February 5, 2014 Library of Congress Launches "Songs of America" Presentation

Year-long Celebration Includes Concerts, Special Events, Educational Opportunities

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“Know the songs of a country and you will know its history, for the true feeling of a people speaks through what they sing.” So reads the preface to an 1884 publication of The Songs of Henry Clay Work, and that is the sentiment behind a new Library of Congress online resource, “Songs of America,” launching today.

More than two years in the making, “Songs of America” (www.loc.gov/collection/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 the prism of 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. 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.

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.

“What a wonderful way to make history come alive! ‘Songs of America’ will enliven classroom teaching and will be a fantastic resource for National History Day students,” said Cathy Gorn, executive director of National History Day. ‘Songs of America’ will help students bring to life people, places and time as the students develop their performance, documentary and website presentations.”

“This outstanding collection of resources will be absolutely invaluable to teachers who want to use music to teach United States history,” said Steve Armstrong, president of the National Council for the Social Studies. “There are materials here that many teachers will see for the very first time. Teachers will be able to play songs and display images than will enrich many units found in any U.S. history class. Teachers will be excited when they begin to explore this collection.”

“The Library of Congress’s 'Songs of America' interactive website is a marvel for lovers of music and history, bringing the joys and treasures of our country’s music in all their breadth and splendor to anyone with a computer,” said James Steinblatt, assistant vice president, special projects, American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. “Songs about work, love, family life, the immigrant experience and historic events are all available to be heard and enjoyed, along with relevant illustrations and annotations.”

The Library will feature the site and its content in events throughout the year, including Digital Learning Day Feb. 5 at the Library; 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, among other events.

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

Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution. The Library seeks to spark imagination and creativity and to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its magnificent collections, programs, publications and exhibitions. Many of the Library’s rich resources can be accessed through its website at www.loc.gov.


PR 14-018
ISSN 0731-3527