Up through the early 1970s, it was very hard to find durations of orchestral music, short of just putting on a record and timing it, or attending a concert and bringing a stopwatch. A few books and publishers' catalogs featured durations, but they weren't terribly reliable. Soon after David Daniels headed his first orchestra, he also realized that conductors needed more than the duration; they needed to know the numbers of players required for each piece, in order to secure enough musicians; they also needed music on the program that would give the trombone players enough to keep them happy, etc. etc. conductors also needed to know where to buy or rent the music.

When Daniels told people in the field that a good reference book was necessary to address those needs, his opinion was met mainly with derision. The one person who encouraged him was Helen Thompson, Executive Director of ASOL. No one else imagined such a resource would be useful. Despite such widespread skepticism, Daniels pursued his conviction. In 1968, he received a grant from Knox College—funded by the Rockefeller Foundation. Daniels spent the spring and summer collecting information, mainly at the Eastman School of Music (Sibley Library), the Fleisher Collection (Free Library of Philadelphia) and the Library of Congress.

In 1969 Daniels was hired by Oakland University in Rochester Michigan. Despite the fact that he was leaving, Knox generously gave him the money for a second summer of research. He continued at Oakland, with hopes of getting his handbook published.

After submitting a 50-page sample of the ugly computer printout to Scarecrow Press, they nonetheless accepted Daniels' work. In 1972 the first edition of Orchestral Music: A Source Book was published. An unattractive book in all caps, which was typical of computer printouts at the time, the volume covered the standard repertoire for American orchestras—more than 2,500 works—putting instrumentation, duration and publisher of each work at the fingertips of conductors and managers. A few hundred copies were sold to libraries, but reaching professionals in those early years was achieved mainly by word of mouth.

Ten years later, a second edition was published. Unhappy with the way the first edition looked, Daniels typed every page on an IBM Selectric typewriter that allowed umlauts and other accents. Every time he wanted italics, he had to change typeballs, a laborious process, but well worth the time and effort. Besides these cosmetic changes, the book also featured approximately 35% additional entries and a more useful system of appendixes, including a breakdown of orchestral works by size of instrumentation.

By 1996, when the third edition was published, computer technology helped simplify the collection of information. Daniels found a very flexible database that would do what he wanted. Containing more than 4500 compositions, the book featured clearer entries and improved indexes, drawing praise from both Choice and Library Journal.

The fourth edition, published in 2005, used that same database, but added the Orchestra Library Information Service. In addition to containing nearly 2000 more compositions, this most recent print version included a number of new and improved features, including a larger, easier to read format, more contents notes and durations of individual movements, lists of required percussion equipment, and more intuitive formats for instrumentation.

From a 300+ page book that sold a few hundred copies more than thirty-five years ago, Orchestral Music: A Handbook has grown in both size and stature to become an internationally acclaimed resource and the recognized standard for conductors, orchestras, musicians, and musicologists throughout the world.

Orchestral Music Online is the most recent iteration of this classic repertoire reference work. Based on the critically acclaimed fourth edition of Orchestral Music: A Handbook this online resource provides greater and easier access to more information on composers and works.

Orchestral Music Online features:

  • Access to information on more than 6700 works by some 900 composers
  • Quick search by composer, title, or keyword
  • Browsing by composer
  • Advanced search by duration, instrumentation, chorus type, and soloists
  • Ability to cut and paste data into rehearsal schedules and other documents to save time and to eliminate transcription errors
  • Monthly updates with new composers, new works, additional information, and corrections
  • More than 1,000 changes since publication of the 4th print edition
  • Links from individual works to music publishers and other sources