Archive for the ‘English’ Category

So one of the things that’s been sucking away at my time for blog-writing these last couple months is that I’ve been organizing and programming a benefit concert.  While hunting for pieces related to the concert themes, it occurred to me to share some of the Google-fu that I use for finding music.  I’m sure these tips are old hat to some of you tech-savvy singers, but others might find them useful.

So, one of my objectives was to find vocal solo or small ensemble pieces from the opera, art song, musical theater, or popular genres on the theme of “gold” or “golden”, since the concert benefits an organization celebrating its golden anniversary season.  I did this by using keyword searches on the following websites:

Several of these sites contain texts in various translations, so I made sure to search for translated versions of my keywords, too.  E.g., in addition to searching for “gold” I would also search for terms “oro”, “d’or”, etc.  (It had to be “d’or” for French since “or” would yield too many search results in English texts!)  Translating the search terms is less necessary for some of the sites, like The Lied, Art Song, and Choral Texts Archive and  Aria Database because they have English translations of many texts, so my keyword search for “gold” will still yield songs in other languages.  Other sites like Opernführer might only have the libretto in the original language or in German, for example, so translating the search keywords is a definite help there.

As for search engines – some of the sites above have a very good site search feature, e.g. The Lied, Art Song, and Choral Texts Archive and AllMusicals.com, so you can just go directly to their website and enter the keywords into the search form there.  But sometimes a website doesn’t have a site search feature (e.g. OperaGlass), the site search feature is too specialized for a general text search (Aria Database), or the site search does not return results of sufficient quantity or quality.  In this case, you can do a Google search with the following syntax in order to narrow your search results to a particular site – just include “site:” followed by the domain name of the website to search, with no space in-between:

gold site:opera.stanford.edu

google_search_syntax_example

Once I found song texts that fit my programming theme, I was able to track down scores for songs through online sheet music sellers, IMSLP, CPDL, or by using WorldCat to find scores in libraries local to me.

8/26/13 UPDATE 1: Fellow techie singer Katia H. has created a search tool that searches all of the websites mentioned above, in one fell swoop!  It’s over at classicalsongsearch.com – check it out!

8/26/13 UPDATE 2: Glendower Jones contributed this very useful info in the comments for this post:

This is great advice. Many folks may not know of the many massive reference books on vocal repertoire that were written by Sergius Kagen, Noni Espina, Michael Pilkington, Judith Carman, Graham Johnson, Shirley Emmons and Carol Kimball. A very useful reference is Pazdirek, the BBC Song Catalogue and Classical Vocal Music in Print and of course Groves and MGG. I don’t know, but possibly some of these books may now be on Google books.

These are some of the major references but still only a drop in the bucket. Pazdirek, Universal-Handbuch der Musikliteratur was produced in Vienna from 1904-1910 and contained the compilation of practically every music publisher active at the time. This was reprinted in 1967 in the Netherlands and is now free online. Few musicians know of this amazing work. http://archive.org/details/universalhandboo01pazd

Also, in a Facebook comment, Nicholas Perna adds:

As a shameless plug, I can also recommend readers search for Britten’s entire output using The Comprehensive Britten Song Database! www.brittensongdatabase.com

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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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Collins It/En Dictionary on iPad (Credit: Ellen Rissinger)

Collins It/En Dictionary on iPhone (Credit: Ultralingua)

 

Ellen Rissinger, coach at the Semperoper and diction guru/host of the Diction Police podcast, brings us this review of the Collins Italian/English dictionary for iPad and iPhone:

I just downloaded the Collins Italian/English Dictionary for my iPad–it’s FABULOUS. The only negative about the app is that it doesn’t do the IPA for the conjugations, but it does show all verbs in every conjugation (very cool!) and it actually has full-on IPA for all entries, not just stressed syllables. And it’s expensive, the most I’ve ever paid for an app. But if it can replace my 6-ton, grandmother of all dictionaries Harpers Collins Sansoni, I’ll pay the money 🙂

[…] I’ve discovered that they do have some irregular verb forms as main entries, then linked to the infinitive–not sure if they’re all there, but so far I’m very happy with the app and I spent some quality time translating and looking up open Es and Os today just for fun!

