International Music Score Library Project / Petrucci Music Library Wiki Analysis

Katie Jentges

No longer is scholarship and education limited to textbooks or scholarly articles. Technology and the Internet has spurred a whole new generation of learning in the form of interactive sites, participatory media, wikis, and other Web 2.0 features. These types of sites provide users with readily available material in alternative, easy to use formats. Take wikis for example. Ravas (2008) describes wikis as “a group, or a set, of linked Web pages which have been created and edited by its end users in an incremental and collaborative manner” (p. 39-40). A wiki provides “new content which is typically not reviewed by an editor or any other sort of a gatekeeper function” (Ravas, 2008, p.40). Wikis can be found on almost any topic, but this paper will examine the IMSLP Petrucci Music Library wiki and its impact on the music field.

This wiki, which was created in 2006 and relaunched in 2008, is part of a continuous project undertaken by the International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP). This non-profit project was started by the International Music Score Library Project and works under a Creative Commons license, which makes the content accessible without copyright infringement. The primary mission of this project is to provide access by “sharing the world’s public domain music” (IMSLP, 2011). This wiki acts as an online library and archive by “creating a virtual library containing all public domain music scores, as well as scores from composers who are willing to share their music with the world without charge” (Mullin, 2010, p.376). This is done by providing users with downloadable PDF files of the score, which would not be possible if it were not for user contributions. According to Mullin (2010), Western music is predominantly represented in the IMSLP project and the bulk of the Western music available, originates from the nineteenth and early twentieth century thanks in part to the scores reflecting the collections of the site users.

While providing users with access to scores was the sole intention of this wiki, the IMSLP mentions in the goals section of their wiki that, “another main goal of IMSLP is to facilitate the exchange of musical ideas outside of compositions: for example, the analysis of a particular piece of music” (IMSLP, 2011, n.p.). In an interview with the New York Times in 2011, the site’s creator Edward W. Guo said that “volunteers scan in scores or import them from other sources. While other users oversee copyright issues and perform maintenance. Quality control — like catching missed pages — is also left to the public. “It’s completely crowd sourced.””(Wakin, 2011, n.p.).

Adhering to the traditional format of a wiki, the IMSLP Petrucci wiki is user run, and currently provides users with access to over 45,000 works, 122,941 scores, and 3,425 recordings by close to 6,500 composers and 104 performers available for download (IMSLP, 2011, n.p.). These numbers are constantly changing on the homepage as users add new pieces to the collection. The site is available for users in twenty-one languages including German, Italian, and Polish, among others. The site allows its users to browse scores by composers and their nationalities, time period, by instrumentation/genre, or by melody. One downfall to searching the IMSLP is that there is only one search bar, which does not allow for an advanced search. The site also features an interactive keyboard, in which the user can play a melody on said interactive keyboard with their mouse. From that, the site will then search by melody and will retrieve scores with similar melodies to the melody originally played by the user.

The site is very user friendly, in that it is powered by MediaWiki, the original interface used to power Wikipedia. The search categories of composers and all artists featured on the site are arranged in an alphabetic order. The site also features a simple Google-like search bar which searches the site after a user has entered a query which works well for a novice user, but poses a problem for those interested in doing a more advanced search. Just as a sample search, a search for Gustav Holst’s Planet Suite was performed on the IMSLP site. After searching, the results were retrieved, providing general information on Holst’s pieces including the composer, a photograph if available, a detailed biography, and alternate names of the composer.

Doing a basic search for Jupiter, one of the movements in Gustav Holst’s Planet Suite, IMSLP brought back the results which included the number of movements in the piece as well as the years the composition was produced. General information is provided on the work including when the piece was first published, the style of the piece, and the instrumentation used. Pieces are classified based on tags, which are user supplied. For Holst’s Planet Suite, the tags include suites, for female chorus, organ, orchestra, scores featuring the orchestra, among others. The complete score for all of Holst’s Planet Suite is available, and even provides publication information. For many pieces, non-commercial recordings are available. The non-commercial recording of the Planet Suite is performed by the Peabody Concert Orchestra, and features all seven movements of the entire suite. This feature allows users to listen to the piece in its entirety. Aside from non-commercial performances, the IMSLP site also features commercial recordings. The links on the IMSLP site link to Amazon, where users may view, listen to brief pieces, and purchase performances of the piece. Under the commercial recordings tab, there are five links to Amazon pages featuring performances of Holst’s The Planets including performances by the Chicago Symphony and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra among others.

The IMSLP wiki also adds a few Web 2.0 characteristics to its site by allowing users to upload performance pieces. There is also an area where users adding to or just browsing the site can discuss a specific piece. Unfortunately the discussion tab seems to be under used, as is the case with the discussion of Holst’s Planet Suite. Users are also responsible for adding tags. The site incorporates social networking characteristics, which allows users to create profile pages. By creating a profile users can comment in discussion areas. Their username is attached to the pieces they are responsible for uploading as well.

Perhaps the most interesting feature of this site is that it is user driven. “What makes IMSLP most impressive, both in terms of its size and the robustness of its retrieval environment, is the fact that it has been built and maintained entirely by its community of users” (Mullin, 2010, p. 378). In fact the site stresses the importance of its users in keeping the site functioning. Users are the ones responsible for uploading scores, providing information for the often detailed biographies, verifying copyright information, and tagging. Ultimately the major impact this site has is the fact that it has “an abundance of rare, out of print, and esoteric scores, which fills a sizable gap left by many academic music libraries” (Mullin, 2010, p.381).

While this wiki continues to have an impact on music, and continues to strive to be a “portal to digital collections worldwide, with the potential of eventually serving as a single access point for all digitized public domain scores available on the Web,” there are a few drawbacks to the site (Mullin, 2010, p.378). Drawbacks include the fact that the site is user run, with little outside influence. As with any Wikipedia type entry, it just means that as a user, it is necessary to be cautious of the information being presented. The lack of an advanced search possibility can also be seen as a drawback to the site. The site predominantly has Western music from the nineteenth to early twentieth century in its holdings, therefore lacking a comprehensive collection of recent compositions by major composers or current scholarly editions” to the musical field (Mullin, 2010, p.381).

The International Music Score Library Project known as the Petrucci Music Library has had a major impact on music librarianship, music performance, and music in general. It has made scores available to the general public, while circumventing copyright rules and regulations. Its impact is vast because this site is unlike any other in the music field. The creators have made this site user based and user friendly, therefore making it easy to use for those with a background in music as well as novice users. As more scores and music information continues to be added to this wiki, its usefulness will only be more prevalent.


International Music Score Library Project/Petrucci Music Library. (2011). IMSLP
Petrucci Music Library. Retrieved from http:

Mullin, C.A. (2010). International Music Score Library Project/Petrucci Music Library.
Digital Media Reviews, 67(2), 376-381.

Ravas, T. (2008). Not just a policies and procedures manual anymore: The University of
Houston Music Library manual wiki. Digital Media Reviews, 65(1), 38-52.

Wakin, D.J. (2011, Feb 22). Free trove of music scores on web hits sensitive copyright
note. New York Times,// n.p.