Art song

An art song is a vocal music composition, usually written for one voice with piano accompaniment, and usually in the classical art music tradition. By extension, the term "art song" is used to refer to the collective genre of such songs (e.g., the "art song repertoire").[1] An art song is most often a musical setting of an independent poem or text,[1] "intended for the concert repertory"[2] "as part of a recital or other relatively formal social occasion".[3] While many pieces of vocal music are easily recognized as art songs, others are more difficult to categorize. For example, a wordless vocalise written by a classical composer is sometimes considered an art song[1] and sometimes not.[4]

Other factors help define art songs:

  • Songs that are part of a staged work (such as an aria from an opera or a song from a musical) are not usually considered art songs.[5] However, some Baroque arias that "appear with great frequency in recital performance"[5] are now included in the art song repertoire.
  • Songs with instruments besides piano (e.g., cello and piano) and/or other singers are referred to as "vocal chamber music", and are usually not considered art songs.[6]
  • Songs originally written for voice and orchestra are called "orchestral songs" and are not usually considered art songs, unless their original version was for solo voice and piano.[7]
  • Folk songs and traditional songs are generally not considered art songs, unless they are art music-style concert arrangements with piano accompaniment written by a specific composer[8] Several examples of these songs include Aaron Copland's two volumes of Old American Songs, the Folksong arrangements by Benjamin Britten,[9] and the Siete canciones populares españolas (Seven Spanish Folksongs) by Manuel de Falla.
  • There is no agreement regarding sacred songs. Many song settings of biblical or sacred texts were composed for the concert stage and not for religious services; these are widely known as art songs (for example, the Vier ernste Gesänge by Johannes Brahms). Others sacred songs may or may not be considered art songs.[10]
  • A group of art songs composed to be performed in a group to form a narrative or dramatic whole is called a song cycle.
Nacht und traume bar 5
Bar five of Schubert's art song entitled Nacht und Träume. The vocal part, including the melody notes and the text, is in the top stave. The two staves below are the piano part.

Languages and nationalities

A recording of singer Helge Rosvaenge (Tenor) and Gerald Moore, Pianoforte, performing Der Feuerreiter.

Art songs have been composed in many languages, and are known by several names. The German tradition of art song composition is perhaps the most prominent one; it is known as Lieder. In France, the term mélodie distinguishes art songs from other French vocal pieces referred to as chansons. The Spanish canción and the Italian canzone refer to songs generally and not specifically to art songs.


The composer's musical language and interpretation of the text often dictate the formal design of an art song. If all of the poem's verses are sung to the same music, the song is strophic. Arrangements of folk songs are often strophic,[1] and "there are exceptional cases in which the musical repetition provides dramatic irony for the changing text, or where an almost hypnotic monotony is desired."[1] Several of the songs in Schubert's Die schöne Müllerin are good examples of this. If the vocal melody remains the same but the accompaniment changes under it for each verse, the piece is called a "modified strophic" song. In contrast, songs in which "each section of the text receives fresh music"[1] are called through-composed. Most through-composed works have some repetition of musical material in them. Many art songs use some version of the ABA form (also known as "song form" or "ternary form"), with a beginning musical section, a contrasting middle section, and a return to the first section's music. In some cases, in the return to the first section's music, the composer may make minor changes.

Performance and performers

Performance of art songs in recital requires special skills for both the singer and pianist. The degree of intimacy "seldom equaled in other kinds of music"[1] requires that the two performers "communicate to the audience the most subtle and evanescent emotions as expressed in the poem and music."[1] The two performers must agree on all aspects of the performance to create a unified partnership, making art song performance one of the "most sensitive type(s) of collaboration".[1] As well, the pianist must be able to closely match the mood and character expressed by the singer. Even though classical vocalists generally embark on successful performing careers as soloists by seeking out opera engagements, a number of today's most prominent singers have built their careers primarily by singing art songs, including Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Thomas Quasthoff, Ian Bostridge, Matthias Goerne, Wolfgang Holzmair, Susan Graham and Elly Ameling. Pianists, too, have specialized in playing art songs with great singers. Gerald Moore, Geoffrey Parsons, Graham Johnson, Dalton Baldwin, Hartmut Höll and Martin Katz are six such pianists who have specialized in accompanying art song performances. The piano parts in art songs can be so complex that the piano part is not really a subordinate accompaniment part; the pianist in challenging art songs is more of an equal partner with the solo singer. As such, some pianists who specialize in performing art song recitals with singers refer to themselves as "collaborative pianists", rather than as accompanists.




