OXENFOORD INTERNATIONAL SUMMER SCHOOL FOR SINGERS AND ACCOMPANISTS
I run an American Song class at Malcolm Martineau
's brilliant singing course in Scotland. I thought it might be helpful to those participating (and even those not!) if I collected some resources together that may supplement and support what I'll be covering in the sessions. If you'd like more information about Oxenfoord, you can find it here
This is not some kind of required reading list for my sessions, so don't panic! It's just meant to be a fun resource if you are interested.
Here's a list, by no means exhaustive, of prolific American composers that you might want to check out, and see what songs they're written. I've marked essentials with an asterisk. The names highlighted in pink take you straight to that composer's website where you can hear audio samples and view their works list.
BOOKS ABOUT DEALING WITH PERFORMANCE ISSUES
This is a classic book based on psychological principles that help tennis players cope with their nerves on court at critical moments in their game. It is equally applicable to other disciplines, especially musical performance. There is an Inner Game of Music too, but I actually think the tennis one is more concise and helpful.
BOOKS BY AMERICAN COMPOSERS
A controversial insight into private musical life in the USA and Paris by one of the foremost American art song composers of his generation, Ned Rorem.
BOOKS ABOUT SINGING IN ENGLISH/AMERICAN
Although specifically about English song as opposed to American, this is an excellent and beautifully presented book about singing in English; lots of the same principles will apply when approaching American song, and there are also excellent chapters on approaching the interpretation of a song.
A very detailed book focussing on the sounds of the language, rather than interpretation. Maybe almost too detailed sometimes, but helpful nonetheless.
BOOKS ABOUT PROGRAMMING RECITALS
The Songmakers Almanac: Reflections and Commentaries - Graham Johnson
A compilation of a variety of programmes devised by leading accompanist, Graham Johnson, including his notes for a selection of the programmes. Great for recital concept ideas and thinking outside the box!
FOR PIANO PEOPLE...
For accompanists on the course, I recommend the following books:
A really useful book outlining some of the basic skills required specifically by piano accompanists, with lots of musical examples and anecdotes. By one of the true greats of collaborative piano-playing and very funny too!
This is, in my opinion, the best book on practical piano technique. The focus is on rehearsing phrases internally before you practise them, and also has loads of great technical tips and practice ideas.
A book about different aspects of playing the piano, encompassing a wide variety of topics besides technique, such as the recording and editing process.
A classic book on piano playing, technique and interpretation from one of the most famous Russian teachers. Neuhaus taught Sviatoslav Richter and Emil Gilels so he knows his stuff!
Here are two posts from my blog for Linn Records, the first talking about the hidden skills of the piano accompanist (good for singers to read this too) and the second discussing efficient practice techniques.
A brilliant and erudite blog about music, performing and other unrelated subjects by one the UK's best-loved pianists. A great behind-the-scenes look at the music business.
A terrific and insightful blog by my friend and colleague, Gary Matthewman about the world of the song accompanist. A must for song-enthusiasts! You can also take Gary's excellent Early Lieder
course at Oxenfoord.
Steven Blier is a pianist and vocal coach on the staff at Juilliard and also directs the fantastic New York Festival of Song
(see websites section below).
Some good info here on the singing world from leading mezzo Joyce DiDonato; very realistic and helpful stuff.
Susan Tomes is one of my favourite pianists and she's also an excellent writer. Often makes you think about musical things in a different way. See also her books, Beyond the Notes
and Out of Silence
A quirky and analytical music blog by leading US pianist, Jeremy Denk. Great for getting you thinking about music from a different angle.
BOOKS ABOUT JAZZ
Much of the harmony and melodic contours in contemporary American song has its roots in jazz, so the following books are a really good introduction to jazz harmony and style:
Great presentation and a very thorough compendium of jazz information (mainly modern and bebop).
A concise overview of jazz harmony and improvisation techniques. This will probably be of most interest to pianists.
A really useful website where you can legally download sheet music that is in the public domain. A fantastic resource with masses of song repertoire featured. Important to view the different editions available to find the best though.
The website of this excellent festival directed by my mate Steve Blier
has lots of useful information on it, full of imaginative song programme ideas. Check it out...and if you live in NYC...GO!
APPS FOR iPAD AND iPHONE
This is the best metronome app that I've found. It's easy to use and reliable.
A piano app to help you check your first note before you go on stage.