Books on Music and Singing in Project Gutenberg

On the off chance that you haven’t already discovered it, Project Gutenberg is the premiere site on the Internet for downloadable public domain texts. It has been in existence since the mid 70’s, but had only amassed a few dozen texts by the mid 80’s. At that point, volunteer efforts began to pick up steam, and really started to thrive with the advent of Distributed Proofreaders, an organization dedicated solely to processing texts for inclusion in the PG archive. There are now nearly 22,000 texts in the archive, all completely free.

I’ve been involved with PG for over a decade, and made it a goal of mine to expand its selection of music related offerings. Here are a few books in the collection which might be valuable to the teacher or singer:

The Head Voice and Other Problems by D. A. Clippinger

  • Very useful book which significantly addresses one of the principal problems that continues to plague singers; comfortably accessing and integrating the “head” voice. However, this book is of more use to the teacher than the student of singing, as the teacher has a reference base from which to absorb good ideas from the book and discard those which may be less helpful.

Caruso and Tetrazzini on the Art of Singing by Caruso and Tetrazzini
The Brain and the Voice in Speech and Song by F. W. Mott
Voice Production in Singing and Speaking by Wesley Mills
Resonance in Singing and Speaking by Thomas Fillebrown

  • More books on vocal anatomy and technique.

Vocal Mastery by Harriette Brower
Great Singers, First Series by George T. Ferris
Great Singers, Second Series by George T. Ferris
The Great German Composers by George T. Ferris
Great Italian and French Composers by George T. Ferris
The World’s Great Men of Music by Harriette Brower

  • Biographies and talks with famous singers and composers, with a smattering of technique.

Style in Singing by W. E. Haslam

  • Book on stylistic singing and interpretation.

Piano and Song by Friedrich Wieck

  • Book on teaching music from the father and teacher of celebrated pianist Clara Schumann. (The expanded title reads: “How to Teach, How to Learn, and How to Form a Judgment of Musical Performances”)

Sixty Years of California Song by Margaret Blake Alverson

  • Though Ms. Alverson’s memoir tends to delve more often than not into shallowly concealed egotism, it has much to offer as an insight into the musical and vocal world of the 19th century. I particularly find interesting the references to “hit” songs that are now completely forgotten, such as Harrison Millard’s “Vive L’America.”

Musicians of To-Day by Romain Rolland

  • Contemporary accounts of the lives and music of Berlioz, Wagner, Saint-Saëns, D’Indy, Strauss, Wolf and Debussy from a celebrated author and opinionated critic.

A Book of Operas by Henry Edward Krehbiel
A Second Book of Operas by Henry Edward Krehbiel
The Opera by R. A. Streatfeild
Stories of the Wagner Opera by H. A. Guerber
Parsifal by H. R. Haweis
The Standard Operas by George P. Upton

  • Though dated, these give cast lists and detailed plot summaries of dozens of operas. I love the passage in one entry of the latter that mentions that Verdi “is rumored to be working on a libretto by Shakespeare.”

Also note Chapters of Opera by Henry Edward Krehbiel, which gives an historical narrative of Opera in New York City.

Some of PG’s collection has been catalogued by category, as well. Do browse their sections of:
Music Literature
Musical Instruction and Study