The term "stock" or "stock arrangement" may not be well known to the general public. Indeed, the term also may not be familiar to the ordinary performing musician. Stock arrangements generally are published orchestrations for instrumental ensembles--bands or small orchestras--that enable them to perform popular songs or piano works that previously either had been unpublished in any form, or published only as piano or piano-vocal works.
The practice of scoring a work in a "stock" version dates back as early as the mid-18th century. The operas of Mozart often were adapted by skilled arrangers for various instrumental ensembles in greatly truncated versions or potpourris. In America, this practice first shows up in published works beginning just before the Civil War. Military band versions and small orchestra arrangements of popular songs, medleys from stage works, or any timely work which captured the public's fancy, often were arranged in various dance forms: quadrilles, lancers, quick-step marches.
In the early part of the 20th century, African-American composers began to see their works published as stock arrangements. Scott Joplin, James Reese Europe, and Eubie Blake are but a few of the enormously popular composers of "hit" songs who saw their works made available in stock versions during their lifetime.
African-American Band Music and Recordings, 1883-1923, provides instrumental parts for a representative sampling of the enormous body of published stock arrangements. The 1920s marked the beginning of the great era of popular song and of stock arrangement publishing. However, works published in 1923 and beyond remain under copyright protection. The public domain publications included here provide a valuable foundation for appreciating the formative years of stock arrangement publishing, a window into musical tastes and styles of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and the contributions of both well-known and now obscure composers, both black and white, to American music.