Ryerson University


Before radio and television were widely available, people created their own entertainment, which sometimes involved singing songs together, or performing for family and friends. These songs were printed on sheets adorned with color lithography depicting stars and composers, which makes them rare collectors’ treasures today. A collection of this early 20th century sheet music, including 43 titles that span 1917 to 1954, was donated to the Modern Literature and Culture Research Centre in February 2013.

The sheet music in this collection includes original lithographs and songs from Vaudeville acts (such as Nora Bayes and Gallagher and Shean), folk songs, songs from film and radio programs, and songs performed by popular recording artists (such as Frank Sinatra, The Four Aces, the Ames Bros, etc). Many pieces are for piano with vocal accompaniment, and many have a ukulele score included.
 


The songs in this collection have themes that range from family to immigration and war, as well as including nonsense songs and love songs, representing popular culture at the time of each publication. Apart from the music, each folio is graced with cover art that is sometimes simple, and sometimes features elaborate caricatures. Many include paintings or photographs, either of the performers, or an image that evokes the mood of the songs. These display hairstyles, clothing, and other ideals of beauty, as well as new technologies such as telephones and microphones.

This collection of vintage sheet much, including songs such as "Dear Heart,” "My Yukon Rose,” and "Lullaby,” was donated to the Centre by Dr. Karen Mulhallen, an MLC Research Associate and a long-time member of the English Department at Ryerson University. Dr. Mulhallen, who has a love of literature, music and performance, is internationally renowned as a scholar and a poet with many books of poetry and criticism; she is also known as a long-time editor of the award-winning literary magazine Descant. Dr. Mulhallen has previously donated the Karen Mulhallen Modernism Collection to the MLC Research Centre.

"Dr. Mulhallen is an outstanding cultural ambassador, and mentor for student scholars, and we count ourselves lucky to have her support at the Centre,” says Dr. Gammel, MLC Director. "This latest addition of sheet music is one more example of her generosity and will make a great research topic for a student interested in popular music."
 


The folios in this collection will be of use to a wide variety of researchers and students interested in topics ranging from music composition, performance, entertainment history, and even history of home-life, thanks to their beautiful covers, fashion and art, and any number of cultural topics. This collection will be an invaluable addition to the MLC archival collection.

Alanna McKnight, MLC Special Collections

The Great War in Literature and Visual Culture

MLC Themes

The Great War in Literature and Visual Culture

Amid the unprecedented social change of World War I, women renegotiated their identities by dramatically changing the way they engaged with the arts. But how did they do so? And how did everyday citizens engage with the war?

Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven

MLC Themes

Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven

Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, considered by many to be the mother of Dada, was a daringly innovative poet and an early creator of junk sculpture. “The Baroness” was best known for her sexually charged, often controversial performances.

Modernism in the World

MLC Themes

Modernism in the World

Recent research has departed from the Euro-centric and national view of Modernism to include approaches and methods studying Modernism across national boundaries and across different art forms to include fashion, dance, performance, technology, and visual culture.

Lucy Maud Montgomery

MLC Themes

Lucy Maud Montgomery

L.M. Montgomery is perhaps Canada's most important literary export. She was prolific writer of over 500 short stories and poems, and twenty novels, including the beloved Anne of Green Gables.

Canadian Modernism

MLC Themes

Canadian Modernism

The works of numerous Canadian authors who lived during the modernist era may well constitute the most central and experimental articulation of Canadian modernism in prose, allowing authors to stage cross-cultural, controversial, and even conflicted identities.

Modernist Biography and Life Writing

MLC Themes

Modernist Biography and Life Writing

Life writing, including autobiographical accounts, diaries, letters and testimonials written or told by women and men whose political, literary or philosophical purposes are central to their lives, has become a standard tool for communication and the dissemination of information.