The Library of Congress: Sound Reference Center Motion Picture, Broadcasting & Recorded Sound Divison

Online Audio Collections and Presentations

The Library provides access to a portion of its audio collections through the Recorded Sound Reference Center’s web page, the American Memory site, The Performing Arts Encyclopedia and the American Folklife Center pages. These collections are described below. To listen to recordings that are unavailable online, contact the Recorded Sound Reference Center.

Recorded Sound Section  Online Collections

National Jukebox               The Library of Congress presents the National Jukebox, which makes historical sound recordings available to the public free of charge. The Jukebox includes recordings from the extraordinary collections of the Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation and other contributing libraries and archives. Recordings in the Jukebox were issued on record labels now owned by Sony Music Entertainment, which has granted the Library of Congress a gratis license to stream acoustical recordings.

At launch, the Jukebox includes more than 10,000 recordings made by the Victor Talking Machine Company between 1901 and 1925. Jukebox content will be increased regularly, with additional Victor recordings and acoustically recorded titles made by other Sony-owned U.S. labels, including Columbia, OKeh, and others.

Tony Schwartz Collection               These recordings are a sampling from the Library’s Tony Schwartz collection. Considered a master of the electronic media, Tony Schwartz changed  the face of radio and television advertising by creating socially conscientious campaigns such as the nation’s first anti-smoking  ad. Throughout his career Schwartz was a pioneer in the field of soundscape recording, capturing the people, sounds and events of his native New York City.  Click “selected recordings” to listen to some of Schwartz’s historic radio broadcasts.

Audio Collections from The American Folklife Center

Folklife Collections               The American Folklife Center, America’s first national  archive of traditional life, provides online access to selected portions of their collections.The Center’s Archive was originally founded in 1928 as the Archive of American Folk Song at the Library. In 1978 it became part of the American Folklife Center and was subsequently renamed the Archive of Folk Culture. Today the Archive includes the earliest field recordings made in the 1890s on wax cylinder and  photographs, manuscripts, audio recordings, and moving images documenting traditional culture from around the world.

American Memory Online Collections

American Leaders Speak: Recordings from World War I and the 1920 ElectionThis online presentation documents the speeches that such prominent figures as General John J. Pershing, Warren G. Harding, and Franklin D. Roosevelt made for the Nation’s Forum record label in the early 1920’s.             The  label was the creation of lawyer and arts promoter Guy Golterman who conceived the idea of recording political speeches after visiting the Library of Congress.             He later commented: “As I looked at the  facsimile of Washington’s farewell and the original of Lincoln’s  Gettysburg address, I profoundly wished that the vitality of their  voices could have been  preserved.”

American Variety Stage: Vaudeville and Popular Entertainment 1870-1920 Sound recordings are part of this online exhibit that features materials illustrating the diverse forms of variety theater that dominated the burgeoning entertainment world in the United States from 1870 to 1920. Click on “Sound Recordings” to hear ten recordings selected from vintage Edison phonograph Diamond Discs released from 1913 to 1927. They include comic skits, popular music and a dramatic monologue.

Band Music from the Civil War Era In 1974, the Library’s Music Division recreated a typical concert of brass-band and vocal music from mid-nineteenth-century America. This presentation  makes available 19 examples of brass band music that flourished in the 1850s in the United States and remained popular through the nineteenth century. The  online collection includes both printed and manuscript music  selected from the collections of the Music Division of the Library of Congress and the Walter Dignam Collection of the Manchester Historic Association (Manchester, New Hampshire). Click on “A Concert for Brass Band, Voice, and Piano” to hear all nineteen recordings.

Emile Berliner and the Birth of the Recording Industry Emile Berliner and the Birth of the Recording Industry is a selection of 108 Berliner sound recordings from the Library of Congress’s Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division. Emile Berliner (1851-1929), an immigrant and a largely self-educated man, was responsible for the development of the microphone and the flat recording disc and gramophone player.  The online collection also includes more than 400 items from the Emile Berliner Papers.

Inventing Entertainment: the Motion Pictures and Sound Recordings of the Edison Companies   This online presentation features 81 Edison Diamond Disc sound recordings from 1913 to 1922 of instrumental, vocal, spoken word, spoken comedy, foreign language and ethnic, religious, opera and concert recordings.  Histories of the Edison cylinder and disc phonographs are available as well as other related materials, such as photographs and original magazine articles. Click on “Sound Recordings” and then “Selected Diamond Disc Recordings” to hear all 81 recordings.

