Art Song: Linking Poetry and Music

By Paver, Barbara | American Music Teacher, December 2013 | Go to article overview

Art Song: Linking Poetry and Music


Paver, Barbara, American Music Teacher


Art Song: Linking Poetry and Music, by Carol Kimball. Hal Leonard Corporation, 2013. www.halleonard. com; 398 pp., $19.99.

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My copy of Carol Kimball's Song: A Guide to Art Song Style and Literature is quite possibly the most tattered book on my bookshelf. For many teachers and students of voice, her text has been the resource we consult for an excellent survey of song literature. Kimball has now provided us with an equally important book that speaks to the sister arts of poetry and music, and their relationship in song literature.

I recently asked a group of freshman and sophomore voice performance majors why we sing. Their answers had one common thread: our singing helps us understand and express human experience. Kimball's book gets to the heart of why we sing and gives us a process to follow in achieving greater understanding of poetry and its relationship to song. If communicating the human condition is our ultimate goal as performers, Kimball has filled an enormous void in the academic education of young singers.

It is not often a student is able to take a course in poetic analysis, and frequently the mechanics of learning how to sing, and how to develop the musical skills necessary to do so, leave precious little time for this larger picture to be addressed by the studio voice teacher and/or vocal coach. For a student (or teacher) needing a structured process, Kimball offers an approach to reading poetry that stimulates the intellect as well as the imagination.

She emphasizes the importance of reading poetry aloud, especially in one's native language, to awaken the senses. She offers a lexicon of poetic devices and chooses excellent examples to illustrate them. She includes illuminating quotations from composers from Samuel Barber to Libby Larsen on the subject of text-setting that help the reader understand that language is the genesis of all song composition. Kimball includes in her discussion all those who contribute to the complex layers of a song: the poet, the composer and finally (and perhaps less significantly) the performers. …

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