We at the IMSLP believe that music should be something that is easily accessible for everyone. For this purpose we have created a music library to provide music scores free of charge to anyone with internet access.

by Erinn Batykefer
The International Music Scores Library Project (IMSLP) was created in 2006 by Edward W. Guo.  Based in Canada, the project seeks to make public domain musical scores freely available on the internet through the Petrucci Library.   

At first blush, the Petrucci Library doesn’t look like much: a plain, functional wiki, mostly text.  But the project is a labor of love, an effort to connect more people with music all over the world by providing free, open access to public domain works. As of this writing, the digital library holds 210,000 scores, from works by well-known masters such as Sibelius and Verdi, to exciting new compositions shared by the IMSLP community; the library also holds 19,000 recordings that stream on the site.

Ultimately, the project is much more than a growing digital collection of freely accessible scores.  The IMSLP is a collaborative, international community of  musicians and music lovers.  Different sections of the site actively facilitate the exchange of musical ideas and analysis, with the goal of enriching the study, creation, and appreciation of music:

Discussion | Contributors are encouraged to critique recordings and scores in the discussion section of each entry; a unique opportunity to think critically about works with composers, musicians,  and music lovers all over the world.

Forums | Here, contributors ask questions and begin new discussion threads of a more general nature.  The forums section includes international conversation boards in Italian, French, German, and Spanish.

IMSLP Journal |  The IMSLP Journal is a collaborative online blog that publishes articles from users on a variety of musical topics– from the scholarly to the latest in pop culture.  Submissions to the Journal are welcomed, and submission guidelines are easy to follow.

Navigating the site is easy, too. The main wiki page offers a variety of faceted search options in the sidebars:

The Left Sidebar allows you to browse IMSLP’s content broadly.  You can search for scores or recordings, and you can also search within these categories by narrowing your criteria by Composer, Nationality, Time Period, or Performer.

The Right Sidebar offers three interesting entrees into the IMSLP universe: the Featured menu refreshes with a new selection of scores that are available on the site each time the page is loaded; New Scores provides links to the most recent works that have been contributed to the project; and New Recordings links to the newest audio files featured on the site. Both New Scores and New Recordings have RSS subscription options, so you can keep up to date with the IMSLP’s newest content.

Music, of course, is one of those media fraught by ownership and digital access issues.  IMSLP strives to supply public domain scores free of charge on the website and to comply with Canadian copyright laws.  This means that some scores are not public domain for users based in the US or the European Union.  The site makes navigating this hurdle easy:  it is clear if a particular work is under copyright review (you won’t be able to access it), or if it may have restrictions for non-Canadian users.  When I searched the Petrucci Library for Sibelius’ Finlandia, for instance, this is what I found:

The score’s Copyright status– Non-PD EU– is also explained on the top of Finlandia’s wiki: though it is still under European Union Copyright,  it is PD in the United States because it was created before 1923.  So I can freely download and read this score!


IMSLP is an entirely collaborative, volunteer effort.  If you are a musician or a librarian, this is an invaluable resource that you can both use and contribute to.  Consider creating an IMSLP account so you can contribute your coding, translation, and musical skills to IMSLP projects!

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