Archive for the ‘diction’ Category

The Diction Police logo

I recently listened to Episode #68 of The Diction Police (featuring bass Maurizio Muraro on Banco’s aria from Macbeth) and in this episode, host and fellow iPad addict Ellen Rissinger mentioned a number of useful online/digital resources for Italian language and diction:

The resources I talked about on this episode were the Dizionario d’ortografia e di pronunzia from RAI (the Italian television station) and the Wikipedia entry for standard suffix endings in Italian, including lists of words ending in -MENTO and -MENTE. The iPad apps that I now use for translation and diction purposes are the Harpers Collins Italian-English Dictionary and lo Zingarelli Italian Dictionary (which also gives open and closed Es and Os for all verb forms!).

You can hear Ms. Rissinger talk about these resources in more detail from 2:20-5:35 in the podcast.

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russian_art_song

I got wind of the Russian Art Song website via the Diction Police Facebook Page and the Your Accompanist Twitter feed (thanks, you two!).  The site is by Dr. Anton Belov, a baritone who hails from Russia.  Resources include (from the description on the home page):

  • IPA transcriptions and word for word translations
  • Song lyrics read by a native speaker
  • Multimedia online diction manuals
  • Vintage common domain sound recordings (how to access audio files)
  • Scores (for reference only)
  • Biographical information

Also check their About page for links to other websites related to Russian opera and song.

One especially outstanding resource on the site is A Guide to Russian Diction, a 67-page book available as a free PDF download.

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I’m sharing this job listing on behalf of SingersBabel, the lyric diction website, in the hopes that one of you tech-savvy singers may fit the bill, or knows someone who does! Please spread the word!

SingersBabel is seeking an ASP.NET web development contractor with e-commerce experience to make enhancements to their service. Experience with PDF generation and video/audio media workflows is a plus; experience with opera/choral/classical singing and lyric diction is a BIG plus. To apply, send résumé, client references, and links to similar e-commerce/media websites you have developed to daniel@singersbabel.com .

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Last Thursday I had the pleasure of meeting for coffee with Dan Molkentin, co-founder and co-artistic director of SingersBabel, the subscription-based website with lyric diction resources. He happened to be in town for the Music Library Association conference, so we took the opportunity to get together and talk shop. I knew at once that he was a kindred spirit when our conversation ranged from web technology stacks, media workflows, and website project management, to textual discrepancies in different composers’ setting of the same poems, Italianate vs. German Latin, and whether we should be rolling or vanishing our final R’s in German.

One piece of SingersBabel news that Dan shared was that they will be introducing Russian resources to the website in coming weeks. The resources will include multimedia guides for learning the basic sounds of the language, as well as guides for specific texts and repertoire. Speaking of repertoire, Dan tells me that the repertoire guides on the site will focus on choral works and oratorio, with a bit of art song to boot. (Although I REALLLLY hope – pretty please – that they’ll consider bringing some opera people on board to produce diction resources for the operatic repertoire and Italian. There’s an untapped market there, and even if they just did the arias from those ubiquitous Larsen anthologies, I bet they’d get business from a bunch of vocal performance majors and the like.)

We also talked about the recent SingersBabel website testing program, which I participated in.  One thing that I discovered in the course of testing is that the website has many more resources than I thought; it’s just that they’re hard to find (and the SingersBabel team is working to rectify that).  A sampling of notable resources:

Dan shared some other online music resources with me as well.  One of them, Peachnote, is something I’ve been meaning to check out for a while.  From what I’ve gathered, Peachnote is a provider of a number of interesting music technologies, but one that particularly attracted Dan’s interest was Peachnote’s platform for collaborative online multimedia annotation of music scores.  In plain English, that means that you can use Peachnote’s score viewer to annotate the score with your own text, audio, or video notes and also view annotations that others have added.  Here’s a screen capture of Peachnote’s score viewer with annotations:

peachnote_score_viewer

Peachnote also makes it possible to embed the score viewer in your own website, and in fact the viewer is already in use over at IMSLP with a number of scores.  For example, you can go to the IMSLP page for Le nozze di Figaro, navigate to the full score for the overture, and click the “View” button:

peachnote_viewer_on_imslp

The Peachnote viewer then displays the score, which someone has annotated with a YouTube video recording of a performance of the overture:

figaro_overture_in_peachnote

Dan also tipped me off to the Sparks and Wiry Cries blog and e-zine about art song.  (I can’t believe I’ve never stumbled upon this.)  From their masthead: “Our mission is to provide a virtual home for the art song community: performers, students, scholars and fans. We endeavor to provoke thoughtful discussion about the extraordinary art of song.”  One of their contributors is Emily Ezust, creator and maintainer of The Lied, Art Song, and Choral Texts Archive, and they have a number of other notable contributors as well.

sparks_and_wiry_cries

Lastly, Dan mentioned Medici TV, a French website which offers free live broadcasting of concerts, operas, and ballets along with video on demand from their catalog of concerts and classical music documentaries.

