Finding Songs and Arias
Finding a song or aria in the library collection isn't always as straightforward as finding a book. You can usually find a book in the library catalog under its title, but this approach often doesn't work with an individual song or aria. Many songs are only found in collections (or "anthologies") or as part of a larger song-cycle. And not all anthologies are searchable by their individual songs in the online catalog. Similarly, arias, which are from operas or oratorios, tend not to be listed individually. So, how to proceed?
What To Do, when you know the title of the song:
- First, try entering the name of the song/aria as a keyword search in the library catalog. You can narrow your search by selecting "Music Scores" or "Music Recordings."
- If you know the original-language title of the piece (or "uniform title"), that will likely yield the most results.
- If you are seeking a score with a particular voice range, you can add the words "high" or "low" or "medium" to your search.
- If the strategy above didn't work, and if you know the name of the "larger work" (opera, song cycle, etc.) the song/aria comes from, search for that larger work.
- If you need "O Heart Be Stronger" and you know it's from Stravinsky's opera The Rake's Progress, enter the opera's name as a keyword search.
If you still can't find the song you seek:
Use a song index. In a song index, you can look up the title of the desired song/aria, and the index will identify the larger work and any collections/anthologies in which the song is contained. You can then search that title in the online catalog (as a keyword search). Indexes may also provide other information such as the ranges and keys of each song in the collection, and authors of the song texts. Here are some powerful indexes that you may want to try:
- (Online) UT Song Index. It provides information for about 50,000 songs in 1,500 anthologies held at the U of Tennessee-Knoxville Music Library. (Many of the anthologies you will find with this tool will also be found at our library.) Once you get the anthology title from this index, enter that title into our libary catalog search bar, and see if we have it too!
- (Online) The Aria Database. Enter the aria's name, and it will provide the name of the opera along with voice range and other essential aspects of the piece.
- (Online) The Hymn Tune Index. Entering the name of (or keywords from) a hymn will provide the name of collections where the piece can be found.
- (Book) Art Song in the United States, 1759--2011: An Annotated Bibliography. 4th edition (2013). Music Lib Reference: ML 128 .S3 C37 2013 c.2
- (Book) Literature for Voice: an Index of Songs in Collections and Source Book for Teachers of Singing. (first volume, 1984; second volume, 2000) Music Lib Reference: ML 128 .S3 G64 1984 v.1 (and v.2)
- (Book) Songs for Young Singers: an Annotated List for Developing Voices (2002) Music Lib Reference: ML 132 .S6 H67 2002
- (Book) Songs in Collections. (1966) Music Lib Reference: ML 128 .S3 D37 (Also available in Alkek reference)
Identifying a song when you only know the tune (but not the title/composer):
Musipedia is a great online "wiki-style" database where you can search for songs by entering the specific notes of the melody, or just the up-and-down contours of the tune.
You can also try 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
- Denys Parsons. The Directory of Tunes and Musical Themes. ML 128 .I65 P33
Major sources of texts/translations of songs and arias:
For opera libretti, see the Schneider's reference section in the ML 48 area, where we have multiple volumes from the Nico Castel libretti series.
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 many thousands of classical art songs and other vocal pieces in 125 languages.