The Free Library of Philadelphia’s Music Department connects Philadelphians with a Sheet Music Collection that spans the entire history of single sheet publishing in the United States and the colonies that proceded them. As the music publishing industry continues to release single sheets, we continue to add them to this collection.
Musicians from students desiring to learn the latest hits to veteran wedding bands trying to meet demanding playlist requests are the heaviest users of the newest additions to this collection. Its enormity has frustrated attempts to catalog digitally. A simple inventory of songs added since October 2002 is available, however. Since the collection is organized by song title (or composer in the case of piano solos) we can fairly quickly determine if we have an particular sheet between the 1700s and the 2000s.
Music publishing need not solely be the province of musicians. Students and writers working through disciplines such as History, American Studies, Art, Material Culture, and more can use the often evocative artwork accompanying these sheets for insights into human events and culture. Even though lyrics are widely if not always legally available, it’s also nice to have a more authoritative source for analysis.
In the second half of 2014, we added 20 new sheets to the collection. Here’s a video playlist of those songs followed by a list of hypothetical paper titles students could write responding to the “text” of these pop objects:
Am I Wrong - Nico & Vinz
Radical Uncertainty and Pan-African Pop Positivity : an inclusive Viking cosmopolitanism?
Chandelier - Sia
Destabilizing Dance: solo improvisations and alienating aloneness for wallflowers and party girls alike
Classic - MKTO
The End of History: referential pop classicism when there’s nothing left to say
Maps - Maroon 5
Two Timing in Common Time through Ungallant Incongruities: isn't it ironic?
A Sky Full of Stars - Coldplay
Busking Pantomimes: the vacuum (or it it an 'oover?) of working class music in late capitalist London.
Wiggle - Jason Derulo and Snoop Dogg
Gender, Capital, and Caribbean Dance Innovations: twerking the trans-global neoliberal fantasy of sex capital, a holler back gesamptkunstwerk
Fancy - Iggy Azalea and Charli XCX
21st Century Minstrelsies in Thrall of the 1990s in Thrall of the 1790s. First thing first, this is the unrealest.
Best Day of My Life - American Authors
The Heartland Manufactures Twee: crafting Americana authenticity that self-actualizes in the urban playground, banjo in hand.
Magic - Coldplay
Carnie Expressionist Cinematopias: a romcom of performative retro cute.
Not a bad thing - Justin Timberlake
Not a Bad Thing and Not Quite a Good One: the sincerity of exhaustion of superstar coupling.
Raging Fire - Phillip Phillips
Bro-Folk and the Urban Landscape as a New Source of Invigoration for Those Who Rage without Vigor
Ain’t It Fun - Paramore
The Struggle for a Unique Self-identity in a Landscape of Inescapable Sameness: a bildungsroman
The Man - Aloe Blacc
Touring Resistance and the Civil Rights Struggle through a Lense of Black Masculinity in American Media Since the 1960s.
Sing - Ed Sheeran
Puppetmasters and the Two Body Problem: lads becoming pop stars, pop stars being lads.
Love Never Felt So Good - Michael Jackson & Justin Timberlake
Grave Robbing Pop Zombieism and Nostalgia in a World without HIStory
Me and My Broken Heart - Rixton
Pity Party: the dearth of imagination, throwing in the towel, and the rise of combativeness among the misogynist lovelorn
Summer - Calvin Harris
Eros and Automobility: asphyxiating in the the internal combustion engine of gender normative summer jam desiring
Boom Clap - Charli XCX
Another World Is Possible: Amsterdamming the four chambers of the heart in rebuke of Thanatos
Birthday - Katy Perry
Natality of Identity, Midwifery of Being, Breaking the Water of Subjectivity : the dance party as an intercourse of possibility
Problem - Ariana Grande and Iggy Azalea
Sax Loops and Klingon Operas: romance in the age of digital reproduction