(Finishing the Hat Collected Lyrics 1954 1981 With Attendant Comments Principles Heresies Grudges Whines and Anecdotes) PDF READ Æ Stephen Sondheim
So much of what I could say in a review of Sondheim s lovely book of lyrics Finishing the Hat is touched upon by singersongwriter Paul Simon in an article he wrote for The New York Times will only add my own thoughts which are wordy because I love the man When I was a freshman in my rural Iowa high school I took vocal lessons with a local college instructor Hollis Dobref who later went on to work with Jason Smith to develop up and coming jazz artists at The School for Music Vocations The school didn t start until 1991 when I was off in college 70 miles away I didn t have a lot of musical knowledge outside of classical band and choral stuff we sang my family s Ella Fitzgerald collection and late 70s and 80s radio music My first song with Hollis was I Remember Sky from Stephen Sondheim s TV musical Evening PrimroseI was fascinated by the images the dark and apocalyptic feel of the lyricsI remember leavesGreen as spearmintCrisp as paperI remember treesBare as coat racksSpread like broken umbrellasI went to our small high school library I graduated in a class of less than a hundred but found almost nothing on Sondheim I went to our miniscule Matilda J Gibson Memorial Library our town population had at one point topped 8000 but has since been hovering in the low 7000s and found albums of A Little Night Music Gypsy West Side Story and Sweeney Todd Then I was hooked I went to our community college library which was run by my foster mom and found even A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum Company FolliesI never found out much about Evening Primrose until college I hid my love of Sondheim s complex cerebral music and lyrics in small town Iowa I was scared closeted and sill primarily addicted to playsThis book his major lyrics up to 1984 was a gift for Christmas it s also a clear indication that I have left my self imposed hiding I sat and listened to many recordings as I read the lyrics thoughts and anecdotes Sondheim is only snippy and gossipy once and he eschews criticizing living lyricists Finishing the Hat is only a partial picture he still has to cover 1984 on and there are several small songs I hope he includes one offs like I Never Do Anything Twice and the music from the film Dick Tracy Also ou cannot hear his artistic and odd stirring composition unless ou do what I did curling up with the book and taking it slow listening to several cast recordings and artist albums Wow that was self indulgent and gay of meI will say this about Sondheim s supposed lack of heart and hummable tunes I fell in love with the complexity the intricacy of his lyrics I loved that ou had to listen to the music several times to understand the structure My friends will tell ou I simply live for being exposed to intellectually and emotionally challenging ideas I have always loved things that combine humor with thought provoking ideas and I think very few artists in any medium do that as well as SondheimOtherwise I agree with Paul Simon Sondheim has challenged and changed the modern theatrical landscape for the better I agree with Broadway star Mandy Patinkin that Sondheim may well be the Shakespeare of our age I also agree with Simon when he says a simple lyric or clich after a complex lyric or image may help the audience breathe this is something Sondheim just does not do Sondheim piles on ideas and imagery and witty turns of phrase and intricate rhymes one after the other not allowing his audience to breathe In fact have been holding my breath since that day in 1984 I first met his workI ll include the lyrics to A Little Priest from Sweeney Todd For the two people who don t know the story Victorian barber Todd has just murdered a man blackmailing him He s also ravaged with fury plotting revenge on the world for the injustices he faced He plans to kill again His landlady the besotted pie seller Mrs Lovett has a brilliant idea for getting rid of Todd s bodiesMRS LOVETTSeems a downright shameTODD ShameLOVETTSeems an awful wasteSuch a nice plump frameWot s is name hasHadHasNor it can t be tracedBus ness needs a liftDebts to be erasedThink of it as thriftAs a giftIf ou get my driftNoSeems an awful wasteI mean with the price of meatWhat it isWhen شرح جنون تفسير موضوعي ديوان حافظ you get itIfou get itTODD HAHLOVETTGood Language and Linguistic Diversity in the Us you got itTake for instance Mrs Mooney and her pie shopBus ness never better using only pussycats and toastAnd a pussy s good