Library of Congress online resource explores American history through song

WASHINGTON — A new Library of Congress online resource, Songs of America, launched recently.

More than two years in the making, Songs of America brings forward 80,000 digitized, curated items including maps, recordings, videos, sheet music, essays, biographies, curator talks and more to explore America’s history through song.

The free online presentation lets visitors explore American history as documented in the work of some of our country’s greatest composers, poets, scholars and performers.

Research options

Users can:

  • Search by time period, location and format.
  • Listen to digitized recordings.
  • Watch performances of artists interpreting and commenting on American song.
  • View sheet music, manuscripts and historic copyright submissions.

Examples of the diverse content include an illustrated sound recording of Over There, a song representative of World War I; a curator talk by the Library’s Steve Winick discussing labor songs; and sound recordings of songs reflecting such social trends as the expansion of leisure activities, including sports and going to the movies.

Highlights

Other highlights of the presentation include the first music textbook published in colonial America (1744), Irving Berlin’s handwritten lyric sheet for God Bless America, the library’s collection of first edition sheet music by Stephen Foster and performances by baritone Thomas Hampson and soprano Christine Brewer.

The online resource will also offer a guide for educators, with suggestions on how to use the Songs of America presentation in their classroom curricula.

Events

The library will feature the site and its content in events throughout the year, including the annual Presidents Day Main Reading Room Open House Feb. 17; and a concert celebrating the Star Spangled Banner featuring noted baritone Thomas Hampson on July 3.

In addition, the library’s YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/libraryofcongress) will spotlight video from noted musicians, including Rosanne Cash and Michael Feinstein, discussing the importance of viewing American history through song.

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