This is my brain on crumbly yellowed paper

I collect scores and sheet music. By collect, I mean that I acquire music beyond what I can strictly justify as things I want to study. Having the Beethoven quartets and symphonies, the Wagner operas, Brahms right and left – that’s not collecting, that’s just stuff I need. But having the vocal score to Webern’s 2nd Cantata, in addition to the pocket score, that’s collecting. Having two copies of Carter’s Piano Sonata, 4-hand arrangements of Bruckner – that’s collecting. By “collecting” I suppose I also mean a life of trolling used book stores, music stores with big sheet music sections, library sales, and the like. These days it’s simple to locate a second-hand copy of Wolpe’s long-out-of-print String Quartet – you just type it into you-know-what. Of all the things in my collection, only two or three were acquired that way. I got tired of waiting for a copy of Erwartung to turn up somewhere, and by waiting I mean at least 25 years, so last year I tracked down a nice used copy on the interweb. See, obviously I could just order a new copy of Erwartung. But that’s no good – I don’t have the money to just simply own every score of Schoenberg’s, just ’cause I want to. But I do have the money to slowly acquire used copies of every score of Schoenberg’s, at the trickling rate they come to me through combing used book stores.

Kids, I came up the hard way! You have to get out there, pound the pavement, get down on your hands and knees in dusty, crowded bookstores, down the with cats and the cat hair, going through a beat-up cardboard box on the floor near the music books, the box is half full, so that all the music is slumped over and getting banged up, and you go through it: Elton John’s Honkey Chateau songbook; Hanon exercises; Dover’s The Fitzwilliam Virginal Book; lots of loose pieces of music that make no sense by themselves, such as a 2nd violin part to Schubert’s Death and the Maiden; the song “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers”, but missing the middle page; Mozart Easy Graded Piano Pieces; the Moonlight Sonata; several Met Opera librettos; a Phantom of the Opera program book; maybe a Bach Cantata vocal score; the mimeographed program for someone’s amateur piano recital, circa 1979; Mel Bay Publications Graded Guitar Method and/or Berklee School of Music’s William Leavitt Guitar Method; the booklet that came with Neil Young’s Decade LP; and then maybe if you’re lucky, every eighth box like this that you go through, might have, say, the Kalmus vocal score to the Symphony of Psalms, or a Eulenberg score of the Grosse Fugue.

And then you need to go back to those places at least once a week, going through that same box over and over again, getting to where you just numbly flip through the contents, everything is still there, in the same order it was last time. No one has bought that copy of Handel’s Messiah, or the easy piano arrangement of The Entertainer. Perhaps you can even tell by looking at the box without touching it whether it has been in any way added to or subtracted from since the last time you were there.

All of this is to explain that I have posted my personal sheet music inventory on this website, where I can access it, because I don’t have a smart phone, where it would more sensibly reside. I am a little embarrassed about doing so; it seems like “conspicuous consumption”, a little show-offy.  But it has started to happen that I am, for example, at Green Apple Books in San Francisco, and I cannot remember if I own, say, La Valse in the two-piano arrangement or the solo arrangement. So I’m putting it here, where I can find it! And also so everyone who has an extra copy of Ives’s 4th Symphony lying around can check my list and see that I don’t have it, and feel smug, knowing that I am bitterly envious. 

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