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What is IMSLP?

What is IMSLP?

The International Music Score Library Project, IMSLP, also known as the Petrucci Music Library, is a Canadian based online music library founded on February 16th, 2006. The Petrucci Music Library is an online catalog containing scores and recordings that are in the public domain. In the past 17 years, IMSLP has become a wonderful asset to classical musicians. Many works, composed before 1900, are all available at your fingertips. By creating greater access to these resources, the database IMSLP has shaped an entire generation of classical musicians for the better.

Who Founded IMSLP?

Edward Guo, who was then a sophomore at the New England Conservatory of Music, founded IMSLP. In the beginning, there were only a few historical scores uploaded to this website. The first goal of the website was to have all works composed by Johann Sebastian Bach uploaded to the library, a task that was completed in 2008.

Early Woes

On October 19th, 2007, IMSLP shut down after receiving a cease-and-desist letter from Universal Edition of Vienna. The library founders released a statement saying, as conservatory students, they simply did not have the resources or legal knowledge in order to keep the site online. In response, Michael Stern Hart, founder of Project Gutenberg, offered support in order to keep the library in existence. Although this offer was incredibly generous, Guo was hesitant about accepting. Michael S. Hart was based in America, and IMSLP was based in Canada. Guo felt like this difference in national base would only further complicate the copyright laws. Luckily, Guo was able to consult the Canadian branch of Project Gutenberg. On June 30th, 2008, IMSLP was back online.

The Importance of Copyright

Copyright laws protect creators from getting their work stolen. Although copyright laws may feel like tedious limitations to the individual, without them, the entire industry of creatives and artists would cease to exist. From the beginning, protecting the rights of artists has been one of IMSLP’s top concerns. Today, IMSLP places a great amount of time and resources into making sure they are complying to copyright laws.
As of July 1st, 2023, IMSLP has 220,135 works and 717,604 scores.

Importance of IMSLP

IMSLP is a large database, and many leading universities, such as the University of Cambridge, Stanford University, and University of Oxford, among others, recommend IMSLP as a research resource. Containing thousands of historical scores for free, the amount of knowledge available on IMSLP completely reshaped collegiate music education.

The accessibility of IMSLP allows for musicians of different skill level, age, and geographical location simple, easy access to hundreds of thousands of pieces. By making classical music more readily available, its survival is ensured.

You can view the IMSLP library by visiting ismlp.org.

Article written by Erica Garcia

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