Archive for the ‘French’ 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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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.

medici_tv

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:

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…)

For some reason, I’m always tripped up by French words that end in -ent and -aient, which verb forms use those endings, and how the ending is pronounced.  This time around, I couldn’t look it up in my reference books because they were at the print shop getting prepped for scanning.  Luckily, the Wikipedia article on French conjugation is a good cheat sheet for jogging my memory on this point.  It has several examples of verb conjugation, with IPA for each of the forms. [UPDATE 10/25/12: Blog reader Katia also recommends the online Bescherelle as a reference for irregular French verbs, but be sure to include all diacritical marks when entering verbs into their search box.]

Wikipedia: French conjugation

Credit: Wikipedia

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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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