I was going to announce cheerfully that we have another large collection of sheet music, from a school which is cleaning out an accumulation dating back about seventy years. Before I do that, though, I’d better amplify a few remarks made in the last blog. I hinted there that your old sheet music is not the valuable collectible you may think. I hope you didn’t think I was telling you that old sheet music is just wastepaper. My point, as usual, was that not every collectible is valuable.
When people collect, the value is supposed to be an afterthought. Things are collectible because they form part of a distinguishable group: state spoons, Toby mugs, silver dimes, first editions of Francesca Falk Miller. And they are collectible because they’re fun to have around: pretty to look at, restful to listen to, entertaining to read. The fact that THAT one is worth fifty cents and THAT one is worth a thousand dollars does not make one prettier than the other.
And sheet music is fun, entertaining, educational, and pretty to look at. I have been out of the music world for some time (to the relief of the music world) so I don’t know. Do they have a laptop yet that you can set on the piano and download music to play? Or do you still rely on the same old technology: print on paper? (By the way, not all this music we got in is piano music: we have pieces for recorder trio, guitar, ukulele, trombone, fiddle, and even a few accordion solos so far.)
If I could think of a way to do it, I might make pricing sheet music an entrance exam for working at the Book Fair. Anybody who could go through a stack of pop songs and hymns without starting to hum or whistle at least once would be transferred to folding up shopping bags. The collection runs from “Oh, Promise Me” right up through “You Light Up My Life”, so there must be SOMETHING there the volunteer would know. (No, this is not unfair to the younger volunteers: that’s one thing the computer has done for us. Thanks to downloadable music, a couple of high school students who have never heard of Ronald Reagan can get into an argument over whether Helen Kane or Welcome Lewis had the better recording of “I Wanna Be Loved By You” in 1929.)
Some people like sheet music for its decorative and historic qualities. It’s fun to watch Bing Crosby’s face change from 1934 to 1970. It’s instructive to see how we interpreted the good old days on the 1935 sheet music for “School-Days” as opposed to the sheet music for the very same song 40 years later. And it says something about American music that, once upon a time, a piece called “Bagpipe Boogie” would not have been laughed off the face of the earth.
So please do collect sheet music. I have a goodly collection to sell–song demo sheets from the forties, multiple copies of hymns for the choir, some of the sappiest love songs ever written during the years when I listened to Top 40 Radio, and all manner of wonders. AND it has all been priced by a humming fool who has been to eBay and found out that most sheet music doesn’t sell for much.
Fun at realistic prices. I’d make that our motto if it didn’t abbreviate FARP.