Sunday, January 18, 2015

"When words fail,

 Music speaks.
  ~H.C. Anderson
The earliest sheet music was laboriously written by scribes in the monasteries of medieval Europe. These beautiful examples were carefully inked on parchment and are prized today not only as music history but as artistic masterpieces. With the invention of the printing press, Johann Gutenberg and his followers developed methods of printing music, as well as words, during the fifteenth century. The printing of music was limited in quality and quantity for several hundred years, but the industry traveled to America with the founding of the Colonies. 
The first music published in North America was The Bay Psalm Book printed in 1640 by Harvard College Press. The book contained only text because the congregations of churches were assumed to know the songs by heart.
The printing press changed the printed word much like the digital world has transformed these words you are reading.  Publishing music, complete with notation, became an industry by about 1800 when a number of firms in both America and Europe rolled out their presses to print both serious and popular music.  The Industrial Revolution gave rise to the middle class and allowed individuals more leisure time and money to spend on pianos for their homes, instruments for the town band, and attendance at the symphony. Composers were motivated to create when, during the nineteenth century, musicians began to pay for the privilege of performing the writer's music.

By 1890, many department stores had counters for the sale of sheet music, and its popularity forced the price down. By 1910, Woolworth sold sheet music for 10 cents a copy.

The musicians of Tin Pan Alley in New York City were made famous early in the 1900s by the swift availability of their tunes in sheet music form; George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" (1924) is an excellent example. Composers Aaron Copeland, Charles Ives, and Virgil Thompson established their own publishing house and gave the American public its own contemporary, classical music. When Charles Lindberg made his solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean in 1927, 100 songs commemorating the event were printed in sheet music form within a year.

Sheet music can be recycled even if you have no musical talent. Cover art greatly interests collectors who seek out the Art Deco designs of the 1920s and African-American songs published as early as 1835, for example. Even the titles of the obscure songs could provide a chuckle if framed or mounted and hung.  From a large stack, I quickly assembled some that could be framed...how about a grouping for a bedroom...theme...dreams...
Or, how about one for a Baby Boomer's birthday...
For those of us here in New Jersey... 
Or, maybe just home anywhere...

Are you Dutch and have a sister? (sadly I don't or it would be hers)
There are those with famous singers...I know maybe not everyone knows who Frank is...
And, then it is just song titles...could be great inspiration for writing!
Think repurpose if no piano players are around...sheet music is not just for stuffing in the piano bench!

               A painter paints pictures on canvas. But musicians paint their pictures on silence.
                                                       ~Leopold Stokowski

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