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Finding Scores to Songs/Arias

Looking for a song or aria in the library isn't as easy as finding a book.  You can usually find a book in the library catalog under its title, but this approach usually doesn't work with an individual song or aria.  If it was ever published seperately, and if we own it as such, you're in luck.  But many songs, especially those that comprise classical vocal literature, are typically found in collections.  Due to space and cost considerations, library catalog records are of limited length, and thus the catalog normally won't identify the titles and composers of all the songs in a collection--just as it won't identify the titles of all the poems in an anthology, or all the articles in a magazine.



What To Do...

when you know the title and/or composer:



If there's a good chance the song was published separately:
Try entering the title of the song in the library catalog.

If the song or aria is part of a larger work:
Find the larger work.

For example, if you need "Che faro senza Euridice?" and you know it's from Gluck's opera Orfeo ed Euridice, look up the opera title (Orfeo ed Euridice) in the library catalog.

If you still can't find the song you seek:
Use a song index. Song idexes list and cross-reference (by composer, title and first line) the contents of such collections as 24 Italian Songs and Arias, Opera Anthology, and so forth. They may also provide other information such as the ranges and keys of each song in the collection, and authors of the song texts.

The music librarian particularly recommends the UTK Song Index. This online index provides keyword access to 50,000 songs of all types in 1,500 anthologies held at the U of Tennessee-Knoxville Music Library. Once you get the anthology title from this index, enter the title into our libary catalog search page, and see if we have it too! (Why use a song index to a Tennessee library's holdings? Simply put, they've gone to the trouble of creating a huge, excellent database. Many of the titles you will find with this tool will also be found at our library.)

Using a book-version song index:
Once you find a listing for the song you want in the index, you will notice codes or numbers that refer to the collections containing the song. The collections are themselves listed, usually in the front of the index. All you have to do is determine whether the collection you need is owned by our library! Most song indexes can be found in the ML 128 range of the Schneider's reference section. Here are some particularly worthwhile titles:

Judith E. Carman, et.al. Art Song in the United States, 1759--1999: An Annotated Bibliography. 3rd edition (2001). ML 128 .S3 C37 2001

Thomas Goleeke. Literature for Voice: an Index of Songs in Collections and Source Book for Teachers of Singing. (first volume, 1984; second volume, 2000) ML 128 .S3 G64 1984

Desiree de Charms and Paul F. Breed. Songs in Collections. (1966) ML 128 .S3 D37 (Also available in Alkek reference)


Other Tools

Finding a song when you only know the tune (but not the title/composer):

Try one of these tune indexes, located in the Schneider's reference section:


  • Harold Barlow and Sam Morgenstern. A Dictionary of Opera and Song Themes. ML 128 .O4 B37 1966
    To use, transpose the theme to C major or minor, and write out the pitches in letters, e.g. C G C D E F G. Look this up in the "notation index" and note the code "215P", which means theme P on p.215 (in this case, Mahler).
  • Denys Parsons. The Directory of Tunes and Musical Themes. ML 128 .I65 P33
    You only need to know the contour of the melody (up, down, repeated notes) to use this index. See page 15 for directions.


Finding translations of songs and arias:

For opera/musical libretti: enter the title of the opera/musical in the online library catalog. Libretti in our collection reside at the Alkek Library location.


For song translations, The Schneider reference section has several collections (e.g. complete Schubert lieder texts) in the ML 54.5 area.

The online Lied and Art Song Texts Page is a handy archive of over 17,000 classical art songs in 15 languages, many of which feature side-by-side English translations.