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Primary Sources for Musical Learning: Join the Library of Congress at NAfME and Explore Our Musical Resources

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This post is by Carolyn Bennett, the 2018-2019 Library of Congress Teacher in Residence.

This year’s National Association for Music Education (NAfME) conference will be November 11-14. On November 12, Library staff will partner with NAfME curriculum specialists to discuss the recently-published units featuring Library of Congress primary sources.Additionally, we’ll be in the exhibit hall on Monday and Tuesday in booth 167. Whether or not you can attend the conference, you can explore these avenues to music education resources.

The Teaching with the Library of Congress blog, of course, shares teaching strategies and sources for all educators. Musically, most recently, we explored the Halloween classic,“Skin and Bones.” The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) Music Blog features the Library’s extensive collections of freely accessible music for people who are visually impaired. The Folklife and Performing Arts blogs are music-rich and often relevant to educators. In this inspiring Folklife blog post, educator Sarah Elizabeth Tomlinson describes a valuable music experience she created in collaboration with the American Folklife Center.

Music Materials from the National Library Services for the Blind and Physically Handicapped

The Library’s numerous digital collections feature diverse sources, including recorded and notated music, sometimes accompanied by expert essays. For a broad look at American music through the ages, peruse The Library of Congress Celebrates the Songs of America. Specific collections explore a genre, such as ragtime, or a historical period, like the music of the Civil War. Others examine a composer (Sousa), or a piece, (Amazing Grace).

From David L. Clayton’s The Virginia Harmony. Samuel H. Davis, Winchester, monographic, 1831.

The Library’s vast collections of photographs, film, and other materials extend and contextualize musical learning. Some favorites include Duke Ellington’s Jam Session and the Performing Arts Posters Collection. The American Ballroom Companion presents clear videos of simple dances from as long ago as the medieval period, with musical accompaniment. The Civil War Music primary source set brings together a selection of sheet music, song sheets, photographs, and audio files, and other primary source sets also include music and music-related resources.

Many concerts and performances held at the Library are also available online. Both the Music Division and the American Folklife Center sponsor concerts. Some of the most interesting performances bring primary sources from the collection to life: The Orlando Consort performed selections from the 1470 Laborde Chansonnier; another project brought civil war music to life on period instruments.

Concert Webcast: Phil Wiggins and Friends, August 6, 2014

Several organizations develop instructional materials from Library of Congress resources. The Association for Cultural Equity shares the Library’s Alan Lomax field recordings, accompanied by useful supporting materials, lesson plans, and interactive maps. The American Folk Song Collection at Holy Names University classifies folk songs by musical characteristics pertinent to Kodály pedagogy, provides clear game and dance instructions, and links to the Library of Congress source material. Of course, the National Association for Music Education is developing a growing body of primary source curriculum, linking primary source analysis to the Core Arts Standards.

There certainly is an ocean of music on! We hope to see you in Dallas to discuss ways to dive in.

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