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An introduction to the LCC system for music

Music call numbers in the Library of Congress Classification (LCC) system are subdivided by format.

Music literature is shelved under ML (note that we only have a few items, primarily librettos, in the music library under ML; most music literature is held in the main library and is shelved using the Dewey Decimal system). Music education items are shelved under MT. These items are located in the Music Education Room and include both books (e.g. teaching manuals) and scores (e.g. studies and methods). Scores are shelved under M in the main part of the music library.

An overview of the M class for scores

M1-M3 includes large and multi-volume collections of music: libraries of music, historical sets, musical monuments, and composer complete works editions.

Instrumental music begins with organ in M6, moves in score order through solo and duo music, continues with chamber music, follows on with larger ensemble music, and finishes with aleatory and electronic music.

Vocal music begins in M1495. Secular music comes first with sacred music following on from M2000.

The M class pattern

The M class follows roughly this pattern for each call number:

Miscellaneous collections shelved first

Original compositions shelved next, with collections first followed by individual works

Arrangements shelved last, with collections first followed by individual works

The basics of how LCC works

Scores are classified primarily according to medium of performance. Various subcategories are also used, including number of performers, genre, and form. For example, full scores of operas are shelved under M1500 while opera vocal scores are shelved under M1503. As someone looking for a score, consider if you need the full score or the vocal score—or perhaps either will do?

Remember that LCC relies primarily on medium of performance. The system does not always distinguish between ‘classical’ and ‘popular’ music. For example, you will find both opera and musical vocal scores shelved under M1503; however, you will find that art song and popular song are shelved under different call numbers. This can get tricky at times—remember that what you may consider an art song, LCC might consider a popular song!

Note that the LCC call number also gives you other information about the score. Most duos will have a call number in the M200s while quintets will be shelved under the M500s.

LCC often shelves original works and arrangements under different call numbers. You may need to check under both call numbers if you are not sure whether or not the score you are looking for is an arrangement.

Searching using the ‘Special Call Number’ feature

Using the ‘special call number’ feature found in the drop down menu on the front page of the library catalog, you can search and browse for scores using the call number. Note that there is a difference between the ‘call number’ search option and the ‘special call number’ search option. You need to use the ‘special call number’ option to search for LCC scores. The ‘call number’ option only searches items in Dewey.

A special call number search is not necessarily the most efficient choice of search strategy; however, after a while, you may find that you begin to remember the call numbers for the particular types of scores that you use most often. Once you reach this stage, a special call number search could be your most efficient choice, particularly if combined with a composer’s cutter (see Finding Scores Using a Composer’s Cutter Number).

There are two important points to remember when using a special call number search.

1) If a special call number search shows that we do not have an item, we may still own it as part of a composer’s complete works edition (see Using Composers Complete Works Editions).

2) Sometimes a score may not be found under the call number its title suggests. For example, symphonies are found under M1001; however, Shostakovich’s Symphony 14 is found under M1528 because it is in the format of a vocal duet with orchestra.

A few examples of some useful LCC call numbers

M3 Composers complete works editions
M23 Piano sonatas
M312 Piano trios
M452 String quartets
M512 Piano quintets
M557 Woodwind quintets
M557.4 Brass quintets
M1001 Symphonies
M1002 Tone poems
M1003 Orchestral suites and variations
M1004 Overtures
M1500 Operas/Musicals—full scores
M1503 Operas/Musicals—vocal scores
M1507 Collections of opera/musical excerpts—vocal scores
M1520 Ballets
M1530 Secular cantatas/oratorios—full scores
M1533 Secular cantatas/oratorios—vocal scores
M1619 Art song collections
M1620 Art song collections by composer
M1621 Individual art songs
M1630.18 American popular song collections
M2000 Sacred oratorios—full scores
M2003 Sacred oratorios—vocal scores
M2010 Masses, including Requiems—full scores
M2020 Sacred cantatas—full scores
M2023 Sacred cantatas—vocal scores
M2072 Anthems
M2110 Sacred song collections
M2117 Hymn collections

Further information

If you would like more information on LCC call numbers specific to your instrument or musical score needs, contact the music librarian.

For an overview of the LCC system for music, click here.

The ‘Music Cataloguing at Yale’ website at Yale University provides greater detail on LCC call numbers. To access this information, click here.

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