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Film Music: A Research Guide

Film Scores and Books

Film music resources in the Music Division include the following types of material:

  • Scores for silent and sound films
  • Anthologies of stock accompaniment for silent film
  • Arrangements of film scores for instrumental ensembles
  • Books on film music
  • Instructional books on film composing and silent film accompaniment

Tips for Searching the Library of Congress Online Catalog

Focused Searching

Request and view Class M materials in the Performing Arts Reading Room (see the "Using the Library of Congress" section of this guide for the location of reading rooms and requirements for accessing Library of Congress collections).

Class M - Printed music

  • Search by title to find a score for a specific film
  • Scores for the same film may be under different call numbers
  • Not all pieces are individually cataloged (Contact us through Ask a Librarian for additional help)
  • For silent film accompaniment anthologies, try keyword searches
  • Many film scores have been microfilmed; microfilm call numbers will contain the word "microfilm"
  • Specific M classes that can be helpful:
    • M176: Instrumental music for silent films and music not meant for specific motion pictures
    • M1350: Works originally composed with accompaniment for reduced orchestra; piano is generally the leading instrument; includes music for dance orchestra or other instrumental ensemble received before 1 July 1944
    • M1356: Music for dance orchestra or other instrumental ensemble received after 1 July 1944
    • M1357: Moving picture orchestra: instrumental parts for silent films and music not meant for specific motion pictures 
    • M1508: Vocal excerpts from music from specific motion pictures
    • M1527: Complete scores for specific motion pictures
    • M1527eu: Unpublished complete scores and instrumental excerpts of motion picture music
    • M1527.2: Instrumental excerpts of motion picture music 

Starting in 2019, the Music Division began cataloging unpublished film scores under the call number M1527eu. Many - but not all - of these titles are copyright deposits from between 1930 and 1978. 

Request and view Class ML materials in the Performing Arts Reading Room (see the "Using the Library of Congress" section of this guide for the location of reading rooms and requirements for accessing Library of Congress collections).

Class ML - Literature on Music

  • Secondary sources, academic literature, analysis, critical theory 
  • Bibliographies
  • Not all pieces are individually cataloged (Contact us through Ask a Librarian for additional help)
  • Specific ML classes that can be helpful:
    • ML102.M68: Dictionaries
    • ML128.M7: Bibliographies
    • ML156.4.M6: Discographies
    • ML410: Composer biographies 
    • ML2075: History and criticism
    • ML3849: Motion pictures and music

Class ML - Archival Documents

  • Find some film music material under ML94, ML95, or ML96 call numbers
  • Items can include holograph manuscripts, correspondence, or other manuscript material
  • Not all pieces are individually cataloged (Contact us through Ask a Librarian for additional help)
  • Specific ML classes that can be helpful:
    • ML94 or ML95: Items containing correspondence and other literary manuscripts by one or more individuals (Example: a letter written to or by a film composer)
    • ML96: Holograph music manuscripts or sketches by individual composers (Example: a film score written in the composer's own hand)

Request and view Class MT materials in the Performing Arts Reading Room (see the "Using the Library of Congress" section of this guide for the location of reading rooms and requirements for accessing Library of Congress collections).

Class MT - Musical instruction and study

  • Instructional guides for accompanying silent film
  • Indexes of stock music publications
  • Instructional guides for film composition 
  • Not all pieces are individually cataloged (Contact us through Ask a Librarian for additional help)
  • Specific ML classes that can be helpful:
    • MT64.M65: Instruction and study
    • MT737: Motion picture accompanying

Request and view Class PN and Class ZA materials in the Main Reading Room (see the "Using the Library of Congress" section of this guide for the location of reading rooms and requirements for accessing Library of Congress collections). Contact us through Ask-A-Librarian for additional help.

Class PN - Film Literature

  • Often include discussions of film music and film sound
  • Specific PN classes that can be helpful:
    • ​PN 1993 - 1999: Motion pictures, scholarly literature
    • PN 1997 - 1997.85: Plays, scenarios, etc.

Class ZA - Bibliographies and Information Resources

  • Specific ZA classes that can be helpful:
    • ​ZA 4550 - 4575: Motion pictures. Video recordings 
    • ZA 4750 - 4775: Sound recordings