For students and teachers of the Koninklijk Conservatorium Brussel
The library of the Brussels Conservatories preserves and provides access to one of the most important music collections in Belgium. This is not surprising if you know that there around one million works which are preserved, totaling more than five continuous meters. Around a quarter of the collection consists of books about music and music journals. The largest portion is sheet music, either printed, in manuscript or born-digital items.
Since its founding in 1832, the library has profiled itself as a heritage library. In 2018 it officially became a recognized heritage library. Thanks to a targeted purchasing policy and generous donations, the library has formed a unique collection over the years. This collection is highly esteemed not only within Belgium but also internationally.
The most important collections are those of De Glimes, Hollenfeltz, Michotte, Piron, Sint-Goedele, Wagener and Westphal. There are also import music archives of Belgian composers which are preserved. The Koninklijk Conservatorium preserves collections such as those of Peter Cabus, Albert Delvaux and Victor Legley, the Conservatoire royal those of Paul Gilson and Joseph Jongen. In 2015, the collection of the former CeBeDeM, the Belgian Center for Music Documentation, was purchased. Through this purchase the heritage collection was expanded with works of more than one hundred Belgian composers.
The library collection is managed by the two conservatories in Brussels: the Conservatoire royal from the French-speaking community on the one side and the Dutch-speaking Koninklijk Conservatorium, which is a part of the School of Arts of the Erasmushogeschool Brussel, on the other. For this reason, we use the term ‘conservatories library’.
The physical library
The reference and reading rooms are open to the public.
- The reference room is also the entrance to the library. The information/lending desk is centrally located. There are also a few old card catalogue cabinets, but luckily there are also computers. On these computers you can consult the online catalogue. Music journals in printed form are only present in a limited number, but the online offering is much broader. You can find more information about this in the section ‘e-library’.
- In the reading room there are a selection of freely consultable publications. These reference works are not available for loan. Wifi is also available.
The conservatories library has a closed depot configuration. Visitors can ask the personnel to bring up works from the depot. Each score, book or document has a unique call number. You need this number to ask for the work at the lending desk. You can find the call number in the catalogues.
The conservatories library does not yet have a global catalogue which contains the entire collection. Thus, it can be necessary to follow the order below, in separate catalogues, to complete your search.
- The online catalogue primarily contains descriptions of the most recent acquisitions from 1994 onwards, but older works have also been gradually added. The database currently contains more than 110.000 records and new records are added daily. The diverse indices and the multiple combinations of search criteria make this catalogue the best search resource for the library. The catalogue is available online via the link above, the website of the conservatory: https://www.kcb.be/en/Bibliotheek/Zoeken/Online-repositories , but also directly via http://catalog.b-bc.org.
- The card catalogues in the reference room describe the works with call numbers 53.000 to around 76.000. These are the items that were purchased between 1962 and 1980, totaling around 15% of the whole collection. This catalogue is still useful, because there are diverse classifications. The displays on the cabinets describe what you can find and where, but please be aware that you are only searching in a very limited and out of date catalogue of the collection.
- The Wotquenne catalogue consists of four volumes, published in French between 1898 and 1912. This catalogue describes all works with call numbers from 1 to 16.809. Its indices are very limited and sometimes the information is out of date, but the classification by musical genre makes this catalogue still relevant. The letter codes of this classification are described in the first volume. The catalogue is available in the reading room, but is also available online: https://www.kcb.be/en/Bibliotheek/Zoeken/Online-repositories
- The handwritten card catalogue gives a dated, but more complete picture as it describes call numbers 1 to around 88.000. It is alphabetical organized by composer, as well as a limited number of keywords in French. This card catalogue was never intended as a true public catalogue because on each card there are multiple works making an alphabetical classification impossible. The oldest descriptions are very brief and the later ones broader, but sections of books or works are not independently described. This catalogue is not in the public area, but the visitor can ask the personnel to consult the cards for a certain composer at the lending desk.
Do you want to request or borrow a book? Please give the complete call number to the personnel member at the lending desk. It is possible to consult a work in the reading room or borrow a book at the desk. The call number can be found in the online catalogue.
You can borrow up to four items for two weeks. Prolongation of the lending period is possible via telephone, email or online. Students and teachers can borrow books for free. The inscription fee for external visitors is € 7,00 per year. Click here for more details.
There are items which cannot be borrowed, such as precious and historical books and those with shelf numbers under 52.000. There are also works which, due to their fragile condition, may no longer be consulted in the reading room. In this case a facsimile or digital copy will be made available.
Via ILL, Inter Library Loan, it is possible to obtain a publication for consultation which is not available in the conservatories library, but which is available in another Belgian collection.
The electronic library
The e-library of the Koninklijk Conservatorium Brussel has become more and more important as a completion at the physical collection. Several databases, which are paid for by a subscription fee, are only available via password for students and teachers, but there are also a few freely available information sources. The content of the music e-library is described here below, a concise list of the e-resources can be found here.
EhBIB Search is a handy tool: with one search action you can simultaneously search in diverse databases, in catalogues as well as in numerous electronic resources. Only the databases with a * in the following list are indexed by EhBIB Search. The keyword ‘muziek’ gives around 4.000 results, the keyword ‘music’ around 4.250.000. The search engine is in Dutch.
Temporary remark: the links to some Ebsco databases in the overview here below, do not always lead directly to the database itself. We are in contact with Ebsco in order to solve that problem. In the meantime you can reach the database this way:
- Click on the link to the database, and probably a new screen will appear with the text: "Begin a new session, please login again".
- A new screen will open: the search screen of your selected database(s).
Searching for sheet music?
