? The Center for Popular Music For information on specific research collections: Sheet music and Broadsides Rare books Sound recordings Periodicals Reading room collection Archives Music Trade Catalogs Posters Playbills and Programs Photographs Background: The Center’s collection documents the diversity of American music. We take as our starting point the European and African origins of American culture, selecting items which document the music of our national vernacular culture.
From the 18th to early 20th century music was disseminated largely in printed form: sheet music, songsters, broadsides, instrumental instruction books and song anthologies. After 1920 recorded sound gained dominance. The Center’s collection reflects this change in the commodification of music. The Center recognizes the interplay between musical styles in American culture by providing study-level collections in all genres.
Rather than duplicating the collection depth in specialized archives, the Center strives to support local research needs in all genres while providing research-level collections in specific areas: rock & roll and its roots, the various forms of vernacular religious music, and music of Tennessee and the Southeast.
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The key element supporting the study of rock is a sound recordings collection strong in blues, rhythm and blues, early rock, mainstream rock from the 1960s to the present, and alternative rock.
The Center also has extensive holdings of rock periodicals as well as biographical, historical and critical books. Research in vernacular religious music is supported through a collection of approximately 2600 scores, including southern gospel songbooks, 19th century oblong songbooks, New England hymnody, shape note music, Sunday school songs, Negro spirituals, African-American gospel and denominational hymnals. Our collection of southern gospel songbooks is thought to be the largest institutional collection held by a non-religious repository.
The Center’s sound recording collections is also deep in various African-American traditions, contemporary Christian music and southern gospel. In addition to commercial issues, the Center has approximately 100 hours of original field recordings of African-American religious music. The Center’s collection of Tennessee and southeastern materials recognizes that Tennessee provides a marvelous laboratory in which to study popular music.
Ragtime, jazz, blues, Anglo- and African-American folk music, country, gospel and rock have all flourished within Tennessee. The music business of Tennessee has long been an important segment of Tennessee’s economy. In addition to Nashville, the cities of Memphis, Knoxville, Bristol, Chattanooga, Cleveland and Lawrenceburg have played significant roles in music publishing, broadcasting and recording. The Center’s collection documents these business activities as well as musical ones.