Austrian and German




19th century:

20th century:

Latin American

In Spanish:

In Portuguese (all Brazilian):


Eastern European







  • Iyad Kanaan – Lebanon

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Meister, An Introduction to the Art Song, pp. 11-17.
  2. ^ Art Song, Grove Online
  3. ^ Randel, Harvard Dictionary of Music, p. 61
  4. ^ Kimball, Introduction, p. xiii
  5. ^ a b Kimball, p. xiv
  6. ^ Meister calls it "a variety of art song" (p. 13); Kimball does not include these works in her study of art songs.(p. xiv)
  7. ^ Meister, p. 14, and Kimball, p. xiv
  8. ^ Meister refers to them as a "hybrid medium", p. 14
  9. ^ Benjamin Britten, Complete Folksong Arrangements (61 Songs), edited by Richard Walters, Boosey & Hawkes #M051933747, ISBN 1423421566
  10. ^ Neither Meister nor Kimball mention sacred songs generally, but both discuss the Brahms songs and selected other works in their books on art song.
  11. ^ a b c Composers – Ukrainian Art Song Project Archived 2015-04-16 at the Wayback Machine


  • Draayer, Suzanne (2009), Art Song Composers of Spain: An Encyclopedia, Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, ISBN 978-0-8108-6362-0
  • Draayer, Suzanne (2003), A Singer's Guide to the Songs of Joaquín Rodrigo, Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, ISBN 978-0-8108-4827-6
  • Kimball, Carol (2005), Song: A Guide to Art Song Style and Literature, revised edition, Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Hal Leonard, ISBN 978-1-4234-1280-9
  • Meister, Barbara (1980), An Introduction to the Art Song, New York, New York: Taplinger, ISBN 0-8008-8032-3
  • Randel, Don Michael (2003), The Harvard Dictionary of Music, Harvard University Press, p. 61, ISBN 0-674-01163-5, retrieved 2012-10-22
  • Villamil, Victoria Etnier (1993), A Singer's Guide to the American Art Song (2004 paperback ed.), Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, ISBN 0-8108-5217-9

Further reading

  • Emmons, Shirlee, and Stanley Sonntag (1979), The Art of the Song Recital (paperback ed.), New York: Schirmer Books, ISBN 0-02-870530-0
  • Hall, James Husst (1953), The Art Song, Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press
  • Ivey, Donald (1970), Song: Anatomy, Imagery, and Styles, New York: The Free Press, ISBN 0-8108-5217-9
  • Soumagnac, Myriam (1997). "La Mélodie italienne au début du XXe siècle", in Festschrift volume, Échoes de France et d'Ialie: liber amicorum Yves Gérard (jointly ed. by Marie-Claire Mussat, Jean Mongrédien & Jean-Michel Nectoux). Buchet-Chastel. p. 381-386.
  • Walter, Wolfgang (2005), Lied-Bibliographie (Song Bibliography): Reference to Literature on the Art Song, Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, ISBN 08204-7319-7
  • Whitton, Kenneth (1984), Lieder: An Introduction to German Song, London: Julia MacRae, ISBN 0-531-09759-5

External links

Codex Omega

Codex Omega is the tenth studio album by Greek death metal band Septicflesh, released on September 1, 2017, through Season of Mist.

Cucurrucucú paloma

"Cucurrucucú paloma" (Spanish for Coo-coo dove) is a Mexican huapango-style song written by Tomás Méndez in 1954. The title is an onomatopeic reference to the characteristic call of the mourning dove, which is evoked in the refrain. The lyrics allude to lovesickness.

Over the years the song has been used in the soundtrack of several films and has gained international popularity. It initially appeared in the classic Mexican comedy Escuela de vagabundos screened in 1955, where it was sung by the star of the film, Pedro Infante. The song also gave its name to the 1965 Mexican film Cucurrucucú Paloma, directed by Miguel Delgado, in which it was performed by Lola Beltrán, who starred as "Paloma Méndez". In Pedro Almodovar's film Talk to Her (2002) the piece is rendered by the Brazilian singer Caetano Veloso in an art-song style quite different from the mariachi folk-kitsch of its original cinema presentation. Other films in which the song appears include Le Magnifique, The Last Sunset, Happy Together, My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done, The Five-Year Engagement, and Moonlight.

Since its first release on record in 1956 in a version sung by Harry Belafonte, the song has been recorded by various other popular singers, including Luis Miguel, Rocío Dúrcal, Perry Como, Miguel Aceves Mejía, Hibari Misora, Nana Mouskouri, Julio Iglesias, Shirley Kwan, Lila Downs, Joan Baez (on her album Gracias a la Vida), Rosemary Clooney, and The Del Rubio Triplets; the refrain was also taken up by Franco Battiato in his own song "Cuccurucucù" (on La voce del padrone).

