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Composers You Should Know: Home

Lists, facts, dates, links, and more, organized by time period


While this guide was made primarily for Music History and Composition students, everyone can benefit from learning about at least a few representative composers from different time periods and countries.

The top boxes are composers that EVERYONE should know. The lower boxes are composers that music students, especially in Composition and Music History, should be familiar with.

Film Music Composers

For a list of notable film music composers, please visit our Film Music Guide.

Jazz Composers

This LibGuide focuses mainly on "Classical" composers. A Jazz Guide is also available, which includes jazz composers and performers as well as research assistance.

Wisconsin Composers

Composer Teachers and Students

Time Periods

The various time periods of music history are not clearly defined and there is considerable overlap during every transitional time.

The time periods we have used in this LibGuide are as follows:

Medieval: 500 - 1430

Renaissance: 1430 - 1600

Baroque: 1600 - 1750

Classical: 1750 - 1820

Romantic: 1820 - 1900

Twentieth Century: 1900 - 1975

Contemporary Classical: 1975 -

These time periods reflect when the various composers were primarily active, not their specific birth years.

Tips on Using this Guide

  • Links in this Guide:
    • Composer names are linked to their Wikipedia articles or IMDb entries.
    • ML410 call numbers are linked to a book in Murphy Library. Be sure to check the shelves around these books for more on each composer.
    • Representative pieces are linked to Naxos Music Library when possible. When no recording is available in Naxos, these links go to YouTube.
  • When in Naxos, you can click the name of a composer to bring up a list of all their works that are available in Naxos. See the image below.


Research Assistance

Reference Desk

Librarians can help you learn to make the most of the information resources, tools, and services of Murphy Library and beyond!

Weekdays & Sunday afternoons (fall/spring):

  • Visit us at the reference desk (1st floor)
  • Call us at 608.785.8508
  • Web Chat with us

Any time (year-round):

Local history and/or archives research? Special Collections / Area Research Center specialists are available!