Songs in the Key of L.A. | Los Angeles Public Library

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Songs in the Key of L.A.



About the project

“Songs in the Key of L.A.” is the first in a series of collaborations between the Library Foundation and the Los Angeles Public Library to mine the Library’s vast special collections.  The project, curated by a research team led by USC Annenberg Professor Josh Kun, explores a portion of the Library's sheet music collection, which, according to Kun, is the world's only library collection of Southern California sheet music. Through a comprehensive anthology, new recordings, documentaries, a special exhibition at Central Library, an ALOUD program, a free concert with Grand Performances and more, the Library and Library Foundation will bring the Library's sheet music collection to light for contemporary reflection this summer, offering an opportunity to explore the history of Los Angeles through its sheet music.

About the book

Culled from the Sheet Music Collection of the Los Angeles Public Library and published by Angel
City Press, "Songs in the Key of Los Angeles" tells the story of Los Angeles through its songs.
Featuring the elaborately designed covers of more than one hundred pieces of vintage sheet music,
the unprecedented anthology offers a rare musical window into Southern California history—from
California lullabies and Los Angeles waltzes, sunshine rags and sunset serenades, to emerging
West Coast jazz and the legacy of Mexican folk traditions.

About the Sheet Music Collection

The Central Library’s Art, Music & Recreation Department houses a large collection of printed sheet music ranging from classical, popular and folk songs to musical theater and jazz. 

The collection includes an orchestrations collection of over 2,700 separate works and individual parts and sheet music for more than 130,000 songs, available in songbooks and as individual sheet music. The individual sheet music spans the genre’s heyday from the 1850s through the 1950s, as well as later work up through the 1990s. 

A portion of the library’s collection covers the period of L.A.’s growth from remote outpost into sprawling metropolis and provides a rare window into early Southern California music history.  This specific sheet music spans genres from pop to jazz, Mexican folk to blues, includes songs about L.A. and Southern California, features key regional songwriters and personalities and many were an integral part of Los Angeles’ music industry at the turn of the 20th century.

For more information about the collection, contact the Art, Music & Recreation Department. Also, see our Sheet Music Locator reasearch guide.


All recordings are based on sheet music contained in the Los Angeles Public Library Sheet Music Collection and featured in the book "Songs in the Key of Los Angeles," published by Angel City Press, 2013. The recording sessions will be showcased online every two weeks in five short documentaries produced by KCET’s transmedia award-winning arts and culture series, Artbound.

Songs recorded and mixed at Bedrock.LA
Engineered by Tyler Gardin
Mixed by Eric Rennaker
Mastered by Michael Bozzi
Produced by Josh Kun

"When The Girl You Love Lives in California"
Performed by Aloe Blacc
Piano by Peter Dyer 

"In the Valley of the San Joaquin"
Performed by I See Hawks in L.A.

"Where The Mission Bells Are Chiming (Down Beside The Sea)"
Performed by Julia Holter
Drums by Corey Fogel

Performed by La Santa Cecilia

"Strolling 'Neath the California Moon"
Performed by The Petrojvic Blasting Company

The Bedrock Sessions were made possible by the generous support of Bedrock.LA, The Library Foundation of Los Angeles, and The Norman Lear Center.

Special thanks to KamranV, Ken Brecher, John Szabo, Katie Dunham, Inna Arzumanova, Scott McGibbon, Victoria Dailey, Emma Roberts, Marjorie Garcia, Gil Gastelum, Robin Hurley, and most of all, to all of the artists who so generously donated their time and music.

La Santa Cecilia appear courtesy of Universal Music.


Published June 1 by Angel City Press, "Songs in the Key of Los Angeles" is available at The Library Store.

Exhibit: On display in the Central Library's First Floor Galleries, Songs in the Key of L.A. marks the first time historic sheet music covers from the Los Angeles Public Library's collection have ever been displayed.  Free and open to the public, the exhibit offers a rare view into the powerful role music has playing in defining the image of Los Angeles and Southern California.

ALOUD: Songs in the Key of Los Angeles
A musical conversation with Josh Kun and Quetzal
Thursday, July 18, 7:15pm

Grand Performances presents
Off the Shelf: Creating L.A.’s 21st Century Library
Thursday, July 25, 8pm

Songs in the Key of L.A. with Ozomatli and Friends
Friday, August 2, 8pm