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Thank you, Dan, for our engaging and enlightening conversation, and best of luck with the SingersBabel venture!

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SingersBabel is a website with learning tools for both general lyric diction study as well as for specific works in the vocal repertoire.  They are looking for tech-savvy or tech-curious singers/teachers/coaches/conductors to use their website and give them feedback as they prepare to do a major revamp of their site.  They are offering free six-month subscriptions to volunteer website testers – here are the details from Dan Molkentin, one of the site’s founders:

[We are interested in] having some musicians that follow your blog test the site. 20-25 people who would be willing to use [SingersBabel] for at least 15-20 minutes a week, speak with us for 5 minutes a week for one month, and complete a survey at the end of the four weeks. There are some more details we’d discuss before doing this but the participants would receive 6 months free access to the full site in exchange for their time and feedback.

We’ll be ready to have people start testing and meeting with us starting on February 1st. I’m not sure how feasible or open your users would be to this, but it would be very useful if they could use a free screen recording like BB Flashback to record their time on [SingersBabel]. This would allow us to see better how people are using the site.

If you’d like to sign up, contact Dan at daniel(at)singersbabel.com.

I’ll be participating as a tester, too.  I’ve been wanting to do a review of SingersBabel here on the blog; I just haven’t had the opportunity to sit down and give the site a thorough test drive.  So I’m looking forward to it.

Just to give you a taste of what’s currently available at SingersBabel, here are some screen captures from their site.  The spoken text recordings are done by native speakers who are credited here.

Multimedia pronunciation guides at SingersBabel lyric diction website

Multimedia pronunciation guides at SingersBabel lyric diction website

Text, IPA transcription, and translation at SingersBabel website

Text, IPA transcription, and translation at SingersBabel website

You can follow SingersBabel on Facebook and Twitter too.

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Credit: Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

Now that my music performance commitments for the holidays and the fall are behind me, I’m coming up for air and for a report on how things went from a technology perspective. (This is part 2 of a two-part post. Read part 1 here.)

3. Messiah duet + choral gig + more

My duet partner and my pianist colleague and I rehearsed and performed some duets for fall and winter shows, namely, the Barcarolle from Les contes d’Hoffmann and also “He shall feed his flock” from Handel’s Messiah. IMSLP was definitely my friend when it came to downloading sheet music for those pieces. During our rehearsals, I mused on how I might like to get a more compact portable music stand for my iPad. I like the combination of the CrisKenna Xclip2 mount and Mic Stand Concertino plus gooseneck extension, recommended by flutist Sharyn Byer when she was profiled on Going Digital for Musicians:

Credit: AirTurn

Here’s another photo from that blog post that shows a dramatic difference between the space taken up by Sharyn’s music stand, versus her colleague’s more traditional stand. To be fair, though, her colleague probably gets to view more pages of music at a time, and perhaps in a larger size, too!

TheGigEasy mic stand mount for iPad also looks good for my purposes, and a new, thinner, lighter version will be released in January 2013. The iKlip mic stand mount is worth a look too. Honestly, my current portable setup of a wire stand plus my iPad case with its securing strap is not bad, but I wouldn’t mind something with a sturdier build and slimmer profile. I’d feel less worried about knocking it over.

I also had a Messiah chorus gig this past Christmas. Unlike my regular choir, I was the only tablet-wielding singer there. The soprano seated beside me showed a great deal of interest in my iPad sheet music. She was considering a Kindle purchase and was wondering about using it for sheet music. Of course I directed her to this blog so she can check out a few different options 🙂 About the Kindle specifically, I am leery of it for sheet music at this time. A friend once showed me a music score on his Kindle DX e-reader. I liked the screen size and resolution, but we found the page loading and page turns to be slower than on my iPad, and I also thought the music was difficult to see on the non-backlit display. Perhaps the newer Kindle models perform better, though – I haven’t tried them so I don’t know.

