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Introducing SongHelix: Searching for Music Made Easier

By Anne Morrow, Head of Digital Scholarship Services at the Marriott Library

If you’re a professional vocalist of classical compositions, singing at recitals and concerts may be the primary way you share your talent with a larger audience. While it’s often customary that vocalists select the songs they wish to perform, even for seasoned performers, selecting scores can be a cumbersome and time-consuming experience. For example, say the Humane Society is holding a benefit concert and has invited you to sing a song suitable for an audience of ardent animal lovers. A quick Google search returns loads of contemporary songs about dogs recorded by the likes of Dolly Parton, John Hiatt, and The Stooges, among others.

But contemporary music isn’t what you had in mind, as classical scores are more your thing. You recall there is a song about grieving the loss of a beloved poodle by Beethoven that would work perfectly for this occasion …. but how to locate the song? The name of the song isn’t “Poodle”; furthermore, the song’s original title is in German. The library’s online catalog is a good place to start, but, considering the library holds more than sixty thousand resources on Beethoven, finding it is going to take a while.

Wisely narrowing your search by limiting it to scores helps reduce the results to several hundred, but that’s still several hundred volumes, each containing a multitude of individual song scores. Understandably, you might begin to question whether this poodle song is really worth your time.

This is where SongHelix, a new online database of songs, comes into play. By completing a simple search of the word “poodle”, you’ll get this result.

In just two shakes of a dog’s tail you’ve found the song you had in mind — Elegie auf den Tod eines Pudels! SongHelix has shaved hours off your labor. The recital goes off without a hitch, the audience was moved to tears and the Humane Society thrilled that you used Beethoven’s elegy on grieving the loss of a beloved pet to intimately forge a connection to the audience through song. So deeply moved is the audience that the Humane Society receives an enormous number of donations, the recital is a huge success!

SongHelix is the brainchild of bass-baritone and Assistant Professor of Voice, Seth Keeton. Relying upon a navigational interface developed by Marriott Library’s Digital Scholarship Services, SongHelix allows users to explore voice recital repertoire quickly and easily.

The way SongHelix does this is by organizing songs based on their features. While technical features related to key, musical form, lyricist, and other details are included, SongHelix primarily focuses on literal and subjective features, allowing songs to be discovered based on category, relationship, action, theme, and more. According to Seth: “This index [is] an essential reference, helping singers and pianists find forgotten song repertoire as well as discover new vocal works.”

SongHelix is one of the latest collaborations of Digital Scholarship Services. Since 2007, we’ve been developing a suite of library-based publishing support services at Marriott Library in order to support the authors of emerging digital scholarship works, like Seth.

Increasingly, faculty, students, and staff are using technology in innovative ways to develop dynamic and interactive digital scholarship works. The library’s digital publishing services specialize in publishing both traditional and non-traditional scholarship works for members of the University of Utah community.

As a research library, Marriott Library is committed to capturing the intellectual capital generated at the U and making it available to a global audience. If you’d like to learn how we can help you make your scholarship available to a broader audience, or, if you’re interested in having us digitally archive and preserve your scholarship in the USpace institutional repository, we invite you to get in touch with us at

Interested in learning more about digital scholarship at the U?
Anne Morrow, Associate Librarian & Head of Digital Scholarship Services can be reached at

Check out these posts for other projects coming out of Digital Scholarship Services:
Consuming Music
Ethics of Suicide Archive
Office of Undergraduate Research


Seth Keeton explains the basics of Song Helix:
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