Danse macabre (Saint-Saëns)

Danse macabre, Op. 40, is a tone poem for orchestra, written in 1874 by the French composer Camille Saint-Saëns. It is in the key of G minor. It started out in 1872 as an art song for voice and piano with a French text by the poet Henri Cazalis, which is based on an old French superstition. In 1874, the composer expanded and reworked the piece into a tone poem, replacing the vocal line with a solo violin part.

Dawn Upshaw

Dawn Upshaw (born July 17, 1960) is an American soprano. The recipient of several Grammy Awards and Edison Prize-winning discs, she performs both opera and art song, and in repertoire from Baroque to contemporary. Many composers, including Henri Dutilleux, Osvaldo Golijov, John Harbison, Esa-Pekka Salonen, John Adams, and Kaija Saariaho, have written for her. In 2007, she was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship.

Die Nacht (Strauss)

"Die Nacht" ("The Night") is an art song composed by Richard Strauss in 1885, setting a poem by the Austrian poet Hermann von Gilm. It was included in the first collection of songs Strauss ever published, as Op. 10 in 1885 (which included also "Zueignung"). The song is written for voice and piano.

Dreamin' (Weezer song)

"Dreamin'" is a song released as an iTunes single (the fourth from the album) from American alternative rock band Weezer's sixth album, Weezer (2008). It was released in digital form on May 27, 2008.In the booklet for Rivers Cuomo's demo compilation album Alone, Cuomo describes how the song "This Is the Way" was originally going to be used for the Red Album over "Dreamin'," then called "Daydreamer." Eventually, Cuomo was able to persuade other band members to choose the "epic, 6-minute, symphonic type of art song" Dreamin' instead.Brian Bell has commented that this song was written in the sonata form and the breakdown of the song has a formal name ("The Dream Sequence") in response to a question asking what was each band member's proudest moment on the album.The song was released as a downloadable song for the game Rock Band and its two sequels along with the songs "Troublemaker" and "The Greatest Man That Ever Lived."

The song mentions the Widener Library Stacks at Harvard University where the composer Rivers Cuomo attended and graduated from.

Dreamin' was played live only during the Troublemaker Tour in 2008 and has not been played live ever since.

Granada (song)

"Granada" is a song written in 1932 by Mexican composer Agustín Lara. The song is about the Spanish city of Granada and has become a standard in music repertoire.

The most popular versions are the original with Spanish lyrics by Lara (often sung operatically); a version with English lyrics by Australian lyricist Dorothy Dodd; and instrumental versions in jazz, pop, easy listening, flamenco or rock styles. Other versions in English also exist (one with lyrics by Al Stewart, and one with lyrics by Robert Musel and Edward Lisbona) but these are less common. An Italian version was written in 1954 by Enzo Luigi Poletto. There are also versions in German and other languages.

The song has been covered many times. It is Jose Carreras's personal signature tune. Popular versions include those by Alan Seager and his musical family, Placido Domingo, Frankie Laine, Jorge Negrete, Juan Arvizu, Nestor Mesta Chayres, Mario Lanza, Pasquale Esposito, Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra. It has been sung in Italian by Claudio Villa, and in German by Fritz Wunderlich and Spanish pop-duo Baccara.

The song was much favoured by theatre organists in the UK, because it provided an opportunity for showing off the organ's tuned (harp, glockenspiel, etc.) and non-tuned (castanets, tambourine) percussion.Because of the flamboyant nature of the tune, and the Spanish lyrics, "Granada" has been accepted by college music courses as an "art song."


The lied (, plural lieder (Collins English Dictionary n.d.; Random House Unabridged Dictionary 1997; American Heritage Dictionary 2018); German pronunciation: [liːt], plural [ˈliːdɐ], German for "song") is a term in the German vernacular to describe setting poetry to classical music to create a piece of polyphonic music (Böker-Heil, et al. 2011). The term is used for songs from the late fourteenth or early fifteenth centuries or even to refer to Minnesang from as early as the 12th and 13th centuries (Encyclopædia Britannica 1998). It later came especially to refer to settings of Romantic poetry during the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and into the early twentieth century. Examples include settings by Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Schubert, Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms, Hugo Wolf or Richard Strauss. Among English speakers, however, "lied" is often used interchangeably with "art song" to encompass works that the tradition has inspired in other languages. The poems that have been made into lieder often center on pastoral themes or themes of romantic love (Anon. 2014).


