A couple of people have inquired recently about whether we’ll have sheet music at the Book Fair. Like a lot of questions I answer, there uis a simple answer and a complex one. The simple answer is “Yes.” We always have sheet music, and we probably will as long as there is sheet music in Chicago. We are one of the refuges for piano bench collections: those accumulations of thirty or forty years’ worth of recitals, piano lessons, and parties around the piano.
But if I wanted to be all Blogsyesque about it, I would head you off toward the complex answer, which begins with another question. “What do you mean by ‘sheet music’?” There was a magazine called Sheet Music which does not, to my managerial mind, constitute sheet music. All of which leads us to another list of definitions. Don’t moan: you’ve been waiting around for it, I know.
SHEET MUSIC: This is a piece, a song, a concerto, usually running to fewer than two dozen pages. Both pop and concert music appears this way, usually 9 x 12 or larger. Sometimes there will be two or three songs that are united by a theme, but a piece of sheet music more often includes a single composition.
BOOK MUSIC: This is a book with more than one piece, or one piece that runs into dozens of pages. It can be saddle-stapled or perfectbound (that’s the paperback with a flat back), and also runs to 9 x 12 or larger. Those from the symphonic repertoire are called “scores”. A libretto comes from opera or musical comedy, and generally comprises only the lyrics, with no musical notation.
CHOIR MUSIC: Choir music can appear as sheet music or book music, but is generally smaller in size, closer to 6 x 9 or somewhere in that neighborhood. A lot of our choir music comes from church choirs, and is sacred music, but there are pieces meant for school choirs as well, which is secular.
BAND MUSIC: Most choir music comes with all the voices printed on the page. It’s hard to do that if you have a band. So our band music tends to represent whichever player happened to donate. If a flute player decided to clean out, we have the flute part; if the second trombonist, we have the second trombone parts. If the drummer donates, we have drumsticks (some drummers are unaware there IS such a thing as sheet music.
MARCHING BAND MUSIC: The same as band Music, only printed on little cards which fit in the metal brackets (lyres) on the instruments for mobile performance.
FAKE BOOKS: We’ve been getting more and more of these lately. These are massive tomes with thousands of melodic lines in them. The idea is that a professional musician—your lounge pianist or wedding harpist—cannot memorize all the songs they may get requests for, but if they have the melody before them, they can fake the rest. The price of a good fake book, if you buy it new, is enormous. Come se what we have instead.
MUSIC MAGAZINES: Sheet Music was a great magazine, and so was Etude. There were many others like them: an article or two, some news, and then pages of music. Only a very few people read the articles: they subscribed for the great quantity of music at a bargain price.
INSTRUCTION BOOKS: How to Play Blues Harmonica, How to Play Bass Guitar, Teaching Little Fingers to Play: all those classics are a subgroup of Book Music intended for instructional purposes. (By the way, we have an ultra-rare recording on which one of the composers or hundreds of these books actually plays two of her own compositions.)
We have all these forms of “sheet music” and maybe a couple others I haven’t thought of. (Does anybody collect Color-Note Music, designed for use with little toy pianos and xylophones?) Drop by in a couple of weeks and buy some and you will be instrumental to our success. (Look, it’s been a hot month, okay?)