Online Collections from the Performing Arts Encyclopedia

African-American Band Music & Recordings, 1883-1923 This site features early recorded performances of music of African-American composers and performers such as George Gaskin, Bert Williams and George Walker. Most of these pieces are also represented in the stock arrangements; however, the recording is often of a version other than that of the published stock. African-American Band Music and Recordings, 1883-1923, also provides instrumental parts for a representative sampling of the enormous body of published stock arrangements – arrangements of songs and instrumental hits from publishers for theater orchestra and for military band. Click on “Recordings” to hear sound recordings.

Amazing Grace Since its creation in 1779 in England, “Amazing Grace” has grown in popularity to become one of the best-known hymns in America. Explore its history from the earliest printing of the song to various performances of it on sound recordings. Search an online catalog of the Chasanoff/Elozua Amazing Grace Collection which comprises published recorded performances of the hymn by more than 3000 different musicians or ensembles.

Coptic Orthodox Liturgical Chant & Hymnody The Ragheb Moftah Collection at the Library of Congress             Coptic Christian chant is one of the oldest liturgical  genres still performed today. Sound recordings from the Ragheb Moftah  Collection, include the liturgy of Saint Basil, a part of the Coptic Orthodox  celebration of the Eucharist, as well as pieces reserved for holidays and other  special services.  Ragheb Moftah, an  Egyptian musicologist  and scholar of Coptic music had a 75-year-long career transcribing and recording Coptic  liturgical chants. Click on “Music  Recordings” to listen.

The Gerry Mulligan Collection As a saxophonist, composer, arranger and band  leader, Gerry Mulligan (1927-1996) is a jazz legend. The Library of  Congress serves as the repository for the Gerry Mulligan Collection,  which it obtained in the late 1990s. In this initial Web offering, the  Library of Congress is making available excerpts from his autobiography  and selected scores and sound recordings.

The March King: John Philip Sousa               John Philip Sousa, born and educated in Washington, D.C.  was a conductor, composer, and arranger.  Already famous, he was appointed in 1880 as leader of the U. S. Marine Band and held this position for 12 years. Sousa resigned from the Marine Corps in 1892 to form his own civilian band. In a matter of months this band assumed a position of equality with the finest symphony orchestras of the day.  This online presentation  features 56 historical recordings as well as selected music manuscripts, photographs, printed music,  copies of programs and press clippings, and more from the Sousa Collection at the Library of Congress.

Patriotic Melodies Patriotic Melodies tells the stories behind many of the songs that have now become part of the American national heritage. Over 40 sound recordings of hymns, national songs, music of the theater, radio and television, military themes, and poetry, showcase the enthusiasm and pride that remain a constant part of the American experience.

Library of Congress Concerts               Since the inaugural concerts in 1925, the Coolidge Auditorium of the Library of Congress has been the venue for countless world-class performers, performances and premieres of new commissions.  This presentation highlights 10  recordings from many historic concerts and provides an historical overview on benefactors Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge and Gertrude Clarke Whittall and the Concert Series.

Life in 19th Century Ohio This presentation on parlor music in 19th-century Cincinnati, Ohio, focuses, through recorded and printed music, on a variety of themes such as religion, rural life, temperance, and minstrel songs, that reflect the social, economic, and religious values of the time. Since the songs were created for home performance, they give special insight into family life and the responses to the changes of economic and democratic individualism that were taking place throughout the country.

Ragtime Ragtime, a uniquely American, syncopated musical phenomenon, has been a strong presence in musical composition, entertainment, and scholarship for over a century. This presentation of recordings from 1900 to 1925 include rags composed by Roy Carew, L. Wolfe Gilbert, Percy Wenrich, M.L.Lake and Chas J. Johnson.

The Roger Reynolds Collection Roger Reynolds’ compositions incorporate elements of theater, digital signal processing, dance, video, and real-time computer spatialization to create his uniquely contemporary and  multidimensional style. Select the “Recordings” link to hear compositions by this Pulitzer prizewinning American composer.

Song of America   The Library of Congress and Thomas Hampson celebrate creativity across America with the Song of America Project.           The site presents a wealth of informatioin about the American art song. Click the “Song of America” link to listen to selections from Hampson’s recent tours in collaboration with the Library.

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