for maybe six or seven at the mostAnd I m sure they can t compare as far as tasteSimultaneouslyTODDMrs Lovett what a charming notionLOVETTWell it does seem a wasteTODDEminently practicalAndet appropriate as alwaysLOVETTIt s an ideaTODDMrs Lovett how I ve livedWithout Die Bischöfin von Rom you all theseears I ll never knowHow delectableAlso undetectableLOVETTThink about itLots of other gentlemen llSoon be comin for a shaveWon t theyThink ofAll themPiesTODDHow choiceHowRareTODDFor what s the sound of the world out thereLOVETTWhat Mr ToddWhat Mr ToddWhat is that soundTODDThose crunching noises pervading the airLOVETTYes Mr ToddYes Mr ToddYes all aroundTODDIt s man devouring man my dearBOTHAnd LOVETT Then who are we to deny it in hereTODD spoken These are desperate timesMrs Lovett and desperate measures are called forLOVETT Here we are now Hot out of the ovenTODD What is thatLOVETTIt s priest Have a little priestTODDIs it really goodLOVETTSir it s too good at leastThen again they don t commit sins of the fleshSo it s pretty freshTODDAwful lot of fatLOVETTOnly where it satTODDHaven t ou got poet or something like thatLOVETTNo see the trouble with poet is Ow Do You It S you know s the priestTODD spoken HeavenlyNot as hearty as bishop perhapsbut then again not as bland as curate eitherLOVETTAnd good for business too always leaves ou wantin Trouble is we only get it on SundaysLawyer s rather niceTODDIf it s for a priceLOVETTOrder something else though to followSince no one should swallow it twiceTODDAnything that s leanLOVETTWell then if ou re British and loyalYou might enjoy Royal MarineAnyway it s cleanThough of course it tastes of wherever it s beenTODDIs that suireOn the fireLOVETTMercy no sir look closerYou ll notice it s grocerTODDLooks thickerMore like vicarLOVETTNo it has to be grocer It s greenTODDThe history of the *World My Love LOVETTSave A *my love LOVETTSave a of gravesDo a lot of relatives favorsTODDIs those below serving those up aboveLOVETTEv rybody shavesSo there should be plenty of flavorsTODDHow gratifying for once to knowBOTHThat those above will serve those down belowLOVETT spoken Now let s see here We ve got tinkerTODD Something pinkerLOVETT TailorTODD PalerLOVETT ButlerTODD SubtlerLOVETT PotterTODD HotterLOVETT LocksmithLovely bit of clerkTODDMaybe for a larkLOVETTThen again there s sweepIf Declaration of Purposes of the Patrons of Husbandry you want it cheapAndou like it darkTry the financierPeak of his careerTODDThat looks pretty rankLOVETTWell he drankIt s a bankCashierNever really soldMaybe it was oldTODDHave Die Reisenden you any BeadleLOVETTNext week so I m toldBeadle isn t bad tillou smell it andNotice ow well it s been greasedStick to priestspoken Now then this might be a little bit stringybut then of course it s fiddle playerTODD No this isn t fiddle player it s piccolo playerLOVETT Ow can Undercover Pregnancy you tellTODD It s piping hotLOVETT Then blow on it firstTODDThe history of the world my sweet LOVETTOh Mr ToddOoh Mr ToddWhat does it tellTODDIs who gets eaten and who gets to eatLOVETTAnd Mr ToddToo Mr ToddWho gets to sellTODDBut fortunately it s also clearBOTHThat L But ev rybody goes down well with beerLOVETT spokenSince marine doesn t appeal toou ow about rear admiralTODD Too salty I prefer generalLOVETT With or without his privates With is extraTODD What is thatLOVETTIt s fopFinest in the shopAnd we have some shepherd s pie pepperedWith actual shepherd on topAnd I ve just begun Here s the politician so oilyIt s served with a doilyHave oneTODDPut it on a bunWell ยอดบุรุษพลิกคดี เล่ม 1 you never know if it s going to runLOVETTTry the friarFried it s drierTODDNo the clergy is reallyToo coarse and too mealyLOVETTThen actorThat s compacterTODDYes and always arrives overdoneI ll come again whenou have JUDGE on the menuLOVETT spoken Wait True we don t have judge Hummer yetbut we ve got somethingou might fancy even betterTODD What s thatLOVETT ExecutionerTODDHave charity towards the world my petLOVETTYes es I know my loveTODDWe ll take the customers that we can getLOVETTHigh born and low my loveTODDWe ll not discriminate great from smallNo we ll serve anyoneMeaning anyoneBOTHAnd to anyoneAt all When I first heard about this book I wasn t too excited For some reason I was under the impression that it was just a collection of the lyrics Nice to have but really not that necessary since ahem I already know them all by heart I dutifully ordered the book from the library though this is Sondheim we re talking about after all When it came in and I took a closer look at it I realized how wrong I d