A mélodie (French: [melɔdi] (listen)) is a form of French art song, arising in the mid-19th century. It is the French equivalent of the German Lied. A chanson, by contrast, is a folk or popular song. The literal meaning of the word in the French language is "melody".

One Hand, One Heart (Debbie Gibson song)

"One Hand, One Heart" (Atlantic 87710; Atlantic Japan AMDY-5046) is the third single from the 1990 album Anything Is Possible (LP 82167) by American singer-songwriter-actress Deborah Gibson. Single-handedly written, arranged and produced by Gibson, this single, released for sale in the United States, Australia and Japan, is essentially performed as an art song, the only additional instrumentation being the background strings. On the charts, this art song did not perform substantially better than "(This So-Called) Miracle," failing to make any of the main singles charts.

Both songs written by Deborah Gibson - Music Sales Corp., ASCAP

Prometheus (art song)

"Prometheus" (D. 674) is an intensely dramatic art song composed by Franz Schubert in October 1819 to a poem of the same name by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

Russian romance

Russian romance or Russian Gypsy song (Russian: рома́нс románs) is a type of sentimental sung poetry with hints of Gypsy influence that was developed in Imperial Russia by such composers as Alexander Alyabyev (1787–1851), Alexander Varlamov (1801–48), and Alexander Gurilyov (1803–58).By the early 20th century, several types of the Russian romance had emerged. An elite type of the Italianate opera-influenced song known as the "salon romance" is contrasted to the lower-class genre of "cruel romance" which features "senitimental courtship, illicit love, pained rejection, and often suicide". The latter is supposed to have given birth to the Russian chanson.

The Russian romance had its heyday in the 1910s and 1920s when the top performers included Anastasia Vyaltseva, Varvara Panina, Nadezhda Plevitskaya, Tamara Tsereteli, Pyotr Leshchenko, and Alexander Vertinsky. In the early Soviet era the genre was less favoured, as it was seen as a vestige of the pre-revolutionary "decadent and bourgeois" sensibility through much of the 20th century.A new generation of singers, such as Valentina Ponomaryova and Nani Bregvadze, emerged in the 1970s. Several vocalists from the pre-WWII era, including Izabella Yurieva (1902–2000), Vadim Kozin (1903–1994) and Alla Bayanova (1914–2011), also returned to prominence in the late Soviet years. Alexander Malinin, Sergey Zakharov and Oleg Pogudin are among the Russian romance singers active in the 21st century.

César Cui's 1895 book Russian Art Song: A Study of Its Development was translated in J.R. Walker’s Classical Essays on the Development of Russian Art Songs (Northfield, MN, 1993).


Singing is the act of producing musical sounds with the voice and augments regular speech by the use of sustained tonality, rhythm, and a variety of vocal techniques. A person who sings is called a singer or vocalist (in jazz and popular music). Singers perform music (arias, recitatives, songs, etc.) that can be sung with or without accompaniment by musical instruments. Singing is often done in an ensemble of musicians, such as a choir of singers or a band of instrumentalists. Singers may perform as soloists or accompanied by anything from a single instrument (as in art song or some jazz styles) up to a symphony orchestra or big band. Different singing styles include art music such as opera and Chinese opera, Indian music and religious music styles such as gospel, traditional music styles, world music, jazz, blues, gazal and popular music styles such as pop, rock, electronic dance music and filmi (film songs).

Singing can be formal or informal, arranged or improvised. It may be done as a form of religious devotion, as a hobby, as a source of pleasure, comfort or ritual, as part of music education or as a profession. Excellence in singing requires time, dedication, instruction and regular practice. If practice is done on a regular basis then the sounds can become more clear and strong. Professional singers usually build their careers around one specific musical genre, such as classical or rock, although there are singers with crossover success (singing in more than one genre). They usually take voice training provided by voice teachers or vocal coaches throughout their careers.


A song is a single (and often standalone) work of music that is typically intended to be sung by the human voice with distinct and fixed pitches and patterns using sound and silence and a variety of forms that often include the repetition of sections. Through semantic widening, a broader sense of the word "song" may refer to instrumentals.Written words created specifically for music or for which music is specifically created, are called lyrics. If a pre-existing poem is set to composed music in classical music it is an art song. Songs that are sung on repeated pitches without distinct contours and patterns that rise and fall are called chants. Songs in a simple style that are learned informally are often referred to as folk songs. Songs that are composed for professional singers who sell their recordings or live shows to the mass market are called popular songs. These songs, which have broad appeal, are often composed by professional songwriters, composers and lyricists. Art songs are composed by trained classical composers for concert or recital performances. Songs are performed live and recorded on audio or video (or, in some cases, a song may be performed live and simultaneously recorded). Songs may also appear in plays, musical theatre, stage shows of any form, and within operas.

