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Choral public domain library.

Managed by Rafael Ornes. {Accessed November-December 2007) [Requires a Web browser and an Internet connection. Downloading scores may require software dependent on the file format.]

The Choral Public Domain Library (CPDL) is a free, Web-based, wild-style portal dedicated to providing free, legal scores of choral music. Rafael Ornes, minister of music at Valley Presbyterian Church in Portola Valley, California, started CPDL. in 1998. The tore of the "Wiki way" is collaborative self-governance. With Ornes as the site manager, users contribute the majority of content and are encouraged to report or fix errors as they are detected. In addition to content where copyright has lapsed, composers are welcome to add their own original scores to the database.

The goals of the CPDL are well defined:

* To make sheet music available for free.

* To create a website for public domain music that includes only legally downloadable scores.

* To develop a viable collaborative model for sheet music distribution.

* To publish scores that are not otherwise commercially viable.

* To create a website that catalogs a large number of Free sheet music websites.

The interface for CPDI, has the look and feel of a Wiki (i is a Wiki, and identifies itself as "ChoralWiki" in different parts of the database), and requires no special software- for searching and browsing, but it has a number of requirements for downloading scores in various formats. The record for each entry is supplied with a legend that identifies in which format the score is available. The legend also indicates other types of files, such as picture files (.GIF) and Midi sound files (.MID). The vast majority of scores are available as .PDF (portable document formal) files, which require installation of the free Adobe Acrobat reader. Some scores are uploaded as Sibelius notation files. Files of this type require Scorch, a free utility that allows the user to view, play, and print Sibelius scores from the Internet. Alternatively, users can download the free demo version of the full Sibelius notation program. Other files are submitted as Finale notation files, which require the Finale viewer, or Finale Notepad (Notepad is preferable, as ii allows more options for editing, and Finale viewer does not operate under Windows 95).


CPDL contains approximately 8,857 score pages, and 1,245 composer pages from over 320 contributors, The site is updated regularly, with new scores being added almost daily. Navigation around the site is intuitive. The interface is not very slick in design. Its appearance follows the general Wiki model, which has more to do with the concept of uncomplicated collaborative document editing than it does with cosmetic aspects. Information on the main page of the portal is clearly described. Users are given the option to search or, as many users prefer, browse by score or composer. For browsing, each of these two divisions is further divided by subcategories. The score subcategories organize music by genre: sacred music (e.g., Anglican chant, evening canticles, shape notes); secular music (e.g., barbershop, folksongs, villanci-cos): historic period (e.g., classical, baroque); and number of voices (from unison to 16 parts). There is another subcategory for style of accompaniment (e.g., ensemble, keyboard, orchestra, jazz band), which is largely incomplete. The composer subcategories are grouped by era, and by nationality and ethnicity. There is also a subcategory for women composers, as well as an A--Z listing of all composers. The composer and score lists are also available as PDF documents, with links into the database, but these pages tend to be more out-of-date than the more dynamic HTML lists. There are several other browsing options available to users. The database has a catalog of score requests from users who do not volunteer on CDPL. This category can be browsed for all requests, requests pending, requests completed, and copyright-restricted requests. Particularly helpful is the browsable list of historical music publications. Representative examples include 100 Carols for Choirs (David Willcocks and John Rutter, ed. [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987]), the liber usualis (New York: Desclee Company, 1961), and the Congregational. Anthem Book (Eric Thinian, ed. [London: Independent Press, 1959]). Users should not be misled into thinking that the entire content of these publications is available (except the Liber, which is downloadable as a thoroughly indexed .PDF file). Much of the content in these collections of publications is not public domain. When that is the case, users are provided with links to purchasing information. Texts and translations can also be browsed, as can an index of contributors, CDPL-linked sites, and extensive help pages.


CPDL currently provides 2,232 texts and translations of all varieiies of choral compositions. The site manager has outlined very specific guidelines for those wanting to post translations or texts. As with the Scores and Composers areas of CPDL, users can browse texts by subcategories, which are further divided by languages, including: Catalan, Church Slavonic, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Latin, Latvian, Russian, Spanish, and Swedish. The number of entries varies greatly, from one entry available in Latvian, to an undetermined number of entries in English. On 1 December 2007, a call was put out for contributors willing to translate the help pages into a variety of languages, as people would be more likely to post content if they could read these instn.icl.ions in their own tongue. An indispensable part of the text catalog is the contents of the 150 psalms, available in Latin and/or English. Pertinent information about numbering peculiarities between the Latin Vulgate and Hebrew bibles are explained, and several examples of these differences are listed. Performance information for the psalms and a monthly scheme for reading the Psalter are also featured.


