the "Emperor" Concerto

To refer to Schubert's "Unfinished" Symphony may in a subtle way suggest that it really isn't unfinished at all, that the quotes are a sort of conspiratorial wink of the eye. There are, however, any number of unfinished symphonies of Schubert, but only one called the "Unfinished."

1.6 The rule of thumb, then, is to italicize titles given to works by composers themselves and put common titles within quotation marks. These principles collide with vexing frequency; nicknames and true subtitles are often difficult to keep separate, and the matter of foreign languages complicates things still further. Neither Beethoven nor Tchaikovsky, it turns out, approved of the subtitle "Pathétique." When in doubt, use quotation marks for common names.

"From the New World"

the "New World" Symphony

the "Pathétique"

the Pastoral Symphony

the "Italian" Symphony

1.7Operas, Musicals. Use roman type within quotation marks for arias drawn from operas (and, likewise, songs—and even titled sections of ballets and suites—drawn from other theatricals).

"Where'er You Walk," from Handel's Semele

"Porgi amor"

"Addio, fiorito asil," from Madama Butterfly

"Somewhere," from West Side Story

"Chorus of Exiled Palestinians," from The Death of Klinghoffer

1.8Songs. Song is the common denominator of music, reaching us from every time and place. Since the iPod and its promise of putting "1,000 songs in your pocket" (2001), the word has come to describe, too loosely, single movements in general. (And see 3.30.) Here we mean a short, self-contained work with lyrics and accompaniment.

In almost every case, render a song title in quotation marks, and its container—the series, publication, or album from which it comes—in italic.

"Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho"


"Der Leiermann," from Winterreise

"La Flûte de Pan," from Chansons de Bilitis

"East St. Louis Toodle-Oo" (but see 1.12)

Grateful Dead's "Candyman" (American Beauty, 1970)

"Takeda Lullaby" (Takeda no komoriuta)

Hey Jude was essentially another of Capitol's cobblings together for the U.S. market of U.K. singles. The salient track was, of course, "Hey Jude."

1.9Song Title Translations. Provide translations and transliterations as appropriate to your argument. See 2.50.

Bartók, "Síppal, dobbal" (With Drums and Pipes, lit. "with a whistle, with a drum"), from Szabadban (Out of Doors)

Neil Hannon, "Les Jours tristes" (Sad Days; also known as "Perfect Lovesong"), from Amélie

1.10Named Movements. These levels—quotation marks and italics—work for named movements in general.

"Arlequin," from Carnaval

"Ondine," from Gaspard de la nuit

"The Open Prairie," from Billy the Kid

1.11Albums. Various ways of citing albums and tracks are suggested in 3.28–31. Album titles, however, can be highly nuanced. Consider:

A Love Supreme, John Coltrane's masterpiece

Part 1, "Acknowledgment," from A Love Supreme (contains the "Love Supreme" mantra)

"Love Supreme" Suite, live performance 26 July 1965, Antibes Jazz Festival

"Acknowledgment," alternate takes 1 and 2 (takes 90246-1 and 90246-2), 10 December 1964

Max Steiner, music for Gone with the Wind (Gone with the Wind: Original MGM Soundtrack, 1939; re-engineered CBS/Sony, 1990). Note additionally Steiner's 30-minute suite (RCA, 1954), Muir Matheson's version (Warner Brothers, 1961), and Charles Gerhardt's re-edition and re-recording for Classic Film Scores (1974).

1.12Italics for Song Titles. It may sometimes be preferable to use italic font for song titles and other short works.

Her rendition of An die Musik, like that of Gretchen am Spinnrade earlier in the program, drew a chorus of approving murmurs and not a few tears.

His favorite Debussy preludes were Le Vent dans la plaine (The Wind in the Plain) and La Cathédrale engloutie (The Submerged Cathedral).

The first important Ellington-Miley collaboration, East St. Louis Toodle-Oo, is impressive, but Miley's anguished wa-wa horn dominates it, as it does the second important joint work, Black and Tan Fantasy.