been and immediately sat down and started reading This is the book Sondheim fans have been waiting for and it was a great great pleasure to read it Far from being just the lyrics the book has a wealth of material about the songs the productions and musical theater in generalIncluded are a brief preface in which Sondheim outlines his mantra for lyric writing a general introduction and a short essay on rhyme After the introductory materials come the lyrics for all the shows from Saturday Night in 1954 to Merrily We Roll Along in 1981 Threaded throughout the lyrics are Sondheim s notes about specific songs and the conditions of their writing as well as how and why he made certain creative decisions Along the way Sondheim gives us critical commentary about many of the great lyricists He comments on none who are still living though speaking ill exclusively of the dead seems to me the gentlemanly thing to do he writesIt s fascinating to hear Sondheim mention Noel Coward as a writer whose lyrics I cordially but intensely dislike and to find out why later in the book or to learn that he is bored by Gilbert and Sullivan or that he considers Dorothy Fields the most underrated of the major lyricists Irving Berlin Cole Porter Ira Gershwin Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein among others all come in for close examination Even interesting are Sondheim s views of his own work as well as the insights he offers into how he writes For instance he says of The Road You Didn t Take from Follies In the interest of full disclosure I should add that the last two lines make me glow with self satisfaction There is a detailed explanation of how he had to just make up many of the vulgar words in the Beggarwoman s son I m fascinated by people who love their Stephen Sondheim has won seven Tonys an Academy Award seven Grammys a Pulitzer Prize and the Kennedy Center Honors His career has spanned than half a century his lyrics have become synonymous with musical theater and popular culture and in Finishing the Hat titled after perhaps his most autobiographical song from Sunday in the Park with George Sondheim has not only collected his lyrics for the first time he is giving readers a rare personal look into his life as well as his remarkable productionsAlong with the lyrics for all of his musicals from 1954 to 1981 including West Side Story Company Follies A Little Night Music and Sweeney Todd Sondheim treats us to never before pub. .
Approach will be sterile While I don t dare dispute that good works can be found to adhere to articulatable principles and that craft can be found in the consistent application of those principles I guess I would take issue with Sondheim s view that there is an invariable RIGHT way to compose lyrics music or what have ouSondheim even goes so far as to argue that each of his shows respective sets of lyrics has an essence and existence distinct and independent from one another as opposed to displaying a uniue personal style with the homogeneity of voice and tone he finds within the works of Cole Porter Irving Berlin Lorenz Hart Ira Gershwin and Dorothy Fields According to Sondheim his songs individuality arises by circumstances of plot and character uniue to each production I find this to be an arrogantly myopic and unnecessary conceit Nor am I alone in this Sondheim s works are sufficiently self similar that they have been successfully re assembled into multiple reviews at least two of which Marry Me a Little and Putting it Together have complete books with plots unrelated to the songs original settings Putting it Together is the remarkable as a Sondheim meta musical in that it could credibly serve as a musical version of Who s Afraid of Virginia Woolf At one point in the second act Sondheim sLive Alone and Like It which while cut from Dick Tracy sounds much of a piece with the songs of Saturday Night is sandwiched so neatly between companion songs from A Little Night Music and Company it s clear it could have been inserted as unobtrusively in any of those three other worksIronically given Sondheim s apparent contempt of self similarity he prides himself on his capacity for mimicry both of the writing styles of his librettists and of the compositional styles of his peers Deliberate pastiche abounds in his work especially in his lush score for Follies although the line between period piece mimicry and competent fulfillment of genre expectations is a murky one In any case I m not sure why it would be a bad thing for a talented artist to demonstrate a recognizable personal style For me the lyrical tic