From the Artistic Director

Welcome to the newly formed Cincinnati Song Initiative, which seeks to bring exciting and relevant art song programs to all corners of the greater Cincinnati area and beyond. Through its innovative programming, audiences will enjoy attending an array of performances which are part of intriguing large-scale thematic series. These projects could be completed during a single concert, last throughout an entire season, or span multiple seasons.

After a thrilling end to CSI's inaugural 2016-2017 season that included a world premiere by composer Juliana Hall, we were excited to unveil our first-ever Summer Festival concert in June. Our second season, coming fall 2017, will see the continuation of our SURVEY OF LES SIX series, as well as the ongoing AMERICANA series, which celebrates the vast song output by composers from our own country. Americana also serves as a conduit for fostering commissions and world premieres of brand new works, which remains a cornerstone of CSI's mission to make a lasting contribution to the art song genre. Other exciting announcements for our second season will follow later this summer.

Please consider donating to help the organization fund its operations; your contribution is tax-deductible to the fullest extent of the law.  And subscribe to our mailing list to stay in the loop regarding concerts and other news!

Warm regards,
Samuel Martin
Founder & Artistic Director

About CSI


"Best Newcomer to the Classical Music Community"

Artistry.  Communication.  Collaboration.  Innovation.

What is CSI All About?

Cincinnati Song Initiative was founded to bring a concentrated and cohesive source of art song to the greater Cincinnati area. Dedicated to providing unique experiences through the power of poetry and music, each performance creates a sense of relevance and active engagement between performers and audiences. This is achieved not only through song, but also through spoken dialogue by the artists, which provides a context and historical background that connects audiences to the repertoire. Concerts take place at different venues throughout the Queen City in order to connect with its many vibrant communities and explore all it has to offer.

What Makes CSI Different?

At the core of CSI is its innovative programming model: large-scale thematic projects and series that take multiple concerts to complete. Each concert features singers and pianists of national renown, providing an unparalleled level of artistry within the context of an intimate and accessible atmosphere. The CSI artist roster rotates seasonally, allowing for audiences to experience a fresh variety of voice types and artistic personalities. Furthermore, Cincinnati Song Initiative remains devoted to the innovation of art song, commissioning and premiering new works to help lead the genre into the twenty-first century and connect more closely with today's audiences.

You are warmly encouraged to join CSI in exploring the deep and sustaining power of song within the context of today's society.

What is art song?


What is art song?

An art song is a vocal music composition, usually written for one voice with piano accompaniment, and usually in the classical tradition. By extension, the term "art song" is used to refer to the genre of such songs. An art song is most often a musical setting of an independent poem or text, intended for the concert repertory as part of a recital or other occasion.

Intriguing!  Tell me more.

Art song comes from all corners of the earth, without there being a definitive country of origin. The modern art song began to develop during the mid- to late sixteenth century as concern for textual interpretation grew. In other words, performers began to place more importance on having an obvious emotional and musical reaction to the texts they were singing. The genre has never stopped developing since, and continues to be a living, breathing art form to this day.

We typically refer to art songs from specific countries by that country's native word for "song."  Below is a short list of examples:

  • Italian canzione
  • Spanish canción
  • German Lieder
  • French mélodie

What isn't art song?

Art song is separate from music for the theater, such as operas or musicals. Folk songs are a separate genre as well, although many composers arrange such songs with piano accompaniment for the concert stage. For example, Aaron Copland's Old American Songs, Benjamin Britten's Folk Song arrangements, and the Siete canciones populares españolas (Seven Spanish Folk Songs) by Manuel de Falla are all considered art songs because of their intended use for recital settings. Additionally, songs set to biblical or sacred texts intended for religious services are not art songs, but those written for the concert stage are. An example is Johannes Brahms' monumental cycle Vier ernste Gesänge (Four Serious Songs), which is based on biblical texts and intended for the concert stage, thus deeming it art song.

In other words...

An art song strives to be the perfect combination of music and literature, based on four elements: poet, composer, singer and accompanist. The composer uses the full resources of the art form to embellish the poet’s text, sometimes even realizing potential interpretations that were not explicit in the poet’s words. In well-realized art song, the composer creates a duet between the accompanist and the vocalist. That is, the art song paints for us a picture of what the poet might have envisioned. The performance of an art song literally breathes life into this picture through a complementary, coordinated partnership among the four significant elements.
— Artsong Update

Give me an example!

"Animal Passion" is an American art song composed by Jake Heggie, set to poetry by Gini Savage.  Nicolle Foland sings in this recording, with the composer himself at the piano.  Do you think the music and the performers' interpretation matches the feisty nature of the poetry?

Now that you know us...