The Levy Sheet Music Collection, containing over 30,000 songs spanning US history, was amassed by Lester Levy and eventually donated to Johns Hopkins University. The collection is now digitized and available online-- highlights of the collection include a first edition of the Star Spangled Banner and one of few surviving editions of the march performed at George Washington's funeral.
Mr. Levy collected these songs because he saw them as windows into the past-- each one reflects a period event, attitude, or person. Songs can be found on almost any subject, ranging from the Civil War to magicians to cats (there are even seven songs concerning gazeboes!).
This exhibit explores five US reform movements as documented through this sheet music, revealing how these movements were experienced and processed in home parlors and concert halls. You'll find songs from both 'sides' of each movement-- some call for change while others fight to maintain the status quo. As you explore the songs, consider the following:
Who is the intended audience?
Does the melody or the text seem more important?
What is the song trying to accomplish?
All of these movements continue to exist today. How has the message changed over time?
You can click on any song to view and download the full sheet music on the Levy website. Choose a subject in the menu above, or click "next" at the bottom of a page to advance.
-Sam Bessen, Assistant Curator
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