We aim to provide a forum for musicians to connect around the genre of art song as a living, evolving form. The idea of “art song” began in the 19th Century as a Eurocentric genre with poetic text for a singer accompanied by the piano. Art song has developed into a form that defies an agreed-upon definition. It is a genre that has and will continue to evolve as long as words and music are joined.
Commentary by Ned Rorem
“What, you may well ask, is an art song? I myself had composed dozens before ever hearing the term, and suddenly realized—like the Molière character who learns he's been speaking prose all his life—how clever I'd been. Yet then as now I mistrusted the term, found it pompous, never used it. For "art song" is not a description but an opinion, defensively American, coined to distinguish the genre—in kind if not in quality—from "pop song."
- The American Art Song from 1930 to 1960: A Personal Survey by Ned Rorem.
Definition from Lori Laitman
“An artsong is a song that sets words to music using compositional techniques that stem from the classical tradition. The text can come from a variety of sources: poems, letters, a libretto, a speech, etc.
The majority of artsongs have been scored for voice with collaborative piano. However, more than one voice can be used; any instrument(s) can accompany the voice; and if desired, the voice(s) can sing without accompaniment.”
Origin of term and definition from Oxford English Dictionary
“art song n. [after German Kunstlied (1837 or earlier); compare earlier Kunstlied n. at Kunst n. e] a song composed with a view to aesthetic or artistic effect, typically a setting of a poem for solo voice with piano accompaniment; cf. Lied n.”
- Oxford English Dictionary, https://libguides.up.edu/english/books
The members of the NATS Art Song Coalition agree that in its resistance to being defined, art song invites the innovation that is essential for living art form. We aim to foster this innovation, while serving as stewards of the works that make up the canon of this genre, which positions the blending of text and music at the fore. Perhaps Libby Larsen, one of our great modern composers of the genre, says it best:
"Artsong is one of our most vital and communicative musical genres – it flows and carries with it the language of our changing times.”
- Libby Larsen
Art Song Update, https://www.artsongupdate.org/Articles/What%20is%20Art%20Song.htm
The Art Song Coalition aims to:
NATS Art Song Competition Award Committee
Mentoring Initiatives Committee
Auditions and Competitions Committee
Tom Cipullo and Lori Laitman have generously offered to create a program in which they, Juliana Hall, Anthony Davis and additional experienced composers to be named, provide a year of mentorship for young composers of art song. In this inaugural year, we will choose African American composers as mentees. More information to come.
Nicole Leupp Hanig, Chair
D. Brian Lee
Karen Brunssen, Past President
Art Song Coalition Committee Advisors