A new research grant for the Center for Popular Music at Middle Tennessee State University will help end those “Was that song about Tennessee?” debates before they start.
A $6,700 grant from the Tennessee Historical Records Advisory Board is helping the center produce “My Homeland: A Research Guide to Songs About Tennessee” over the next four months.
The project will identify and preserve a unique collection of songs about Tennessee held in the Center’s archives and make them accessible online.
“Perhaps more than any other state, Tennessee is associated with music,” said Dale Cockrell, director of the Center for Popular Music. “While many thousands of songs have been written in Tennessee over the last century, hundreds and hundreds have also been written about Tennessee. Because resources have been scattered, there has never been a systematic effort to gather and organize this powerful music.”
Within the last few years, the center has acquired two major collections of songs about Tennessee:
the John S. Mitchell Collection of Tennessee Music, which contains 1,413 sound recordings, 589 pieces of sheet music, 24 books, one film and 22 posters; and the Peter S. LaPaglia Collection, which includes 76 select pieces of sheet music.
The new grant will enable the center to draw from these unique collections, as well as complementary materials in its general holdings inside the John Bragg Mass Communication Building on campus, to develop a web-based research guide to music about Tennessee.
Five hundred to 550 records will be digitized and incorporated into the website, which will feature a special section on the state songs of Tennessee.
“Teachers will find materials appropriate for use in classrooms, and students and interested patrons will find compelling songs and images,” Cockrell said.
The center was established at MTSU in 1985 as one of 16 Centers of Excellence across the Tennessee Board of Regents university system. Scholars from around the world regularly conduct research on its collections of American popular music from the prerevolutionary era to the present, specializing in rock and roll and its roots, the various forms of vernacular religious music, and the music of Tennessee and the Southeast.
For more information about the Center for Popular Music and its collections, visit popmusic.mtsu.edu.