Archive for the ‘repertoire’ Category

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Well, the ink is hardly dry on my previous blog post, Web search tips for thematic programming of a concert/recital, and now fellow techie singer Katia H. has created a search tool that searches all of the websites mentioned in my post, in one fell swoop!  It’s over at classicalsongsearch.com.  It’s still in alpha so there still might be some kinks to work out, but give it a whirl and let Katia know if you have any problems or suggestions!

Grazie mille, Katia!

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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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fachme

The other day, my friend Katia H. told me about a website I wish I’d built, called FachMe.com.  The premise is simple: you enter roles you’ve sung and found well-suited to your voice, and the website suggests other roles for you, based on its database.  As the websites states: “FachMe uses a database of over 16,000 real opera singers’ careers to recommend characters which are statistically likely to suit your voice.”

Over at Stack Exchange, the creator of the site, Jordan Eldredge, explains a bit more about what he was trying to accomplish with it:

Unfortunately, much like musical genres often do a poor job of defining the subtitles of music, the human body and composer’s imaginations don’t conform very tightly to our categorical constructs [of fach]. That being said, we need a vocabulary to discuss and even internally process the qualities that make a voice suit a role and, like musical genres, this is the best method we have.

When I was doing my undergraduate degree in voice, I became very frustrated with singers over-identifying with a fach and either limiting themselves, over-extending themselves, or trying to learn repertoire that would probably be in their future but was not yet healthy for their voice. To help combat that trend, I started a website that skips the system of fach pigeon-holes and helps singers find appropriate roles directly.

The website asks a singer for roles which they feel suit their voice right now, and then searches through its database of over 16,000 singers careers for singers who sang those roles. The site then lists other roles most commonly performed by those singers.

It’s not a silver bullet but it’s a useful tool for brainstorming and it has the advantage that it’s based on actual data.

Eldredge also posts a link to an episode of KALW’s VoiceBox podcast called “The Fachs of Life” which mentions FachMe.com and also features Nathan Gunn, Nicola Luisotti, and Sheri Greenwald discussing the topic of fach.  (Play the episode online or download it as an MP3 file.)

I played with FachMe.com a little bit – I wasn’t familiar with all of the roles it suggested, but the ones I knew seemed reasonable.  I’ve heard that the website tries to take various factors into account in order to make sane recommendations – for example, if you enter a role that a singer in the database did very early in her career as a young singer, it will not necessarily recommend roles performed late in that singer’s life.  I am interested to hear others’ opinions on the quality of the recommendations they get.  This is the sort of tool that I would approach with the standard disclaimers (your mileage may vary, take it with a grain of salt, each singer is individual, etc. etc.) but it might be fun to play with and at least glean a few interesting role suggestions.

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.

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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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Classical Vocal Reprints, the long-time mail-order purveyor of sheet music for vocalists, has expanded into the realm of digital sheet music with the launch of their new website for PDF sheet music downloads.  This is great news for us singers because it puts their huge catalog of high-quality editions of opera, song, oratorio, and other solo vocal literature instantly at our fingertips.  From their website:

We have it all (opera, art songs, specialty numbers, new composers, rare music and old favorites) […] We even carry things that are otherwise out-of-print. As our name implies, we have many hard-to-find titles which we reprint ourselves.

You can browse the composer list at their PDF download store, or search by title, composer, or catalog number.

Some of features of CVR’s catalog and service that deserve special mention:

  • Many songs and song cycles are available in multiple transpositions
  • They carry out-of-print and hard-to-find titles
  • They can do custom scans, custom prints and transpositions (given sufficient lead time)
  • They are a good source for individual arias when you only need one or two of them and don’t want to buy a complete opera score or anthology
  • Custom PDFs – Even if something isn’t in their catalog, you can call/email them and they may be able to create or obtain a PDF and supply it to you
  • Great coverage of the standard vocal literature

I’m trying to convince CVR to sell their PDF sheet music in forScore’s in-app sheet music store, too.  That would be super convienient for us forScore users.  If you’d like to see that happen, drop CVR a line on Facebook or Twitter.

If you are not familiar with CVR, they are an independent sheet music retailer founded in 1987 and based out of Fayetteville, Arkansas.  The owner is Glendower Jones, who is himself a singer and knows all the ins and outs of vocal literature, score editions, and music publishing companies.  Glendower is like the concierge of classical vocal music – he’s the guy who picks up the phone when you call CVR, and he is knowledgeable and happy to advise on score editions, provide custom PDFs or other custom services, and track down and help you get your hands on any possible score you can think of (and CVR also has a retail website for traditional printed sheet music, for items that are only in that format).  Even if a item is not listed on CVR’s website, just call or email Glendower and he can definitely hook you up.  Glendower has supplied sheet music to such luminaries as Joyce DiDonato, Martin Katz, Susan Graham, and Thomas Hampson, but I can attest that he provides fabulous personal service to us mere mortals, too.  He’s advised me about art song editions and publishers, given me discounts and free/reduced shipping charges from time to time, and once offered to send me a Bärenreiter edition at no extra charge when the score I originally requested was on backorder.  I’m quite happy doing business with CVR.

A special plea: Please consider patronizing CVR for your sheet music needs (digital AND printed) and not just the “big-box” online sheet music retailers.  The prices are competitive, and for you choristers, CVR’s printed music division carries choral/oratorio scores too.  The PDF download store is not just CVR’s latest venture, it is also Glendower’s bid to keep his business afloat in a difficult economy and a changing music retail market environment.  Except for those who have been living under a rock, musicians everywhere know that independent sheet music retailers, especially brick-and-mortar stores, have been downsizing or flat out folding left and right, and if CVR goes, it will be a huge blow to the classical vocal community.  CVR is one of the last bastions of personal service in the sheet music retail world.  Glendower has been known to look up a specific measure on a specific page of a specific score to provide information to a customer to help them make the right purchase.  Good luck getting that kind of service from S**** M**** P***.  If you’d like to see that kind of personal service and selection thrive in the 21st century, please support independent businesses like CVR.

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I’ve been catching up on listening to the latest Diction Police podcast episodes.  I really liked this episode and thought it deserved a special mention:

Episode #65: Special Edition for Young Coaches

For budding coaches, there’s advice on:

  • What skills you need to acquire
  • How to get experience while still in university
  • How to get work
  • The different things that are expected of you in different kinds of rehearsal/audition/performance situations, and the different skills you’ll draw on in each of those settings
  • How to deal with difficult personalities and sticky situations
  • Audition repertoire
  • What singers want and need from you during a coaching

For singers, this podcast provides some insight on how to work with coaches most effectively.  It also helped deepen my appreciation of how much skill, hard work, experience, knowledge, and talent it takes for coaches to do what they do.

Budding choral conductor/pianist types, this podcast might be helpful for you too.  Obviously the repertoire will be different, but there’s a lot of overlap in the skill set – languages, styles, rehearsal skills, people skills, playing open score and/or from a reduction, etc.