Before recorded sound, popular music was most frequently played at home by amateur musicians using sheet music. Popular music composers and lyricists tailored their compositions to appeal to the tastes of potential buyers, and sheet music publishers increased the appeal of their product by printing eye-catching artwork on the covers of their releases.
UT Libraries has a large collection of donated sheet music that was published between the early-1800s and the mid-1900s. The bulk of this collection was donated in several installments by the late local historian Ronald Allen and many of the works have ties to Tennessee. Approximately 1500 of these songs and instrumental works are now available in this fully-searchable digital collection. These are also accessible online via the Sheet Music Consortium website which has been designed to access the sheet music collections of many libraries.
To comply with U.S. copyright laws, only works published before 1923 are included in the UT Libraries’ Digital Library. Many of the works in this collection include lyrics or illustrations that, while representative of the times in which they were published, may be offensive to users.