- Classical Scores Library I & II give access to around 600.000 pages of music. Most of these publications are still under copyright but you are still able to download them. Illegal? Absolutely not, the Conservatory covers the royalties via the subscription fee.
- Petrucci Music Library with more than 150.000 works and 18.500 composers, is the largest, free online provider of sheet music. There are also around 60.000 recordings which you can listen to. This site is freely accessible.
- RISM, Répertoire International des Sources Musicales, is a biographical database with more than 1 million records and focuses on sheet music from before 1850. The database contains more than 16.400 records of manuscripts and almost 5.000 prints from the conservatories library. The search function of this database is broad and especially suited to musicians as it is possible to search via musical incipit. If it is available, a link to the digital version of the historical source is given. This site is freely accessible.
- Internet Archive is a multidisciplinary, multimedia database with digitized and born-digital material, from scanned books to websites. The keyword ‘music’ gives more than 1.600.000 results, from scores to audio and video. This site is freely accessible.
- The portal Digital Resources for Musicology gives access to diverse platforms of electronic and digital scores, but also music related open access website. This site is freely accessible.
- The portal Electronic and Virtual Editions links to diverse sites with digital sheet music, among them a few digital critical editions including works by Beethoven, Corelli, Handel and Vivaldi. This site is freely accessible.
- The Hathi Trust Digital Library has a database built of scans of printed books and journals. The keyword ‘music’ gives more than 1.500.000 results. The number of scores is more than 50.000. This site is freely accessible.
- The Digital Image Archive of Medieval Music, better known as DIAMM, contains information on medieval music, bibliographic information but also full text if it is available. This source is free but requires registration.
A compliment to the library catalogue
- IPM*, the ‘Index to Printed Music’, is an essential tool if you are looking for a composition which is published in an anthology or a series, such as a song from a song-cycle or a symphonic poem in collected works. Most library catalogues do not go into deeper detail than the general title but IPM fills this gap. The database describes more than 550.000 items.
- Via Classical Performance in Video you can listen to and watch more than 3.500 performances of concerts, operas, masterclasses and interviews.
- NML*, ‘Naxos Music Library’, gives access to more than 150.000 albums, or more than 2.300.000 tracks: classical, jazz and world music.
Looking for information about music?
- Oxford Music Online gives access to the standard encyclopedia in the domain of music, the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Oxford Music online also provides access to the Oxford Dictionary of Music and the Oxford Companion to Music.
From bibliographical to full text
- JStor gives full text access to 75 music journals. JStor is also indexed by Google.
- RILM*, ‘Répertoire International de Littérature Musicale’, is a bibliographical database which gives access to diverse publications about music published after 1967, music journals included. With more than 1.250.000 records, of which more than 300.000 in full text, RILM is a unique and essential tool for everyone doing research.
- RIPM, ‘Retrospective Index to Music Periodicals’, gives access to historical music journals from 1760 to 1966. Most of these journals are available in full text.
In multidisciplinary databases
- Academic Search Ultimate* gives access to the bibliography of several music journals such as 19th Century Music, Downbeat, Early Music, JAMS, Music & Letters, Musical Quarterly and Perspectives on New Music. The database also gives full text access to 35 journals including Journal of New Music Research, Music Analysis, Musical Times, Teaching Music and Strad. The keyword ‘music’ gives more than 760.000 results.
- Art & Architecture Source* focuses mainly on the visual arts. Nevertheless, the keyword ‘music’ gives 36.000 results, of which more than 20.000 are in full text.
- Arts Premium Collection comprises full text articles and bibliographical references in diverse art disciplines, among which Music & Performing Arts. The keyword ‘music’ gives almost 2.190.000 results.
- DOAJ, ‘Directory of Open Access Journals’, gives access to more than 18.000 full text articles about music.
- eBook Academic Collection* contains more than 160.000 e-books. In the musical domain there are around 4.800 books which are available to download as PDF.
- ERIC*, 'Education Resources Information Center', is a general pedagogical database with around 22.500 references to music, either bibliographical or full text.
- Sage Journals gives you access to journals related to music education and music therapy. Searching for ‘music’ produces more than 150.000 results.
- Science Direct gives access to full text scientific books and journals. The keyword ‘music’ gives more than 110.000 results, mostly linked to music therapy.
- Springer Link is a multidisciplinary database which gives the possibility of downloading free articles and books. Searching on ‘music’ gives more than 200.000 results.
- Taylor & Francis Online gives access to over 20 journals on various areas of music ranging from popular music to more scientific studies. Searching for ‘music’ gives more than 270.000 results.
- Teacher Reference Center*. This resource focuses on music education and has over 25.000 articles on music. More than 18.000 are available in full text.
- Wiley Online Library. This collection has a small number of eBooks on music, but searching for ‘music’ produces over 150.000 articles.
Need a trustworthy translation?
- Looking for a trustworthy dictionary? The Van Dale Online Woordenboeken give access to the Dutch dictionaries "Dikke Van Dale" and "Van Dale Hedendaags Nederlands" as well as translation dictionaries for German, English, French, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish (to and from Dutch only).
- The LiederNet Archive is the largest database of classical lied texts with translations. It offers more than 35.000 translations of vocal compositions. This database is freely consultable.
- UniCat, the Union Catalogue of Belgian libraries, is a bibliographical, multidisciplinary database with more than 16 million records of university and other libraries in Belgium.
- Searching for scientific information is also possible with Google Scholar. With the Full Text Finder, you can limit your search results.
W heritage collections:
E for students with research questions, contact:
E for requests for scans:
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Version March 2020.
Text and photos © Koninklijk Conservatorium Brussel