Music Archives

January 11, 2014 · Print This Article

Oh Internet, I love you so much! You are so good to me, bringing the world’s knowledge right into my living room. I’ve written previously about film archivesthispic, Google Books, and online galleries. To me, this is the promise of the digital age. Today, I’d like to tell you of two new archives I’ve have recently discovered.

The Internet Music Score Library Project, also called the Petrucci Music Library, is an online archive of mostly sheet music. This library is based on the wiki model, so it is a collaborative project. All of the works are copyright free with the exception of contemporary works, which are uploaded with the express consent of the composer under the Creative Commons License. The library is vast and easily navigable. One of the things I find most interesting about this site is that the scores are of two types: newly typeset and also scanned. Of course, the new ones are easy to read, clear and dark. Probably, these are the best to play from. But the scanned ones are the most fun because they are complete with the cover art. Some of the scores are more than a hundred years old and the marking from their library of origin are equally as fascinating. The original illustrations on some of these compositions are art works in their own right. Sadly, you can’t search “vintage cover art,” but it literally seemed as if every third score had some amazing images. Even if you are not a musician, these illustrations are worth a look-see.

Musopen is similar to IMSLP, in that its aim to provide the world with copyright free music scores. But Musopen also has a considerable library of classical recordings available as well. Along the right hand side is a fun list of the most popular listens. I played the most popular of the day, the 1st movement of Winter from Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons as performed by the US Air Force Band. Maybe this has something to do with the Polar Vortex, who knows. Over the last few years, Musopen has launched a few highly successful Kickstarters to fund even more copyright free recordings. According to Wikipedia, they have successfully recorded all 32 Beethoven piano sonatas and set them free in the world. Their last Kickstarter was to record the complete works of Chopin. Musopen is a non-profit and based in California and seems to have a more lofty goal than IMSLP.

Of course, there are plenty of places to listen to classical music and to download scores, but what sets these two sites apart is that they are so comprehensive and so easy to use. You can queue up a piece of music, then pop over and look at the score.

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