most evident from reading this collection is Sondheim s constant contrast of life as an emblem of love meaning and fulfillment with its opposite a time honored operatic tradition in the context of eros as brilliantly documented by Peter Conrad s A Song of Love and Death The Meaning of OperaIn fact there s not a show in this book that doesn t have at least one lifedeath lyricSaturday Night And when ou re alone On a Saturday night You might as well be deadWest Side Story Make of our vows one last vow Only death will part us now He ll murder our love he murdered mineGypsy Anybody that stays home is dead Some people can sit around Under glass till they re underground That s perfect for some people Who don t know how to liveA Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum If The Alcohol Experiment you start to feel a tingle Andou like remaining single Stay home don t take a breath You could catch our death Cause love is around Anyone Can Whistle Crazy business this this life we live in Don t complain about the time we re given With so little to be sure of in this world Anyone can whistle that s what they say easyJust once I ll do it Just once before I dieDo I Hear a Waltz She s nice and sweet and dead He s tall and ineffectual They look delicious they re gonna be all rightCompany Somebody crowd me with love Somebody force me to care Somebody let me come through I ll always be there As frightened as ou To help us survive Being alive Someone to hold Spiritual Warfare for Every Christian you too close Someone to hurtou too deep Someone to bore ou to death Happily ever afterFollies Dreams ou didn t dare Are dead In Buddy s arms On Buddy s shoulder I won t get older Nothing dies One kiss before we part Not with tears or a sigh All things beautiful must die Learn how to laugh Learn how to love Learn how to live That s my styleA Little Night Music Soon I ll be Ninety and Dead Do I fear Death Let it Come to me Now If I m Dead I can Wait How can I Live until Later Every day a little death In the parlor in the bed Every move and every breath And Demonica you hardly feel a thing Brings a perfect little deathThe Frogs All aboard Club Dead Straight ahead What with the dancing and the eating And the laughing and the drinking There s no problem in retreating From the awkwardness of thinking And that ever present smidgin of dread Down here among the dead Like up there among the deadPacific Overtures Life and death are but verses in a poem The word stops the heart dies The wind counts the lost goodbyesSweeney Todd Because the lives of the wicked should be made brief For the rest of us death will be a relief We all deserve to die Not a thing to fear My love What s dead Is dead And life is for the alive my dear So let s keep living itMerrily We Roll Along Dreams don t die So keep an eye onour dream But I just go on Thinking and sweating And cursing and crying And turning and reaching And waking and dying And until I die I ll die day after dayAfter dayAnd that s but a smattering Sondheim s perpetual elevation of love and personal fulfillment to a mortal struggle a metaphorical if not literal matter of life and death is clearly his favorite themeSondheim may be oblivious to his own id e fixes but I don t think he s correct to find fault in them Personally I find the obsession fascinating in its variation and no less effective a metaphor for all its repetition from show to show With a bit of familiarity Sondheim s work can be spotted a mile away And so what s wrong with a bit of style Anyone who can toss off lines as clever as In the movies life is finerLife is cleanerBut in Brooklyn it s a minorMisdemeanor In the Movies from Saturday Night p 9orHyphenated HarrietThe nouveauFrom New Ro Chelle sitsAt the RitzWith her splitsOf Mumm sAnd starts to pineFor a steinWith her village chumsBut with a SchlitzIn her mittsDown in Fitz Roy s BarShe thinks of the Ritz ohIt s soSchizoUptownDowntown cut from Follies p 236deserves to be celebrated not condemned Sondheim claims that collections of song lyrics are superfluous given the existence of performable shows and extant recordings Neither this work nor its anticipated seuel Look I Made a Hat would have been written had not his publisher goaded him into it Well good on his publisher I m hard pressed to imagine a curmudgeon I d
