Resource Highlight:

Looking for a hornpipe, polka, or gavotte? is an online database of traditional and folk music. Find recordings, videos, sheet music, and lots of other information on ethno music from (mostly) Europe.

Sheet music for the traditional reel, “Drogheda Bay”

Note: I personally have terrible memories of being forced to square dance in gym class.  But looking back, I think that what bothered me most was that it was contextless: lining up in the gym and dancing for no reason at all was just stupid and made everyone self-conscious.  Furthermore, if you managed to achieve any kind of facility with the steps, the bell was sure to ring!  However, I’ve also been to events where there were live musicians and folk dances that were a tremendous amount of fun for everyone.  So I think the context matters a great deal for your average student.

If you’re teaching American history, for example, why not have students watch a musical movie such as “Oklahoma” in preparation, discuss what people then needed to do to prepare for a dance, and then plan your own?  Let them dress up or play instruments, and then let the jam session continue from there!

Resource Highlight: International Music Score Library Project

The International Music Score Library Project/Petrucci Music Library provides music scores free of charge to anyone with an internet connection.

The ultimate goal of the IMSLP is to gather all public domain music scores, in addition to the music scores of all contemporary composers (or their estates) who wish to release them to the public free of charge. However, another main goal of IMSLP is to facilitate the exchange of musical ideas outside of compositions: for example, the analysis of a particular piece of music… We hope to build a growing community of dedicated musicians and music lovers, who can use this site as a platform for enjoying music.

Find scores by searching composers, nationality, time period, instrumentation/genre, or the collections of the Werner Icking Music Archive.  Whether the score is from a well-known composer such as Ludwig van Beethoven (341 scores available) or lesser-known composer such as Bedrich Smetana (76 scores available), you might be able to find it here.  (You can also perform a search of the subscription Naxos Music Library from here.)  There are also scores from traditional and folk songs, and  from composers all over the world.  For example, check out the score of “Kyrie eleison in G major” by Nigerian composer Edewede Oriwoh.

Some scores have synthesized/MIDI performances available as well as arrangements and transcriptions.  Bonus: there are also recordings of performances for many of the pieces!

[The featured image is a snippet of “Chun Jiang Hua Yue Ye” a Chinese folk song from the Ming Dynasty.]

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