Top ten kinds of lists I’d like – David Newman

Originally, this section of the site was called “Expert’s Picks” and was to include lists of songs recommended for various purposes. At the risk of expanding beyond our fairly narrow focus, it will now be open as well to general articles that would be likely to interest the readership of Art Song Central.

I’d still like to have contributions from colleagues and readers, but I now recognize that for at least the immediate future, I’ll probably be the main contributor. (Which makes it rather awkward to retain the previous name of the section!) Every article posted here will include a short (100 words or less) bio of the author, with a link to the author’s website, if appropriate.

Despite the now broader focus of this section, the main focus of this article is lists, which will become more and more useful as our collection grows. Lists should be informative, and ideally be related to the author’s area of expertise. And, just to be clear, lists should not necessarily be confined to repertoire that is already available on this site.

As with this post, there is no need to write in an academic style. These lists will generally be very subjective anyway, and it is appropriate to write as if you were sending an email to a friend.

Without further ado, here are some examples of what is needed, in no particular order:

  1. Lists of your favorite songs.

    While this offers great latitude, I think it’s one of the most valuable types of lists that could be hosted here. For a public that has little familiarity with art song, this could be the sort of introduction needed to get someone excited about the repertoire. It will be especially useful to young students who want to explore repertoire on their own, but might not know where to start when faced with a collection of hundreds of pieces. To provide more focus, “Favorite” lists can also be restricted to a given period, language, or even composer.

  2. Lists of songs that have specific pedagogical use.

    This could be extremely useful to those of us who teach voice. We often need to come up with pieces for a student that will help encourage them to sing, for example, with more power, more legato, less weighty production, or to improve their coloratura. These lists could also look at songs that require specific ornaments or vocal skills – trills, mordents, turns, appoggiature, runs, leaps, or chromaticism. It might also be nice to have lists of songs that are of extremely limited range, and perhaps ones with extremely wide ranges as well.

  3. Lists of songs that have a particular subject matter.

    Recital programs are always more interesting to me when the material holds together thematically. And grouping things by subject is a great way to do this. However, it can be difficult to locate interesting songs on a given subject without the aid of an expert.

    An adjunct to this category would be songs for a given occasion. I’d love to see more than one list of the “best songs for weddings” and “best songs for funerals.” As a voice teacher, these are probably the repertoire questions I’m asked most often!

  4. Lists of songs that deserve to be better known.

    There are more art songs in the world now than any of us could listen to in our lifetimes. And there are many “hidden” gems that have never become widely popular. By sharing this information, we can collectively help bring some worthy pieces out of obscurity.

  5. Lists of settings of a given poem or poet.

    It can be very useful to look at the way different composers set the same text, or the same poet. Commentary would be vital in these lists.

  6. Lists of opera arias for a given fach.

    These already abound online, but it would be great to mirror that information here, and perhaps to expand on it with more obscure arias. Also, there are certain fachs that have come into vogue which are less likely to have “standard” lists to choose from, such as the countertenor and the haute contre. (And no, they are not the same!)

  7. Lists of great singers.

    Richard Miller has been very vocal in recent years about the need for students to develop an aesthetic for good singing. Many freshman voice students these days have grown up listening to pop, rock, or country, and have only a limited knowledge of classical singers. (That would certainly have described me in my freshman year!)

    It could be very helpful to these students to have lists of singers that they should listen to, with commentary on what they should listen for. Linking to freely available online resources would be a great addition to such lists, and Art Song Central would probably be willing to host short (less than 20 second) clips of singers in conjunction with such lists.

    Adjunct to this category might be something like the “top ten recordings by Caruso”, since virtually all of his recorded legacy is available online at the Internet Archive.

  8. Lists of online resources with a given purpose.

    There are numerous online resources for singers. Some of them are awful, and some are unbelievably wonderful. There is certainly room for a list of the best general resources, but it would also be useful to know the best places to look for specific issues, like help with translation, pronunciation, or sightreading. Other subjects might include vocal health, anatomy, repertoire, or community.

  9. Lists of books with a given purpose.

    I’ll start this out soon with my take on the ten most important reference books for a singer’s bookshelf. But much more specific lists could be made; best books on career development, on opera, on song, performance practice, history, interpretation, analysis, and so on.

  10. Lists of lists.

    Finally, as these lists become more numerous, it would be great to have “überlists” that highlight those lists that are most useful, either generally or for a given topic.

I hope this list gives you ideas about what to contribute. I’m completely open to other ideas of lists that could benefit the mission of Art Song Central!

If you would like to offer such a list, please use the contact form to let me know of your interest, including the subject you’d like to write on, and perhaps a bit about yourself. (That is, if I don’t already know you!) While I’m particularly interested in articles by “experts”, I will consider proposals from anyone, so don’t hesitate to offer your contribution. (I’ve often told my students of a book about hammock making with a wonderful introduction which talks about the key to becoming an expert. To paraphrase: “Find something nobody knows anything about, and learn something about it. Then you’re an expert!”)

David Newman

American baritone David Newman has an active and varied career as a singer throughout North America and Europe. While he routinely appears in concert with some of North America’s leading early music ensembles, he has also recorded an opera with Luciano Pavarotti, sung cabaret with Helen Schneider, and played in several rock bands. He recently sang in the première of “Le Tournoi de Chauvency” at The Arsenal in Metz, France. After teaching voice for seven years at UC Davis, he now lives in Virginia and teaches part-time at James Madison University. David is the founder of Art Song Central.