RATHER READ THERE IS NOBODY LIKEread There is nobody like Much as I love Cole Porter and the Rogers and Hart and Rogers and Hammerstein musicals it s Sondheim who sings to meThis collection of lyrics to his musicals from West Side Story in 1957 to Merrily We Roll Along in 1981 is enlightening Sondheim introduces each show includes the lyrics to songs that were cut and explains the dynamics between him and the producer director writer of the book choreographer and composer if he was writing only the book choreographer and composer if he was writing only the as in West Side Story Apparently Jerome Robbins was the strongest character working on that show and even Leonard Bernstein would sneak out to a bar and line up shots of whisky when Robbins went on a rampageSondheim is apparently known for writing beautiful songs for failed musicals such as Merrily We Roll Along which lasted only 16 performances and Anyone Can Whistle which lasted 9 despite its starring Angela Landsbury and Lee Remick But of course others were enormous hits like Gypsy A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and Company My favorite Sondheim show A Little Night Music was made into a deplorably weak movie which is unfortunate as most people don t get a chance to see the show on the stageThe title Finishing the Hat is taken from Sunday in the Park With George which Sondheim discusses in the second of his books of annotated lyrics Look I Made a Hat which covers 1981 2011 I mean Buckley and Wilberta yeah I don t know how else to rate this It s on a totally different scale than a novel or whatever Ifou are interested in musical theater in general and in Sondheim in particular then obviously this book is for ou But also if ou are interested in learning about how a writer who is EXTREMELY GOOD at what he does actually does what he does The Franciscan Book Of Saints you might want to look at this There is tons of good writing advice packed in here and a lot of fascinating critical self dissection along the lines of that Community post mortem Dan Harmon did in the AV Club There are a bunch of parts where Sondheim points out egregious errors in his work In time honored and universally cherished songs Songsou love and know by heart And he points out problems Sperm Gone Wild you probably never even noticed and will now not be able to unsee But for every I never should have done that and I can t believe that at the time I couldn t think of a better way to finish that line moment there is a moment where he points to something and says See what I did there That s really good And it s great It s totally entertaining and fascinating and useful Overall this is a great lesson in the importance of constraints in writing Because man does he have to work with constraints It has to not only make sense but it has to rhyme And the part at the beginning where he talks about the different kinds of rhyme and why only perfect rhymes matter was fascinating and made me want to re evaluate the lyrics of songwriters who we consider to be really good lyricists Because maybe there is a lost art thing happening there in popular music Maybe AND also about constraints there are a number of examples where some of the best songs of his career were 3rd or 4th drafts or last minute additions to the show written in hotel rooms in Boston The show wasn t working he needed to fix it It s not done until it s done The amount of cut songs in here is mind blowing He just writes and writes and writes and keeps going until it s done and then still keeps going after it s done It s really inspiring I haven t read the whole book I m skipping around from show to show and enjoying it but this was at 5 stars after the first few sections I read Company A Little Night Music in my caseReally really looking forward to the 2nd volume of this so we can dig into Assassins and the second acts of Sunday In the Park With George and Into the Woods about which I have Opinions so I cannot wait to see how they mesh and clash with His opinions A Bow for Mr SondheimStephen Sondheim Will probably forever be regarded as the finest lyricist the musical stage has known with apologies to librettist W S Gilbert or Gilbert and Sullivan fame He has always taken on stories that encourage no force the audience to relate to his ideas whether that be in the early sta. Forears to come Accompanying Sondheim’s sparkling writing are behind the scenes photographs from each production along with handwritten music and lyrics from the songwriter’s personal collection Penetrating and surprising poignant funny and sometimes provocative Finishing the Hat is not only an informative look at the art and craft of lyric writing it is a history of the theater that belongs on the same literary shelf as Moss Hart’s Act One and Arthur Miller’s Timebends It is also a book that will leave ou humming the final bars of Merrily We Roll Along while eagerly anticipating the next volume which begins with the opening lines of Sunday in the Park with George. ,
