Researching the Song: A Lexicon

Researching the Song: A Lexicon

Researching the Song: A Lexicon

Researching the Song: A Lexicon

Synopsis

Singers are faced with a unique challenge among musicians: they must express not just the music, but the lyrics too. To effectively communicate the meaning behind these words, singers must understand the many references embedded in the vast international repertoire of great art songs. They must deal with the meaning of the lyrics, frequently in a language not their own and of a culture unfamiliar to them. From Zelter and Schubert to Rorem and Musto, Researching the Song serves as an invaluable guide for performers, teachers, and enthusiasts to the art song repertoire. Its more than 2,000 carefully researched entries supply information on most of the mythological, historical, geographical, and literary references contained in western art song. The authors explain the meaning of less familiar literary terms, figures, and authors referenced in song while placing songs in the context of larger literary sources. Readers will find entries dealing with art songs from the German, French, Italian, Russian, Spanish, South American, Greek, Finnish, Scandinavian, and both American and British English repertoires. Sources, narratives, and explanations of major song cycles are also given. Organized alphabetically, the lexicon includes brief biographies of poets, lists of composers who set each poet's work, bibliographic materials, and brief synopses of major works from which song texts were taken, including the plots of all Restoration theater works containing Purcell's vocal music. The more performers know and understand the literary elements of a song, the richer their communication will be. Researching the Song is a vital aid for singers and teachers in interpreting art songs and building song recital programs.

Excerpt

Singing, whatever the level of vocal and artistic development, is about communication. Singers have been blessed not only with the music of those remarkable composers who write for the voice but also by the words of the world’s greatest as well as the not-quite-great poets, both of whom inspire them to communicate. The greatest help in probing the meaning of poetry, even bad poetry, is supplied by the music, which offers a lyric subtext. Sometimes the composer rises above a mediocre lyric and transforms a sow’s ear into a silk purse. Other times the composer rises to the sublime, hand in hand with a poet of equal genius, as Schubert did with Goethe. Nevertheless, singers need always to deal with the meaning of the lyrics, frequently in a language not their own and of a culture unfamiliar to them. Our aim is that this book shall, to a large extent, supply singers, teachers, collaborative artists, fans, and all interested parties with information that will help them better understand the poetry of great art songs and through that, the song itself. We are committed to this premise: the more performers know and understand about the literary elements of a song, the more they will understand the work and the richer their communication will be.

Principles of Selection

A lexicon is a technical dictionary devoted to a specific discipline. Researching the Song is just such a lexicon. Every entry is related to at least one art song. Basic information about composers is not included in this text, since research on particular composers has never been easier nor available information more prolific. That information is easily and comprehensively available in numerous music histories, dictionaries, encyclopedias, and biographies. A single volume devoted to the poets who wrote the texts and literary allusions contained in art song, however, has not existed until Researching the Song.

There is a great deal of truth in Mark Twain’s pithy remark: a classic is a book everybody knows about and no one has read. Many celebrated works, like Goethe’s Faust or Wilhelm Meister, are not known to the general public. The Bible is not as familiar today as it was only a generation ago. Reading lists for some schools abound in contemporary works that simply are not the sources for art song.

Within Researching the Song readers will encounter explanations of most of the mythological, historical, geographical, and literary references contained in western art song, gods and goddesses of ancient Greece and Rome making up a large portion of the entries. As an aid to their performances of song literature, readers will find here entries that are referenced to specific art songs of the German, French, Italian, Russian, Spanish, South American, Greek, Finnish, Scandinavian, and both American and British English repertoires. Also included are brief biographies of poets, lists of composers who set each poet’s work, and frequently the specific poems that were set. Both definitions of mythological names and unusual terminology and the back-

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