Earlier I had asked the conductor for the Messiah performance whether it was ok for me to use my iPad for the music. Fortunately, she was cool with it (not all conductors are, so it’s not a bad idea to ask first). I used my black silicone iPad skin as the “black folder” for holding the music during the performance (same as I do with my regular choir) and no one voiced any concerns. But it did get me to thinking about having an iPad case that looks more like a traditional black choral folder for those times when a music director insists on it, or if I’m doing one of those Victorian period-costume caroling gigs where it would look anachronistic and silly to be obviously holding an iPad. And I’m tired of waiting for MUSICFOLDER.com to design such a case. Blog reader Loren F. recommends the DODOcase for this purpose, and blog reader Dick H. gave some tips on modding the DODOcase for use as a choral folder. However, the price of the DODOcase is a bit steep for me, so I’m probably going to roll my own and make an iPad choral folder out of an inexpensive folio case as a do-it-yourself project – stay tuned for details.

By the way, in the course of doing this Messiah chorus gig, I was informed that you can download PDFs of the choral movements from the Schirmer edition of the Messiah vocal score at this site (although I haven’t verified that all the page numbers, etc. match up with my printed Schirmer score, so caveat downloader). Schirmer is not the most scholarly edition of Messiah ever, but an awful lot of typical local Messiah performances use it, so it can be handy to have. (The Schirmer score on my iPad is one that I scanned previously from the printed score that I own.)

4. Preparing for the St. Matthew Passion

My choir is performing Bach’s St. Matthew Passion this coming spring. I bought a score and had the spine sliced off and then our de facto e-music librarian, Steve, scanned it into a nice slim 7MB PDF file for use with forScore. I ordered a CD of one of the recordings that the conductor recommended (I couldn’t find it as a download or in streaming format) and I also procured a different recording on iTunes. I found some excellent free diction/IPA resources for the St. Matthew Passion online that will be a useful learning aid. I also want to check out SingersBabel to see what diction resources they have for this work. I just got a Belkin YourType Folio + Keyboard for my iPad (more on that later) and I think that its Bluetooth keyboard will come in handy for typing the translation into my score. The Great Books Tutorial website has the text and translation of the St. Matthew Passion in PDF format, laid out nicely for either printing or viewing on a tablet. There are also some interesting background pieces and listening guides online: Bach 101: St. Matthew Passion from the Bach Choir of Bethlehem’s website, an introduction and annotated text/translation from Minnesota Public Radio, and A Visitor’s Guide to the St. Matthew Passion by NPR.

Credit: Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

Now that my music performance commitments for the holidays and the fall are behind me, I’m coming up for air and for a report on how things went from a technology perspective:

1. Regular choir rehearsals & concerts

The process used by our de facto e-music librarian for scanning and distributing PDF scores has really become quite smooth and streamlined (thanks, Steve!!).  You can read about his scanning workflow in his guest post on my blog.  He makes the scores available for download on a private website in two formats: as a forScore .4sc file for iPad users in the choir (since we are all using forScore) and as a PDF file for non-iPad tablet users.  In the forScore version of the file, Steve packages the scores into a forScore setlist and adds metadata (mainly title and composer) and links (for handling repeats, D.S./D.C. etc.) before he sends them out.  This is a huge boon to us tablet users – our music is already organized when we import it into forScore, and when sight-reading, it only takes us one tap to navigate to the right spot in the score while everyone else is madly flipping paper pages and hunting for the repeat sign or the second ending (I especially love this perk).  I did learn, however, that I personally prefer to keep the printed page numbers in the PDF score rather than cropping them out with the margins to make the music notation display bigger and more readable.  (Ask me in 20 years if I feel the same.)

I was astonished to learn that 20% of our choir has adopted tablets for reading and performing music.  It helps that we are in Silicon Valley, and it also helps that Steve has been a low-key evangelist of sorts and has made the onboarding process very easy.  I like to think that my forScore tutorial series, which I have shared with fellow choristers, has also helped.

Our conductor owns an iPad, but so far he has not conducted from it yet.  I don’t blame him – when you need a musical “roadmap”, it’s not so great when you can only see one shrunken page at a time, and it’s even worse if you need to read anything more complicated than a simple vocal score with piano.  A larger-format iPad would help, or even (if you can afford it) two iPads showing two adjacent pages of the score, but with synchronized page turns (the unrealBook music reader app supports this scenario – wow!).