For simple searches, the user is provided with the familiar single text box, where search terms can be entered. The advanced search mode is somewhat less transparent, in that the user is presented with only one search box, but is able to choose between two buttons that return different results. The "Go" button (simple search) returns exact matches, and the "Search" button (advanced search) retrieves results from full text, without trying to match on the exact page title. The database would benefit from field-specific searching that can be customized to user specifications (e.g., "Pergolesi" as author, "Stabat Mater" as title phrase). This would provide most users with a more familiar format, and more control over the elements being searched. There are, however, detailed instructions for retrieving scores based on these criteria. It is not clear how record fields are indexed.

I performed a sample query for Mass set-lings by Charles Wood (1866-1926). Using the terms "wood masses" as prescribed by the instructions, I executed a search in "simple search" mode. I retrieved no exact page tide matches, but I did gel three results on text matches. The first result displayed the composer's page, the second result linked to the "requested articles" page, and the third result was a title level record for Missa I'orUte Honoris. The last result provided the option to display the complete score in .PDF and Sibelius 4 formats, as well as individual movements in .PDF format only. I applied the same terms in the "advanced search" mode, and retrieved identical results. 1 performed another search using the terms "handel oratorios" which resulted in no title pages, and an unspecified number of page text matches. By clicking on the link to display up to 500 records on the page, I was able to see that there were a total of 113 records that matched my search. A simple, numerical display of the exact number of records retrieved would be a useful, time saving enhancement.


In broad terms, CPDL provides a variety of standard repertory which can benefit music librarians and their clients. Content ranges from simple hymns, such as Be Thou My Vision, to Handel's Zadok the Priest with downloadable vocal score, full score, and parts. Not all large scale works contain complete movements, and not all works contain parts. Less common works, such as Tallis' forty-part, motel.. Spam in (ilium nun-quam liabui may offer remarkable detail in editorial commentary, and divisions of parts. For this work, users have access to the full score, part books containing eight equal voices from each part, individual choral scores with other parts reduced, and individual scores with no parts reduced.

The practicality of CPDL becomes apparent with access to works such as the Tallis motet: many libraries may keep a non-circulating reference copy of the full score, but no circulating copy for students to charge out.. Students can download a copy of the score, and mark it as needed for study. Moreover, the availability of all parts in various configurations would allow performance organizations with low budgets to offer works like this to the public.

Regarding links to sites outside of CPDL, (here is no way Co determine their number in an efficient way. There is a disclaimer when linking outside of CPDL: it essentially states that CPDL assumes no responsibility for copyright, content, and access issues. Several external links I tested seemed to meet all these criteria. The overriding issue for linking to exterior sites is that, they simply may not work. For convenience, it would be helpful to have the external links partitioned off in a separate area of the database. CPDL does list Web sites that contain music listed in the Wiki.

As with other collaborative information sharing tools in the Wiki format, CPDL encourages communication with other users through forums, on topics that range from policy, proposals, and technical discussions, to a new members area. The forums provide ample space for collaborative problem solving, which is such a vital element in working within this "distributed" environment. One of the fundamentals of Web site assessment, that librarians emphasize to their students is determining a site's credibility by evaluating an author's credentials, which can be difficult at CPDL. That does not at all suggest that contributors are submitting erroneous or questionable material; indeed, many contributors do have biographical./educational information posted. It would be useful to require mandatory biographical profiles for each contributor.

The CPDL project provides a valuable resource to the choral music community. It is precisely this community that brings order to the database. Combined efforts of regular contributors (numbering over three hundred), and a site manager with keen organizational skills, demonstrate a clear vision of what the database should be: a work in progress, in the most literal sense, with any contributor having the potential to be composer, transcriber, or editor.



Westminster Choir College of Rider University
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Author:Terrio, Robertd.
Article Type:Website overview
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2008
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