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Ork and take it seriously so even if I wasn t a musicals fan I probably would ve enjoyed this book The subtitle describes it pretty well this is a collection of Sondheim s lyrics from the first half of his career along with his commentary about the process of writing the lyrics and creating the shows He also gives uncensored opinions on other lyricists work which are saved from seeming brutal by their obvious sincerity and by the fact that he is just as hard on himself Only very occasionally does he veer into seeming a bit spiteful and then mostly about criticsThis offers fascinating insight into the process of writing lyrics and the theatre world I read every bit of commentary even that about shows I m not familiar with and I can t wait for the second volume Look I Made a Hat Collected Lyrics 1981 2011 With Attendant Comments Amplifications Dogmas Harangues Wafflings Diversions and Anecdotes Stephen Sondheim wrote all of FINISHING THE HAT covering roughly the first half of his musical career 1954 81 He reprints the lyrics and offers side remarks as to what was going on at the times these shows were composed This period embraces WEST SIDE STORY for which he wrote the lyrics also A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM words and music both ditto that daring pair COMPANY and FOLLIES ca 1970 Also in this volume are A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC PACIFIC OVERTURES and others To style this generous coffee table ish book in part Grudges Whines and Anecdotes may have been a little too self deprecating but in so doing Sondheim did grant himself leave to digress which he does upon occasion Never mind even the digressions are worthwhile After reading FINISHING THE HAT ou realize All Clear you needn t have bothered with about two thirds of the writing by critics and journalists in other books and media who are not Stephen Sondheim Followed by LOOK I MADE A HAT I do realize that the earlier book in seuence is called FINISHING THE HAT while the latter one is called LOOK I MADE A HAT 1981 2011 and that they d make better sense if the titles had been switched but since this is Stephen Sondheim I m of no mind to uibble Note If buying new the canny consumer can usually get a discount if the two vols are purchased simultaneouslyPhoto Stephen Sondheim and Leonard Bernstein 1955 I poked away at this forears dipping in and out before finally finishing this week Sheer genius Can t wait to crack Volume 2 What does it mean to make art Does the artist create and nurture his work or does it feed on him consuming his life until he is forever finishing the hat Paging through Stephen Sondheim s recent memoircommentaryanthology I couldn t help wonderingIn his book Sondheim discusses the principles and heresies of lyric composition at the level of a technical master analyzing himself and his deceased contemporaries with all the precision of his own best lyrics He writes as he is a curmudgeonly veteran of the stage who spares nothing and no one from criticism Having performed Sondheim musicals on the stage I am familiar with the challenge his work presents to performers and audiences but it was only by reading Sondheim s own meticulous notes that I discovered an inkling of his true genius His lyrics are simple even conversational and elaborate each syllable and consonant contending with and complimenting the score By some strange alchemy Sondheim reconciles the maxims Less is and God is in the details And To Be Continued yet these clear true beautiful lyrics are from a man with a bleak loveless childhood a gay man who has never sustained a long term relationship in his 20 plusears out of the closet The book offers no bridge to that gap except to invite the conclusion that Sondheim like George of Sunday in the Park is always finishing the hat distracted from real life by the art he draws it from All in all a fascinating read that like its author both illuminates and fascinates Look I m a music theater buff and a Sondheim freak So it was preordained that I would love this book Actually I was expecting to find it redundant if not nostalgia inducing inasmuch as I have long owned and adored copies of his scores and libretti and near memorized recordings of every Sondheim show save the unloveable mess that is Road Show about which Chinas History (Sinopedia Series) you can read my review elsewhere on Goodreads However I can