Songs in the Key of Los Angeles
“Songs in the Key of L.A.” was 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 brought the Library’s collection to light for contemporary reflection in Summer 2013, offering an opportunity to explore the history of Los Angeles through its sheet music.
Of interest to native plant enthusiasts, historians, and plant historians are the jacket illustrations from the sheet music. Many feature native plants (lots of poppies) and scenes from the nearby chapparal-covered hills of Los Angeles that are recognizable today, though development has intruded on many of them. Many of the songs appear to be in support of advertising exotic places to people who hadn’t been here before, so you’ll see illustrations of Catalina Island with palm trees all over it, as if it were in the south Pacific. Citrus is prominent too. Below is a selection of some interesting illustrations. See the gallery show here and here for more details.