When it comes to the history of Australian sheet music, no-one knows the score like the National Library of Australia.

The National Library has just released a new iPad app, Forte, which offers the best of its vast collection of digitised sheet music – more than 13,000 individual items, dating from the early 1800s through to the 1950s.

Content ranges from the patriotic Federation Waltz of the 1800s to the 1889 Black and Tan (dog) polka – dedicated to one Miss Mabel Slater, the ‘revised and improved’ Advance Australia Fair of the 1900s for ‘the sons and daughters of Australia’. It also includes the words that only Dame Nellie Melba could sing, sporty cricket chants, the Aeroplane Jelly song, a steamy 1950s tune, It’s Hot In Brisbane But It’s Coolangatta andthe catchy Gold Fish Waltz.

 The Forte discovery tool allows users to browse the Library’s collection of sheet music by decade or composer and create favourite lists which can be shared with friends via social media. Users can then learn more about the music they’ve discovered through the National Library’s catalogue.

The Forte concept stemmed from an open data set of National Library sheet music made available on data.gov.au for the 2011 LibraryHack competition. It was developed in association with Canberra app developer Jake MacMullin of stripysock.com.au

Senior Curator at the National Library Robyn Holmes said the Forte app was the perfect modern vehicle to give everyone access to the Library’s timeless sheet music collection.

‘It’s like having your own browsable, portable music book,’ she said. ‘Forte takes you on the most wonderful journey – telling Australia’s story through music,’ she said.

 ‘Apart from the sheet music itself, Forte also showcases our social history through the artwork and advertisements featured on the sheet music. It’s like a time capsule for iconic Australian music.’

Media Contact: Sally Hopman, Media Liaison Manager, National Library of Australia 

M: 0401 226 697

E: shopman@nla.gov.au