About

Sheet Music Maestro is a project of PaperCanoe, and launches with a collection of Early American sheet music. The Early American collection contains about 300 pieces of sheet music, available to download, and catalogued on a couple of different axes - contributor, type of song (for example, Rondo, Waltz, Patriotic, Ballad, Folk), culture of origin, notation, and instrument.

This col­lec­tion of music comes from the Brook­lyn Pub­lic Library and has incred­i­bly not been viewed for many decades, but was brought out of stor­age by the good peo­ple of the Arts, Media, Music and Sports Divi­sion — with spe­cial thanks to Harold Stern, Music Librar­ian — for the pur­pose of scan­ning and cat­a­logu­ing by Paper­Ca­noe offi­cer Claire Cun­ning­ham in April 2012.

We are the first to admit that this cataloging process is by no means complete. If you would be interested in adding data to the song's profile, contact us and we'll get you set up with a log-in. Likewise, the scanning process improved while the project was being undertaken, so regrettably some of the songs got the shaft. We tried to address this shortcoming by marking the song's condition, on an A-C scale, with most C's ditched before the song made it to the website.

Feedback is heartily welcomed!

I hope you enjoy this collection - this era of music has not really seen much of a revival, but in browsing the collection and making the site, I fell in love with some of the songs here. While in some respects a dark period of American history - some of the songs I ended up tossing because of their casual racism, and there's a lot of war - this was a period where people played live music in their homes with family and friends, nightly, for entertainment.

This passage from The Magnificent Ambersons by Booth Tarkington exuberantly describes the joy of these interactions, at least for the elite of midwestern cities around the time that automobiles were just hitting the roads (if you haven't read it, and are in the market for a light romp that will give you a bit of historic insight, I recommend the whole thing, available for free on e-readers or through the Gutenberg.org link just above).

They even had time to dance "square dances," quadrilles, and "lancers"; they also danced the "racquette," and schottisches and polkas, and such whims as the "Portland Fancy." They pushed back the sliding doors between the "parlour" and the "sitting room," tacked down crash over the carpets, hired a few palms in green tubs, stationed three or four Italian musicians under the stairway in the "front hall"—and had great nights!

But these people were gayest on New Year's Day; they made it a true festival—something no longer known. The women gathered to "assist" the hostesses who kept "Open House"; and the carefree men, dandified and perfumed, went about in sleighs, or in carriages and ponderous "hacks," going from Open House to Open House, leaving fantastic cards in fancy baskets as they entered each doorway, and emerging a little later, more carefree than ever, if the punch had been to their liking. It always was, and, as the afternoon wore on, pedestrians saw great gesturing and waving of skin-tight lemon gloves, while ruinous fragments of song were dropped behind as the carriages rolled up and down the streets.

"Keeping Open House" was a merry custom; it has gone, like the all-day picnic in the woods, and like that prettiest of all vanished customs, the serenade. When a lively girl visited the town she did not long go unserenaded, though a visitor was not indeed needed to excuse a serenade. Of a summer night, young men would bring an orchestra under a pretty girl's window—or, it might be, her father's, or that of an ailing maiden aunt—and flute, harp, fiddle, 'cello, cornet, and bass viol would presently release to the dulcet stars such melodies as sing through "You'll Remember Me," "I Dreamt That I Dwelt in Marble Halls," "Silver Threads Among the Gold," "Kathleen Mavourneen," or "The Soldier's Farewell."