1.13Latin Liturgical Works. Capitalize such titles as Mass, Requiem, and Te Deum, as well as their constituent movements; leave them in roman type.

Kyrie Sanctus
Gloria Agnus Dei
Credo Benedictus

In view of the symbolic and structural function of these high sonorities in the Credo and Benedictus of the Mass, it is not surprising that Beethoven resorted to this framework again, in those parts of the choral finale of the Ninth Symphony with an explicitly religious text.

Kyrie Cunctipotens genitor

Alleluia Angelus domini

the motet In seculum/In nova fert/Garrit gallus

1.14Movement Titles. Tempo indications as movement titles are capitalized and, in most cases, given in roman type.

We expect a string quartet to commence with a sonata-allegro movement, but to this point the Allegro has all the earmarks of an interjection within an Adagio movement.

1.15 Listings in concert programs and related publications require full formal titles. (See chapter 6.)

Beethoven, Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major, op. 58


Beethoven, Concerto No. 4 for Piano and Orchestra in G Major, op. 58

or even (in high Boston Symphony Orchestra style)

Beethoven, Concerto No. 4 for Piano and Orchestra, in G Major, opus 58

but not

Beethoven, Fourth Piano Concerto

1.16Numbering of Symphonies by Schubert, Mendelssohn, and Dvorák. These are especially difficult because more than one numbering system is or has been in wide use. Use the following, which reflect contemporary knowledge and practice and are in each case the systems adopted by The New Grove.


Symphony No. 6 in C Major, D. 589 ("Little C-Major")

Symphony No. 7 in E Minor, D. 729 (a sketch, also called E Major and E Major/Minor)

Symphony No. 8 in B Minor, D. 759 ("Unfinished")

Symphony No. 9 in C Major, D. 944 ("Great C-Major")


Symphony No. 3 in A Minor, op. 56 ("Scotch" or "Scottish")

Symphony No. 4 in A Major, op. 90 ("Italian")

Symphony No. 5 in D Major, op. 107 ("Reformation")


Symphony No. 7 in D Minor, op. 70

Symphony No. 8 in G Major, op. 88

Symphony No. 9 in E Minor, op. 95 ("From the New World")

1.17Opus Number as Identifier. When an opus or catalog number is used as sole identification of the work, it does not have to be preceded by a comma.

Adagio K. 411

In the Trio op. 97, Beethoven achieves ...

Major and Minor

1.18 The words major and minor are identical in grammatical structure, both of them adjectives. The convention of uppercase Major and lowercase minor is correct only for some styles of chord notation, notably in analysis and figured bass, where such abbreviations as GM (G major) and Gm (G minor), or even G and g, can be useful.

Sonata in A Major

Sonata in A Minor

The words major and minor are capitalized only in titles, however.

The first theme is in C minor; the second, in E-flat major.

1.19 When a key precedes a genre it becomes an adjectival construction and requires a hyphen.

A-Major Sonata

A-Minor Sonata

Capitalization Schemes

1.20 See also 2.42–49. In English capitalize the nouns and other major words as described in CMS 8.157; in German capitalize the nouns; in French capitalize through the first substantive; in Italian, capitalize just the first letter. The following are typical examples:

Ein deutsches Requiem

Le Roi Lear

Il re Lear

Les Vêpres siciliennes

I vespri siciliani

Der Freischütz

Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis

Ariettes oubliées

Prélude à "L'Après-midi d'un faune"

Rhapsody in Blue

Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Proper Names

1.21Composer and Performer Names. Use transliterated, American English names for composers and performers. Absent reason to the contrary, adopt the most common version. The usual resource is "Biographical Names" at the back of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (or at m-w.com using the tab "Encyclo.").

