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ange on 04/23/2013 at 08:44AM

The Revitalize Music Contest

Carrier Belleuse Pierre La Maison De Musique (Public Domain)

Bring the public domain into the future! This April, WFMU and the Free Music Archive are challenging artists everywhere to create new recordings and contemporary arrangements of historic compositions available in the public domain. We’re calling this our Revitalize Music Contest.

Every song (except for perhaps "Happy Birthday") will someday fall out of copyright. Archives such as the IMSLP/Petrucci Music Library, Musopen and the Public Domain Information Project chart the vast and ever-expanding troves of public domain music. Participants in our Revitalize Music Contest will help bring these works to life by creating new recordings, and feeding them back into the public domain.

To inspire entries, we’ve handpicked a selection of out-of-copyright songs with compelling lyrics, beautiful melodies, and unusual stories. Keep in mind that unless materials are listed in our contest repository, the recordings of performances we link to are still within the scope of copyright. After learning about the songs and contest rules here below, you can browse our pool of entries.

God Be With You Until We Meet Again (1880)

An old Mormon hymn with a beautiful melody that first came to our attention when Haruomi Hosono (of Yellow Magic Orchestra) recorded a version. You can stream this version for inspiration. It features lyrics by Jeremiah E. Rankin (1828-1904) and music by William G. Tomer (1833-1896).

Sheet Musicnew pdfolder pdfhymn wikilds versionlilypond
Recordingsmidivocals + musicinstrumental,  videoharuomi hosono
Lyricshymn wiki

Beautiful Dreamer (1862)

In addition to showing up constantly on TV, movies, and when you open musical jewelry boxes, this song has been recorded by Bing CrosbyRoy Orbison, and (our personal favorite) Justine and the Victorian Punks. It was originally a parlor song by Stephen Foster (1826–1864) that was published posthumously by Wm. A. Pond & Co. of New York.

Sheet MusicIMSLPolder pdfnewer pdf
RecordingsAl JolsonJustine and the Victorian Punks,videosmidianother midi

The Spaniard That Blighted My Life (1911

A comic song that was performed by Al Jolson in his show The Honeymoon Express. It's also notably been sung by "outsider" musician Tony Mason-Cox, an Australian insurance agent who believed himself to be the reincarnation of a black slave from 19th Century Alabama. It was written by Billy Merson.

Sheet Musicolder pdfole miss library
RecordingsBilly MersonAl JolsonTony Mason-Cox
Lyricsole miss library

Nola (1915)

Felix Arndt (1889–1918) wrote this novelty ragtime-style piano roll as an engagement gift to his fiancée (and later wife), Nola Locke. He died just three years after it was published, and lyrics were later added by James F. Burns.

Sheet MusicIMSLPDukeolder pdf
RecordingsvideosHarry Perrella & Ray TurnerXylophone & Vibraphonemidi
LyricsPD Music


April 28, 2013: Submissions Deadline at 6:00pm ET
April 30, 2013: We'll be announcing the judge's favorite songs, including our first place winner.


One winning song from our pool of entries will be given a Rebecca Black "Friday" treatment. We’ll be hiring a music video professional to create an original music video that showcases the winning song and shares it with a wider audience.


Our judges include Edward Guo (Founding Director, IMSLP/Petrucci Music Library), April Ledbetter (Dust-to-Digital Record Company), Laura Cantrell (Singer-Songwriter), Joel Meyer (Executive Producer, WNYC's Soundcheck), Adam Green (Editor, Public Domain Review) and Ken Freedman (Station Manager, WFMU). They'll be evaluating entries based on originality, creativity, artistic merit, adherence to the "Revitalize Music" theme, and general musical appeal. We welcome exact covers, in-exact covers, repurposed elements, mashups, stems, and everything in-between. You can focus on the songs we’ve chosen above, or dig up your own. More information about our judges can be found here.


  1. Entries should be comprised of music that you create yourself, material that's in the public domain, or other material that you have express permission to use. Keep in mind that most recordings and performances of these public domain songs are still within the scope of copyright.
  2. Entrants must create accounts on the Free Music Archive in order to submit to the contest. This way we have your info. You can sign up here.
  3. Entries must be in the form of an audio recording and in MP3 format, stereo bitrate 192kbps or higher (256kbps preferred).
  4. Entries must be submitted using our form here. You can submit as many entries as you'd like.

Please see our Official Rules.  


Songs enter the public domain when their copyright expires or if the song’s author has forfeited rights and dedicated the song to the greater good. The Public Domain Review explains the public domain eloquently as an "invaluable and indispensable good, which - like our natural environment and our physical heritage - deserves to be explicitly recognized, protected and appreciated."


While most songs enter the public domain because of old age, Creative Commons offers a CC0 Public Domain Declaration that allows artists to dedicate their work to the public domain. It seems fitting that entries to the contest will breathe new life into the Public Domain by returning to whence they came. These new works can then be more easily shared, remixed, and built upon during the contest and after the contest ends. We imagine these entries being used in video projects, coursework, video games, podcasts, and beyond.

Using CC0, you waive all copyrights and related or neighboring rights that you have over your work, such as your moral rights (to the extent waiveable), your publicity or privacy rights, rights you have protecting against unfair competition, database rights, and rights protecting the extraction, dissemination, and reuse of data. More information here.


Don't hesitate to send us a note.


This contest is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.




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