This is part 1 of the Tech tools for working with music texts series.
Step 1: Find the text – preferably in a form I can cut/paste
Here are some websites I use to look up cut-and-paste-friendly texts for various kinds of vocal repertoire:
- Choral Public Domain Library (CPDL) – Texts & some translations for: choral works, arias from oratorios and other concert works; mass/requiem/other sacred texts
- Bach-Cantatas.com – Texts & translations of Bach cantatas
- Gilbert & Sullivan Archive – Complete texts of the G&S operas
- The Lied, Art Song, and Choral Texts Archive – Texts & translations for a vast array of vocal literature
- Aria Database – Opera aria texts & some translations
- Opera Guide – Lots of libretto translations in German and English; some original language libretti in German, Italian, and French
- OperaGlass – Libretti and and much, much more
- Lyle Neff’s Libretto Page – More libretti
- Kareol – Libretti including 20th-century works; in the original language and in Spanish translation; click on “Por Autores” for composer or “Por Obras” for title; when you get to the page for the specific opera, click on the “Libreto” link at the very bottom of the page
- Leyerle Publications – Text, translations, and IPA. Home of the excellent Nico Castel libretti books, the Beaumont Glass books of lieder texts, and many other comprehensive song text reference books. Okay, it’s not an online resource (well, mostly not) but everybody needs to know about these books – you can always go to the library and scan them
- IPA Source ($$$) – Text, translations, and IPA for songs and arias; note that you CANNOT copy/paste from their texts because they are in secured PDF files
- SingersBabel ($$$) – Text, translations, IPA, and audio for choral works and oratorio arias, art song, and song cycles. Not sure if their PDFs are cut/paste-able. [Update: Dan M. at SingersBabel says: “The PDFs on the site are secure and therefore copy/paste isn’t possible, but the original text and poetic translation (when available) can be copied from the box directly above the PDF.” Thanks for the clarification, Dan!]
- Poetry and literature websites – e.g. the poetry of Goethe or the complete works of Shakespeare
- Google – because sometimes texts crop up on random websites or in liner/program notes online
It’s not unusual for me to have to do some quality control and vetting of texts I find online. Sometimes they are well-edited. Other times I run across questionable quality, discrepancies due to different editions, or translation mistakes.
Ebooks are another way to get texts, sometimes for free. For example, here are free ebook libretti at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Project Gutenberg. Apple’s iBooks store has some free opera libretti too. To read the Amazon and B&N ebooks, you can download the Kindle app or Nook app for most tablets and smartphones.
If a text isn’t available in a convenient electronic format, there are, of course, lots of printed reference books too. One could try scanning the text or libretto from a book using the OCR option on your scanning software and extracting the text that way.
Once I have the text in electronic format, I upload it to a cloud-based service so that I can access it anytime from my laptop, iPad, or smartphone. This way, I always have the text with me to study and review. I can view the texts on my iPad, where my score library already lives. And if I’m translating or annotating the text, I can work on it on my iPad while I’m on the go.
So far, I’ve been using Evernote (like a notepad app in the cloud) to store and edit plain text versions, or Dropbox if the text is in a PDF document. Since forScore can import PDFs from Dropbox, I can put my text into a forScore setlist together with my score. In the future, I might try out a more heavy-duty iPad/Android office suite such as Quickoffice Pro HD that would let me edit texts as a Word document, sync them to my Dropbox, and export them to PDF files that could be transferred to forScore.