The iRecorder app for iPad came in handy during one choir rehearsal when we had to learn a traditional African song by ear.  I used my iPad to record a live performance of the song by our guest artists who came to rehearse with us, and then I uploaded and shared the recording with fellow choir members for later review.

2. Working on art songs & arias in voice lessons and coachings

One of my big projects this fall was to get Claude Debussy’s song cycle, Ariettes oubliées, under my belt in its entirety (it’s still in rough form, as my coach will attest).  I bring my iPad with my music on it to lessons and coachings (and a normal binder with paper copies for my pianist, of course).  Despite my complaints in a previous post, I’m facile enough with annotating music on my iPad that I can keep up with the notes I’m being given during a coaching or lesson.  Sometimes I’ll go back through the score later and make things more legible by replacing my messy stylus scrawl with forScore stamp markings.

I prepared my own translations and diction notes, getting the source text from The Lied, Art Song, and Choral Texts Archive, looking up word translations and IPA on the French-English dictionary at WordReference.com (they have many other languages too), and referencing information from one of my diction textbooks that I scanned and transferred to my iPad.  I put this information into a Word document which I then added to my Dropbox folder.  From there, I can access it anytime from either my iPad or my Android phone for study.  I usually also convert the document into a PDF so I can import it into my forScore library together with the actual score. What I’d really like to do is to be able to edit the Word document on my iPad with automatic Dropbox sync so I can work on translations, etc. on the go, but my current Office suite editor app, Quickoffice, isn’t up to the task yet.  When I edit my .docx Word file in Quickoffice and sync it to Dropbox, the document sometimes gets temporarily corrupted and become unreadable in Quickoffice.  Fortunately, opening and saving the document on my laptop fixes it.  I really really hope Quickoffice fixes this issue, but for now I only edit my document on my laptop and use my iPad and phone just for reading it without editing.  Finally, I write my translation into the score using forScore’s text annotation feature:

Photo Dec 19, 1 00 26 AM

I went to the university music library and used my iPad camera, makeshift scanning stand, and Scanner Pro app to scan the chapter on Ariettes oubliées from Pierre Bernac’s book, The Interpretation of French Song.  (Side note: When using my iPad scanning setup, it’s a lot faster and easier to scan multiple pages from a smaller book like this, versus the big, bulky Castel libretto books.)  It was really handy to have the book pages with me on my iPad at coachings.  I checked to see if the Bernac is available as an e-book, but no dice – if I want to have the whole enchilada on my iPad, I’ll need to buy a physical book and then scan it myself.  The Bernac also suggests metronome markings for the various songs, and Chris R. from Technology in Music Education reminded me that forScore’s virtual metronome will remember settings for individual songs or forScore bookmarks, so I’ll have to try plugging Bernac’s suggested tempi into forScore as a way to remind myself of the approximate tempo.

I also bought and listened to multiple recordings of songs from Ariettes oubliées on iTunes on my iPad.  I used forScore’s feature for assigning song tracks to scores, which lets me listen to the track while reading the score.  I wish forScore had a way of assigning multiple songs or a playlist to the same score.  That would make it easier for me to do comparative listening of different artists performing the same song.  Also, I purchased piano accompaniment tracks for Ariettes oubliées from Your Accompanist and mp3accompanist.com for practicing when there’s no pianist available.  As for basic learning & note-bashing of the vocal line–my iPad, forScore’s virtual piano, and a pair of headphones let me do that anywhere, and it’s been useful for turning my occasional train commute into productive music-learning time.

I’ve also been using forScore setlists as virtual binders for lessons and coachings – I can quickly swap pieces of music in and out depending on what I want to work on during a particular session.  (I set up “virtual binders” for a lot of other things too – audition rep, concert/recital programs, new musical projects that I’m working on, etc.)

And speaking of teaching studios, those of you who have one might like to check out the online service, Music Teacher’s Helper (description on their website: “Designed by music teachers, for music teachers, to help you manage the business aspects of running a private music teaching studio”).  I recently scheduled a lesson with a teacher who uses it, and it sent me a helpful little automated reminder email before my lesson.  It also does other useful administrative tasks, and I’ve heard other teachers recommend it.

(I have more to share, but it’s time to call it a night…to be continued in part 2…)