Why I enjoy collecting and digging for sheet music.
Why I collect sheet music.
I tend to appreciate things that I can hold onto. And in a digital world the idea of holding a piece of paper becomes less and less popular. And I get it. The amount of information that I can save on an actual piece of paper compared to a digital folder, there’s no comparison. My personal hard copy collection is no way large in comparison to many, however, I would like to think that I have an eclectic selection with a few pieces that wouldn't be found in your average piano teacher’s library.
I began my search for unique and rarely played composers when I realized the vast number of composers out there that were not being performed. When scrolling through old piano method books you may see only one piece by a particular composer – and besides that one piece, never hear of them again. Am I to assume that this one piece of music was their “One Hit”? I couldn't believe that. As I began my search I realized that many of these seldom played writers not only had more than just the one piece, but often times had VOLUMES of music that was waiting to be explored. Thus began my obsession.
I have literally given up nights of sleep in search for specific works by unknown composers. Now, when I say unknown, I do not mean that no one has ever heard of them. I am referring to composers that are not often played, or often overlooked or shadowed by the compositional giants of their time.
Many scores are out of print and will never be published again – this is a shame. But the good news is that we have a very strong data collection website that specializes in public domain material. IMSLP has been a great resource for me. Personally, I have over 7000 files, in over 600 folders, and over 16 GB worth of data. Some of these files contain whole volumes which may consists of 3-100 different pieces of music. THAT’S A LOT OF SHEET MUSIC!!! I also order and search for sheet music outside of the country, in used books stores from all over the world. I love getting those packages in the mail! The stamps on the package, the smell of another world and time, the old notes smeared in vintage lead and articulated from previous teachers written a hundred years ago.
I found a composer, that after stumbling upon one night – ended up emailing the publisher…or at least a publications office that managed (more or less) this particular composers work. Interesting story, the publishing house that owned the rights to the compositions went bankrupt – and the owner was sentenced, allegedly for those activities which were then illegal, then the laws changed - but he is still imprisoned. And notwithstanding that, the dead composer’s rights still belong to him. And the family of the deceased are fighting to get their rights back.
This is just one of a few absurd situations that I have come across. A number of composers that did not make it past 40 but still have tons of compositional gems that need to be heard by the world. I plan on one day organizing my collection and possibly publishing it myself – since much of it is public domain.
My heart cringes when I am scrolling through Facebook piano teacher forums and a teacher asks for a recommendation for a specific style or level, and always the same answers. But I also am hesitant to provide what I have discovered. Frankly – I do not think that many would share the same appreciation that I have for these composers as I do, and in ways not respect them as they deserve. So I choose to keep my little secrets for now. And enjoy them on my own. To me, the discovery is half the fun, and if other teachers really wanted to find something different, then they would look first, and ask for suggestions later. Why would I share my filet if they are happy with their McDonald's?
Maybe that’s dark, but I can live with it.