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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

Image of a Victor 78 rpm discNational 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.

Image of Tony SchwartzTony 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

Field recordingFolklife 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

Image of Calvin Coolidge doffing his hat American Leaders Speak: Recordings from World War I and the 1920 Election
This 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."

Image of Vaudeville posterAmerican 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.


Image of a marching bandBand 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.

Image of Emile BerlinerEmile 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.

Image of Thomas Edison with a phonographInventing 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

Image of an African-American bandAfrican-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.

Image of a choirAmazing 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 tlismanCoptic 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.

Gerry Mulligan collage 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.


Image of John Philip SousaThe 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.

Image of Uncle Sam playing a pipe organPatriotic 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.


Image of a violinLibrary 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.


Image of a woman reading musicLife 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.

Image of sheet music cover for Alexander's Ragtime BandRagtime
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.


Portrait of Roger ReynoldsThe 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.


Image of Thomas HampsonSong 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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  November 27, 2012
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