The dictionary app is currently USD 24.99 on the App Store, and one nice feature is that it does not require a data connection to work.

Thanks, Ellen, for graciously letting me quote your review here!  You can subscribe to Ellen’s awesome podcast on iTunes or at www.thedictionpolice.com and also follow Diction Police on Facebook or Twitter.

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I’ve been working on some song & aria translations lately and have needed to check the pronunciation for various words.  I own a modest collection of printed dictionaries with IPA at home, but was curious about whether this information is available online.  Here’s a roundup of online dictionaries I found that use IPA:

Italian

French

German

Russian

Czech

English

Note, of course, that the dictionaries above don’t take into account all of the rules of lyric diction (e.g. avoiding uvular R), but they do come in handy when checking things like open vs. closed vowels.  Also, with noted exceptions, the dictionaries listed have audio pronunciation examples for selected words.

Another FYI: WordReference.com has iOS/Android apps, but the IPA (for selected languages) is only on the full website, not the apps.  I’d like to do a survey of online/offline dictionary apps with IPA in a future blog post – if you’re aware of any, please let me know.

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Front cover of Queen Anna's New World of Words

Credit: Greg Lindahl

Following up on the topic of an earlier post, “Working with music texts, Part 2: Translate the text,” there are times when we need to translate archaic words or spellings that have fallen out of modern usage and are nowadays only encountered in a literary context such as poetry or libretti.  Fortunately, there are quite a few websites, apps, and e-books to help with deciphering these bits of antiquated language. Note that several of them are historic dictionaries in the original language, so depending on your level of fluency, you may want to have a translation reference or tool handy for translating the definitions.

Italian


French


German

N. B.: I’ve heard that for translating much of the German repertoire, one might have more success using a pre-WWII dictionary that pre-dates the spelling reforms of the mid- to late-20th century.


English

If you have any digital resources to add to this list, let me know!

This post was inspired, and much of the information gleaned, from this discussion thread in the archives of the New Forum for Classical Singers.  A hat-tip to the folks there who share their expertise.

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The Diction Police logo

The Diction Police podcast is, in my humble opinion, a must-have resource for every singer.  The host, Ellen Rissinger, is a coach on the music staff of the Semperoper in Dresden.  She invites native speakers who are singers, conductors, or coaches to read aloud the texts of arias or art songs in the standard repertoire (and sometimes not-so-standard repertoire).  Then they have a discussion about the basic pronunciation rules, the finer points of diction, the most common mistakes non-native speakers make, and diction issues where experts may have differing opinions.

The podcast covers the standard languages of Italian, German, and French and has also ventured into Russian, Czech, Hungarian, Swedish, Norwegian, Spanish, and British and American English.

The podcast’s website has several useful indexes–you can browse episodes by language as well as by aria/song title, and there is an episode guide.  It’s really useful for both general language/diction learning as well as polishing specific arias.

One thing I really like about the podcast is that Ms. Rissinger starts off most episodes with a short segment featuring study tips and career/life advice for musicians.  It’s delivered in a friendly, non-preachy way and is usually accompanied by personal anecdotes of her own successes and screw-ups(!)–kind of like “things I wish I’d known when I started out.”

Also, her Seven Steps to Learn Music are my gold standard for learning repertoire.

The Diction Police podcast is an incredibly rich resource, and I think it speaks to Ms. Rissinger’s expertise, love of lifelong learning, and generosity of spirit that she produces it and makes it available for FREE.  It is a great gift to the world of singers.

You can subscribe to The Diction Police through iTunes or with your favorite podcatcher app  (I use DoggCatcher on my Android phone).