A song may be for a solo singer, a lead singer supported by background singers, a duet, trio, or larger ensemble involving more voices singing in harmony, although the term is generally not used for large classical music vocal forms including opera and oratorio, which use terms such as aria and recitative instead. Songs with more than one voice to a part singing in polyphony or harmony are considered choral works. Songs can be broadly divided into many different forms, depending on the criteria used.

That's the Way I've Always Heard It Should Be

"That's the Way I've Always Heard It Should Be" is a 1971 song performed by Carly Simon. Her friend and frequent collaborator Jacob Brackman wrote the lyrics and Simon wrote the music. The song was released as the lead single from her self-titled debut album, Carly Simon, and it reached peak positions of number 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and 6 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart.It was an art song with a semiclassical melody in the style of Gabriel Fauré, and Elektra staffers were worried the single was too emotionally complex to be released as Simon's first single. With subject matter that includes "the parents' bad marriage; the friends' unhappy lives; the boyfriend's enthusiasm for marriage but controlling nature; the woman's initial resistance and ultimate capitulation."Simon was quoted as saying, "When I first wrote it I thought it was an unusual thing for people to break up, and now all my friends are divorced."

The LiederNet Archive

The LiederNet Archive (formerly The Lied, Art Song, and Choral Texts Archive) is a donation-supported web archive of art song and choral texts founded in 1995 by Emily Ezust, an American/Canadian computer programmer and amateur violinist. The website was hosted by the REC Music Foundation from 1996 to 2015.

The LiederNet Archive provides access to both original out-of-copyright song texts and copyright-protected translations submitted by over 500 volunteer translators. The website is indexed by composer, text poet or author, first line, title, or language; and it allows you to do words or phrases searches. It is frequently cited as a source in musical studies, where the website's aggregate listings of settings of songs and poems may be more complete or more easily accessible than conventional musicological resources.

The Music Scene (magazine)

The Music Scene (fr: La Scene musicale) is a Canadian bilingual quarterly magazine that promotes classical music in Canada. The magazine was established by Wah Keung Chan in September 1996. Each issue contains a comprehensive calendar of concerts, CD, DVD and book reviews, interviews with musicians as well as feature articles on the local, national and international classical music scenes.

It is a free magazine published at least six times a year. 42,000 copies are distributed in total: 18,000 in Ontario, 5,000 copies each in Winnipeg, Edmonton and Calgary, and 9000 copies in British Columbia.

La Scène musicale/The Music Scene is their all-English version of the magazine, while their free monthly magazine is bilingual (English & French). The English version was started in 2002.The Music Scene is non-profit, and is dedicated to promoting classical music. Each issue contains a calendar of concerts, CD reviews, interviews, and feature articles. The printed version is distributed across Canada with emphasis in the Montreal, Quebec City and Ottawa-Gatineau regions. Copies are also sent to music schools and record stores. An electronic version is available on their website.


In music theory about musical form, through-composed music is relatively continuous, non-sectional, or non-repetitive music. A song is said to be through-composed if it has different music for each stanza of the lyrics. This is in contrast to strophic form, in which each stanza is set to the same music. Sometimes the German durchkomponiert is used to indicate the same concept. Musicologist James Webster says of the term:

In general usage, a 'through-composed' work is one based on run-on movements without internal repetitions. (The distinction is especially characteristic of the literature of the art-song, where such works are contrasted with strophic settings.)

Many examples of this form can be found in Schubert's Lieder, where the words of a poem are set to music and each line is different, for example, in his Lied "Der Erlkönig" ("The Elf King"), in which the setting proceeds to a different musical arrangement for each new stanza and whenever the piece comes to each character, the character portrays its own voice register and tonality. Another example is Haydn's 'Farewell Symphony'.A good deal of Captain Beefheart's oeuvre is through-composed. No section of Ary Barroso's 1939 samba "Brazil" repeats; however, a second set of lyrics in English allows the melody to be sung through twice.


Éntekhno (Greek: έντεχνο, pronounced ['endexno], art song, pl: éntekhna [tragoudia]) is orchestral music with elements from Greek folk rhythm and melody. Its lyrical themes are often based on the work of famous Greek poets. Éntekhno arose in the late 1950s, drawing on rebetiko's westernization by Vassilis Tsitsanis and Manolis Chiotis. Mikis Theodorakis and Manos Hatzidakis were the most popular early composers of éntekhno song cycles.

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