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This section of the guide connects researchers with the Library's Recorded Sound Research Center and its online resources, and additionally highlights musical theater recordings that the Library of Congress has underwritten.
The Library of Congress holds the nation's largest public collection of sound recordings (music and spoken word) and radio broadcasts, some 3 million recordings in all. Recordings represent over 110 years of sound recording history in nearly every sound recording format and cover a wide range of subjects and genres in considerable depth and breadth, including musical theater. Special Collections in the Recorded Sound Research Center include the David G. Hummel Collection American Musical Theatre Collection, the world's largest collection of non-commercial recordings of musicals, including recordings from demos, backers' auditions, and recordings made live in the theaters.
The recordings described on this page are maintained and preserved by the Recorded Sound Research Center. Contact a recorded sound specialist to inquire about holdings, listening appointments, and related questions.
The Recorded Sound Research Center provides access to the commercial and archival audio holdings of the Library of Congress. The collection dates from 1926 when Victor Records donated over 400 discs to the Library's Music Division to supplement its print and manuscript holdings. In the custody of the Motion Picture Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division since 1978, the collection has grown to include over 2 million items encompassing audio formats from cylinders to CDs.
The Library's National Jukebox makes historical sound recordings available to the public free of charge via streaming service. At launch, the Jukebox featured more than 10,000 recordings made by the Victor Talking Machine Company between 1901 and 1925. Jukebox content increases regularly, with additional Victor recordings and acoustically recorded titles made by other Sony-owned U.S. labels, including Columbia, OKeh, and others.
Early 20th-century recordings include musical theater selections, featuring music by Harrigan and Hart, Herbert, Berlin, Kern, and others. Browse the Jukebox to explore its holdings.
Remember that the Library of Congress preserves countless other musical theater commercial recordings, archival recordings, interviews, radio broadcasts, and more. To research our sound recordings, contact the Recorded Sound Research Center to connect with a reference specialist.
In its commitment to the musical and to celebrate the contents of our collections the Library of Congress has underwritten several recordings that take advantage of our holdings and make things available to both researchers and fans without their having to come to the Library. Among these Library-supported and sourced recordings are:
The Library of Congress partnered with record labels Koch and PS Classics to produce a "Songwriter Series" of recordings that feature musical theater composers and lyricists singing their own works. Titles include Irving Sings Berlin, Hugh Sings Martin, Charles Sings Strouse, Howard Sings Ashman, Jonathan Sings Larson, and Sammy Sings Fain--Again. These recordings are commercially available to the public.
The following titles, listed as examples, link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to additional online content are included when available.
The Leonore S. Gershwin-Library of Congress Recording and Publishing Project was established to produce authoritative recordings and editions of the Gershwins' music. The first phase of the Project produced recordings of five musicals by George and Ira Gershwin: Girl Crazy; Oh, Kay!; Strike Up the Band; Lady, Be Good!; and Pardon My English. These recordings are commercially available to the public.
The five titles, listed below, link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to additional online content are included when available.
The Library of Congress has sponsored additional recordings of Gershwin musicals.
In 2010, the Library produced the first live performance of Harold Arlen, Ira Gershwin, and Yip Harburg's musical revue Life Begins at 8:40 since its first Broadway run in 1934. A week after the live performance in the Library's Coolidge Auditorium, the cast reassembled in a New York studio to record the work. The Library also sponsored a 1999 recording of Vernon Duke and Ira Gershwin's Ziegfeld Follies of 1936 that reconstructed the original production. Both of these recordings are commercially available to the public.
The recordings listed here link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to additional online content are included when available.