I’m not a musician. I was once…for about a month in sixth grade, but quickly discovered that I didn’t have the dedication to practice. Yet, here I am now, archiving music written by one of Richmond’s most prolific composers. How do I, an untrained lay person, process sheet music into a searchable system for historians and composers?


Well, yes and no. I have utilized google for research and examples. Oxford Music Online, is a wonderful database that provides definitions, academic articles and standards. I’ve also read music instruction books, viewed music writing basic videos, listened to podcasts and most importantly attended training specifically geared for archivists processing music. Wow, I must be pretty good at my job!…so I think that is deserving of a wealthy patron coming forward and donating a new library facility at ODU especially for Special Collections. Anyone? Anyone at all? *crickets*

All right, all right…wait, I did I hear someone? No. Ok. Moving on…

Did you know when writing music there are various kinds of sheet music forms? Scores can range from a full score, autograph score, short score, vocal score, and miniature score. Of course, there are many more forms than the terms mentioned. Yet, I don’t have the space to define every form and the Allan Blank collection usually falls under one of these described.

Below are the definitions from Oxford Music:

“Full Score- is a score for orchestra with or without voices, containing complete details of a work as it is intended to be performed.”

“Autograph Score- a manuscript written in the hand of a particular person; in normal musical parlance, the manuscript of a work in the hand of its composer.”

“Short Score- is either an ensemble score in which the whole is condensed or reduced on to a small number of staves (as distinct from a full score, and also called a ‘condensed score’), or a composer’s score of an ensemble work, showing his or her intentions on a few staves, with annotations, to be elaborated and fully written out later.”

“Vocal Score- is an arrangement of an ensemble composition including voices, in which the instrumental parts are reduced for piano (normally solo) or organ, while the vocal parts appear on separate staves.”

“Miniature Score- is also known as a study score, or to denote a printed full score, often of a substantial or fully scored piece, reduced to a size greater than ‘miniature’ but smaller than ‘full’.”

“Sketch- a composer’s written record of compositional activity not itself intended to have the status of a finished, public work. A sketch may record work in progress on a specific composition or may be made independently of any such project; while typically fragmentary or discontinuous, even consisting of no more than a few notes, a sketch may also represent a more fully worked-out musical idea.”

Whoa, now what?

First, you have to figure out precisely what you are looking at, I like to divide it into either score, or sketch. Once I have that determined, I move on to the specifics.

I was told for music processing to focus on the top of the page. The items in the largest font are the most important.

Here is a great example from one of Allan Blank’s works:

First, I focus my attention on the top of the page and see that the largest writing says “Three Songs for Children’s Chorus and Piano”. So what is the most important part of this score? That’s right, the title! Which also provides me with the score form: vocal.

Below that is a subheading giving me more great information “I. The Goldfish”.

To the right hand side, I can see the composer’s name, Allan Blank and to the left, poem by Dorothy Aldis (this is the name of the contributor of the lyrics). Unless the composer is someone other than Allan Blank, I can leave his name out of the record.

Examining more of the page, I can see a copyright date of 2007. Potentially, the final archival record will look like this:

The Allan Blank Papers Collection (1954-2014)

Series I: Original Compositions

Sub-Series 1: Vocal Scores

Box 1

Folder 1: Three Songs for Children’s Chorus and Piano: I. The Goldfish, poem by Dorothy Aldis (2007)