Now, this is a story all about how my rep got flipped-turned upside down.
And I’d like to take a minute
Just sit right there
I’ll tell you how I found the rep in a town of sell, share
In internet-adelphia born and raised
On the imslp was where I spent most of my days
Trillin’ out maxin’ actin’ all cool
And all photocopying some music outside of the school
When a couple of guys who were up to some good
Started making tools in my neighborhood
I got in one little twitter exchange and my mom declared
She said ‘They’re improvin’ this whole scene of sell, share.’
All silliness aside, there are so many tools available to us these days when it comes to discovering, researching, finding, and buying new repertoire. It would be a shame if we didn’t use them just because we simply didn’t know about them. Let me be clear: I’m specifically writing this post about contemporary classical music for the voice that has already been written and looking for how to bring those pieces into the hands of singers. When I ask other singers about this, I usually get met with “I ask my Twitter or Facebook newsfeed.” Or, “I stalk individual composer websites.” That is an excellent way to do it and particularly beneficial if you’re looking to commission composers. But, it gives me concern that we can get silo-ed into our respective networks. Furthermore, we risk the danger of only performing, or suggesting to our students, the music of those who were able to go to the same schools, the same festivals, or the same studios as us. I am very impressed by the people below who are actively creating tools, with the help of the internet, to make hubs for new vocal music that can grow beyond our limited personal networks.
How and Where Do I Find New Vocal Music?
Here’s a round-up of some of my favorites:
MusicSpoke is just one of my favorite examples of people getting together and thinking, “how can we use the tools of the internet to make finding new music for efficient and sustainable for everyone involved?” Kudos to Kurt and Jenn for creating this resource. “MusicSpoke is a marketplace created by musicians for musicians. With one central hub for artist owned sheet music, it’s never been easier for composers to retain their copyrights and sell their music. Conductors can find quality new music quickly and easily.”
This database is another go-to stop for me when trying to find new vocal music. Hopefully you’re familiar with the impressive work of Resonant Bodies through their festival (NYC version coming up SEPTEMBER 5-7, 2017), their podcast, their social media, or general awesomeness. Resonant Bodies Vocal Music Database is an open-source database of hundreds of 20th- and 21st-century vocal works by composers from around the globe. COMPOSERS: Add your music to this database. This is one simple way to increase your visibility to singers who are actively looking for contemporary vocal music.
“NewMusicShelf is the digital marketplace devoted to new, original concert music by independently published composers!
NewMusicShelf is an easy-to-use, one-stop shop where you can find great concert music by fantastic composers from around the world: just add the scores you want to your cart, checkout, and download your sheet music.”
If you’re disappointed that there aren’t thousands of selections for each voice type, please share these marketplaces with your composer friends so that we can build out their usability. These types of offerings can be incredibly valuable once they hit a tipping point and become a go-to resource for both self-published composers wanting to share their music and the singers who are looking to program them.
You know the saying by now: “Get it from Glendower!” You already know Glendower Jones’ on-line catalogue of vocal music because of its excellent selection, excerpted arias available, rare and used music, custom transposing and arranging, and more. But, you can also find Lori Laitman, Daron Hagen, Lee Hoiby, Tom Cipullo, Gilda Lyons, and many more on the site. Browse the list of composers and try out some of their music.
Did you know that IMSLP also has a category of “Modern” music? Some composers will make their music available on IMSLP as a way of also getting it out farther into the world. Or, they believe in composing under a Creative Commons license. It can take some time to wade through all of IMSLP’s offerings to find contemporary works for the voice in the instrumentation that you’re desiring. Happy digging!
For a list of more traditional publishers:
Boosey and Hawkes
Edwin F. Kalmus and Co.
C. F. Peters
What if You Don’t Know Where to Start?
It hurts my heart a little bit when I see younger singers not know how to find new music. Or, they only know what is in their teacher’s personal library. I am sure that it is intimidating to find new, contemporary vocal music for the uninitiated. Furthermore, I doubt it is very convincing or compelling to tell singers to go search out living composers websites individually (which is something that I do quite often) if they don’t have the foggiest clue who to look up beyond the bold-faced names at the end of their music history textbooks. How can we endeavor to bring down the barrier to entry or help those who are curious get better access?
Here are some intermediary steps:
Update Your Bookshelf
At this juncture, let me give a massive shout-out to Interlibrary Loan. Interlibrary loan (abbreviated ILL, and sometimes called interloan, interlending, document delivery, or document supply) is a service whereby a patron of one library can borrow books, DVDs, music, etc. and/or receive photocopies of documents that are owned by another library. I use this service nearly constantly. Also, thank your librarian today.
Exploring Twentieth-Century Vocal Music: A Practical Guide to Innovations in Performance and Repertoire by Sharon Mabry
The 21st-Century Voice: Contemporary and Traditional Extra-Normal Voice by Michael Edward Edgerton
New Vocal Repertory: An Introduction & New Vocal Repertory 2 by Jane Manning
Song: A Guide to Art Song Style and Literature by Carol Kimball (not a ton of new music but this is must-have resource in the area of vocal music.)
This suggestion is a little different, but in the same vein as picking a composer and figuring out the breadth of their catalogue for voice, you may want to check out Composer Genealogies: A Compendium of Composers, Their Teachers, and Their Students by Scott Pfitzinger.
Listen to WQXR – Q2 (or another new music station)
WQXR’s Q2 series is another excellent way to start understanding the vast world of contemporary classical music. One of the best suggestions I’ve heard for “how do I find out more about living composers?” was to let Q2 help you go through your inbox (or any other sort of admin work) and just keep a little spreadsheet of the names of composers whose music you liked while listening. That way, when you’re thinking about programming, you simply return to your spreadsheet and let your fingers do the walking to some websites and find out if those composers have anything that fits your range, theme, or other factors.
While you’re there and/or thinking about it, subscribe to the Meet the Composer podcast. It is a must-listen. Also, speaking of podcasts, check out the archives of The Portfolio Composer for living composers and new music practitioners you should know!
Spotify & YouTube & Vimeo Playlists
Some of my favorite warehouses of musical information are Spotify and YouTube playlists. Not always reliable, but once you find some great sources you could be set. For example, I love soprano Hillary LaBonte’s “Contemporary Styles and Literature” playlist. Nothing helps you study for comps like Berio, Boulez, and Babbitt. I’ve got a “Performance Wish List” playlist that will keep you busy for no less than 34 hours. Spotify is even in the contemporary classical playlist arena with their “Next Classical” and their “Avant-garde 50: Spotify Picks.”
Some cool places to start when it comes to video playlists might be this “Extended Vocal Techniques” playlist. How could you go wrong with the 122 videos of “Tony Arnold Sings”? Or, follow Resonant Bodies “#150DaysofVocalMusic” on social media for a tidal wave of blow-your-mind voice videos.
A quick thought on social media: there are plenty of forums that are devoted to discovering new works by living composers. I like American Art Song Composers and Diverse Voices in New Music to shout out a couple. NNFCS can be pretty hit-or-miss for discovering contemporary vocal music for all of its other benefits. Feel free to comment below if you think there are excellent social media groups/pages I’m missing that are doing the Lord’s work in bringing new vocal music to the social-sphere.
Stalk the Greats and the Soon-To-Be Greats
Finally, this is pretty much the way we’ve all been taught to do it. Find someone who is singing in the style that you want to sing and stalk their repertoire list like it’s a treasure map. Find the singers who are also currently one or two steps ahead of you in their careers. With whom are they working? Which composers are they touting? Buy their entire discography. Order their books. Be a student of the field. It will change your life.