Father of the Blues, An Autobiography, by W. C. Handy. Collier Books, Macmillan, c. 1941.

"In the meantime, I had occasion to recall my first experience with a talking machine. That had been back in Helena, Montana, in 1897. I had made a record with my minstrel band on an old cylinder machine, funny contraption, that old affair. To hear the recording you had to place two rubber tubes in your ears. Each record began with a spoken announcement much like the radio announcer's lines today. Before we played, the announcer spoke into a horn and said, "You will now hear Cotton Blossoms as played by Mahara's Minstrel Band on Edison records." After playing our number, each one of us was permitted to put the rubber tubes in his ears and thus listen to ourselves. Other music lovers who wished to hear the record had to pay five cents for the privilege." - from Father of the Blues, An Autobiography, by W. C. Handy. Collier Books, Macmillan, c. 1941. p. 179

William Christopher Handy was one of the earliest members of ASCAP, and self-published his compositions throughout his life, including a span of years up to 1921 in partnership with Harry Pace, a songwriter and music publisher. After he died in 1958, his family took over the Handy Bros. Music Company, maintained at present by his grandchildren: Handy Brothers Music Company. The version shown here of "The St. Louis Blues" was published in 1914, and sold at Meier and Frank in downtown Portland, that offered an entire department just of sheet music for local musicians.

Felt Swan from the Hermitage MuseumThe felt swan shown here, on display in the Hermitage Museum, dates from the 4th-5th centuries BC.  An object made of felt and deer hair with the figure supported by wooden stakes, it was part of a burial mound in the Eastern ranges of the Altai region in Russia. This image is from the book Felt, by Willow G. Mullins, an account of the many uses of felt over spans of centuries to contemporary times. It is an example of a type of book in the library that can serve as good starting points for your imagination, beginning with raw materials.

When experimenting with various types of media and processes associated with them, another type of book that is useful to remember about are the books about art hazards. As many people know from studying art, it's easy to forge ahead and forget that some of the properties of materials may be less than benign for health.

 

How to search the new Library Catalog for music:
Top | Authors | Authors with Common NamesTitles | Keywords


Multnomah County Library has the largest collection for music of any public library in Oregon, and is one of the largest on the West Coast. This guide shows you how to find music books, scores, CDs and DVDs in the new Library Catalog, including:

  • scores with piano accompaniment on CD
  • DVDs to learn musical instruments or singing
  • complete works and indexes of major composers
  • 33,000+ music scores for beginners to professional musicians

Choose the catalog version you prefer: Bibliocommons(New Catalog) | Classic Catalog

In the Multnomah County Library network of libraries, Central Library has the largest collection of books, music scores, CDs, DVDs and videos. Request delivery to the Neighborhood Library that is most convenient for you.


Ask a Question:
Looking for something specific? Contact us.

Sheet music, as a type of music, refers to single songs, published for singing and playing on the piano, as was the custom for many years in living rooms all across the country. At Central Library, we have a collection of these, donations from Portlanders in years past. Arranged in boxes by year of publication, all are listed in the Library Online Catalog, by song title, and also by the title of the box with the publication year. The songs from 1800-1850 all fit in one container, but as the years progress, there is a box for each year, up to the early 70's with songs by the Carpenters and other singers of that time.

Here are two samples from vastly different eras: "A Life on the Ocean Wave," published in 1840 by the District Court of New York, and "Tuck Me to Sleep in My Old Tucky Home," published by the Irvin Berlin Music Company in New York in 1921.

Sheet Music of "A Life on the Ocean Wave" published in 1940Sheet music of the song "Tuck Me to Sleep in My Old Tucky Home" published in 1921How are these song sheets used at the present time? We get questions about songs popular in a particular decade for school reports, musicians who need particular old songs, and for people looking for popular songs that are in the public domain. The artwork on the cover of historic sheet music is also of interest, for the illustrations and typefaces characteristic of the era of publication.

The Historic Sheet Music is a reference collection at Central Library available through the reference staff at the Humanities South Reference Desk (art and Music) on the 3rd Floor. But if you would prefer to have music that you can check out and take home, we can look up whatever song you are looking for by title in the Online Catalog. For American songs by decade, there are collections of music scores for popular music by decade, singer, and type of music. If you have any questions about the Historic Sheet Music Collection, please give a call to Information Services at Central Library: 503.988.5234.

How do you search for song titles in the Library Catalog? Use "quotes" around the song title; if there are too many titles in the search results, use MODIFY SEARCH to select MUSIC SCORES or CD.

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