Review of the book Music Research: A Handbook by L. Sampsel,
Oxford University Press Inc., New York, 2008
by Dr. Soubhik Chakraborty
Department of Applied Mathematics
Birla Institute of Technology
Some research is like looking for a black cat in a dark room that
may not even be there . In music research, the situation is
even more intricate, with too many such dark rooms.
Considering its interdisciplinary nature, music is connected to
physics, psychology, neuroscience, mathematics, statistics,
computer science, linguistics, and semiotics. Given that no one
can master all of these fields, Sampsel's book is just the kind of
text a music researcher would love to see on the shelf.
Although the primary target audience is master's-level students,
doctoral and undergraduate students will also find plenty of food
for thought. More than a mere bibliography, the book is
appropriate for music classes. Several notable features make
this a standout book.
Part 1, chapters 1 to 14, presents essential music research tools.
Sampsel includes details on the music research process; general
and specific music encyclopedias and dictionaries; music
dissertations, theses, and conference papers; and music
resources, such as the Internet, discographies, and directories.
Although she emphasizes English titles, major French, German,
Spanish, and Italian titles are also included.
The entries are annotated with helpful reviews and references,
and the book's companion Web site
(www.oup.com/us/musresearch) includes supplemental links to
other accessories, including core music journals, major
professional music associations, and bibliographic updates. For
students, the book includes evaluation checklists and suggested
reading lists at the end of every chapter.
Part 2, chapters 15 and 16, explains how to write a thesis or a
project report in music research. For students who want to
submit their papers to journals, Sampsel includes helpful notes
on the major writing styles--Chicago, American Psychological
Association (APA), and Modern Language Association (MLA). Last
but not least, the book provides a glossary and index section so
that readers can search by either author or subject.
However, there are a number of major omissions that should be
included in a future edition. First, the book is only helpful to
researchers in Western music, and not those in Indian or other
Eastern music genres, except for its discussions of strategies
that are common to both. Since raga, the nucleus of Indian
classical music, is totally omitted, interested readers should
refer to Jairazbhoy . Furthermore, Sampsel fails to mention
Mazzola's contribution  to mathematical music theory,
Krumhansl's  and Patel's  highly acclaimed books, and
Temperley's unique Bayesian peek into music research .
Nevertheless, Sampsel's effort is praiseworthy and the book
should be generally well received by students and scholars. I
recommend it for all libraries that encourage music research.
 Ghosh, J.K.; Mitra, S.K.; Parthasarathy, K.R. Glimpses of
Indias statistical heritage. Wiley, New York, NY, 1993.
 Jairazbhoy, N.A. The rags of North Indian music: their structure
and evolution. Popular Prakashan, Bombay, IN, 1995.
 Mazzola, G. The topos of music: geometric logic of concepts,
theory, and performance. Birkhäuser Verlag, Basel, CH, 2002.
 Krumhansl, C.L. Cognitive foundations of musical pitch. Oxford
University Press, New York, NY, 1990.
 Patel, A.D. Music, language, and the brain. Oxford University
Press, New York, NY, 2008.
 Temperley, D. Music and probability. MIT Press, Cambridge,