Stravinsky Dussek
Tchaikovsky Josquin des Prez
Machaut von Bülow

Yvonne Loriod (Mme Messiaen) or Yvonne Loriod-Messiaen

Yo-Yo Ma but Lang Lang

Ravi Shankar, often with his honorific Pandit

Ali Akbar Khan, often with his honorific Ustad, and sometimes as Khansahib

Pak Cokro (Chokro, Tjokro; the noted master of gamelan, 1909–2007), known variously under the increasingly honorific names K.R.T. Wasitodipuro, K.R.T. Wasitodinigrat, K.P.H. Notoprojo

50 Cent/Curren$y/Eminem/Snoop Dogg (now Snoop Lion)

Sean "Diddy" Combs (formerly "Puff Daddy" and "P. Diddy")

Invisibl Skratch Piklz

and, late-breaking:

Jay-Z, then (after July 2013) Jay Z

The Germanic rendering Tchaikovsky is practically universal in symphony halls and opera houses, as well as at the ballet. But Professor Taruskin's massive oeuvre on Russian music uses Chaikovsky. If you adopt the latter spelling, make certain to put a cross-reference in any alphabetical bibliography or index.

1.22Professional Names. Take care to use true professional names, and do not make assumptions about nicknames.

Beth E. Levy (not Elizabeth)

R. Anderson Sutton (not Andrew)

1.23The Beethoven Problem. According to the standard (Webster's) system, the name is broken "Bee•tho•ven." For those who are aware of the fact that -hoven is a common Dutch suffix, the proper break is "Beet•hoven." It is preferable to avoid the issue entirely, separating the word as "Beetho•ven."

1.24The Mendelssohn Problem. Remember "Mendel's son" in this most frequently misspelled of composers' names.


1.25The Problem of Possessives. There are any number of theories about the proper formation of possessives for names. We recommend that of CMS (7.17): add an apostrophe and an s.

Berlioz's Boulez's
Brahms's Saint-Saëns's

Incidentally, the z's in Berlioz and Boulez, as well as the final s in Saint-Saëns, are pronounced.

1.26The Russian Problem. Transliteration from the Russian alphabet is, at best, troublesome; see 2.50. Generally use the spellings with v, not w or ff, and y at the end, not ii. In the case of Rachmaninov (or Rachmaninoff, as he spelled it in the West; or Rakhmaninov, as some argue), the best advice is to make a reasoned decision and stick to it.

Koussevitzky (note the z) Stravinsky

1.27Umlauts: the Schoenberg Problem. Schönberg dropped the umlaut and added an e when he immigrated to the United States. Charles Münch did, too, but after a very brief period of being Muench he became Charles Munch (no e), a decision jointly made by himself, his agents, the papers, and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Händel emigrated only so far as England but loses his umlaut anyway (and does not gain an e).

Handel (but the complete edition is Georg Friedrich Händels Werke)



1.28Names with "von" and "de." By and large these particles are omitted, except in the full name.

Dittersdorf La Guerre

but usually

von Bülow

de Gaulle (because "Gaulle" is only one syllable)

1.29Summary. The following is a list of names that pose difficulties of one sort or another, with their hyphenations. Note that in typography words may not break after the first letter or before the last two letters.


Excerpted from Writing about Music by D. Kern Holoman. Copyright © 2014 D. Kern Holoman and The Regents of the University of California. Excerpted by permission of UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA PRESS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

1 Music Terminology

Titles of Works

Major and Minor

Capitalization Schemes

Composers' Names

Thematic Catalogs of Composers' Works

Pitch Names




2 Narrative Text




Simple Punctuation



Quotation Marks

Superscript Note Numbers


Capitalization Schemes in Foreign Languages

Diacritics (Accents)


Word Breaks


British English


Block Quotations

References in Running Text

Roman and Italic

Other Typical House Rules

Format and Design

Finally ...

3 Citations




The Internet

Short Titles

Review Heads


Principles of Annotation

Sample Notes and Bibliography

4 Musical Examples


Scores and Parts

5 Tables and Illustrations



6 The Printed Program



Texts and Translations

Rosters of Personnel

Program Notes

The Concert Listing


Finally ...

7 Electronics

8 Best Practices for Student Writers



Citations, Again




Appendix Problem Words and Sample Style Sheet

Works Cited


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