confidently tellou that ANYbody with even a PASSing interest in theater would delight in reading this book It kicks off with an extended and fascinating essay on what distinguishes song lyrics from poetry proceeds chronologically through Sondheim s writings including lyrics to cut and rewritten songs from the chamber piece Saturday Night it took than 50 Spaces of Modernity years to see produced through to 1981 s Merrily We Roll Along Unlike the Golden Age collections of lyrics edited by Robert Kimball Sondheim s is heavily interlarded with both contextualizing plot synopses he thanks the efforts of his liner notes authors for their ahem inspiration and Sondheim s own annotations witticisms and criticisms It is the latter of these that make this such an invaluable book it s chock full of insight not just to Sondheim s work ethic but to his attitudes about lyric writing in generalBut wait there s In addition to collecting lyrics from thirteen different shows Finishing the Hat is full of great examples that illustrate his principles from various writers including Dorothy Parker as well as constructively critical assessments of his professional predecessors Oscar Hammerstein Noel Coward Alan Jay Lerner Ira Gershwin Frank Loesser et al Best of all the book is rich with photostats of handwritten early drafts andou can thereby see the master at work it s all about filling the margins with a brainstormed thesaurus of useable phrases and coupletsSondheim makes no bones about being both opinionated and rigid when it comes to the subject of lyric writing I ve already written about this in the comments to GoodReader Trevor s typically excellent review of Jay Parini s Why Poetry Matters In the context of Parini Trevor uotedRoyal Society of Literature Fellow and OBE Don Paterson s distinction between poetry and song lyrics which I found to dovetail uite nicely with Sondheim s opinionsFrom pp xvii xviii of the Introduction Sondheim writesMusical theater Lyrics even poetic ones are not poems Poems are written to be read silently or aloud not sungPoetry is an art of concision lyrics of expansion Poems depend on packed images on *resonance and juxtaposition on density every reader absorbs *and juxtaposition on density Every reader absorbs poem at his own pace inflecting it with his Own Rhythms Stresses And Tone The Tempo Is Less rhythms stresses and tone The tempo is dictated less what the intends than by the reader s comprehension All of us as we read poetry prose too slow down speed up even stop to reread when overwhelmed by the extravagance of the images or confused by the grammatical eccentricities The poet may guide us with punctuation and layout and seduce us with the subtle abutment of words and sounds but it is we readers who supply the musical treatmentPoetry can be set to music gracefully as Franz Schubert and a long line of others have proved but poetry doesn t need music lyrics doLyrics are not light verse either Light verse doesn t demand music because it supplies its own All those emphatic rhythms ringing rhymes repeated refrains the poem sings as it s being read This is why The Pied Piper has never been set well take away the singsong and Like the Roman you destroy the poem keep it in the music andou bore the listener mercilessly with rhythmic repetition Music tends to hammer light verse into monotony or shatter its grace Light verse is complete unto itself Lyrics by definition lack something if they don t they re probably not good lyricsHowever to cite but one counter example I ve always thought that Samuel Coleridge Taylor s setting of Longfellow s Song of Hiawatha was both fun and also true to the light verse original without being sing songy So notwithstanding Sondheim s incredible talent vast experience and estimable success as against my utter non entitude I m not sure I m prepared to agree with the man 100%Examples of his extreme fussiness abound Take this line from Silly Peoplea contemptuously chromatic song cut from A Little Night Music p 279 When now it smilesIt smiles for loversWhen next it smilesIt smiles for foolsThe last it smilesIt smiles for themThe othersThe rememberersThe truly silly people There s probably some Hammerstein influence here Hello Young Lovers from The King and I and perhaps a bit of Lorenz Hart as well Bewitched Bothered and Bewildered from Pal Joey Sondheim s rightfully proud of the song as a whole which was cut for reasons of pacing and character but then he finds it necessary to addOne point in the lyric worth noting the unfortunate juxtaposition of lovers and others When a musical parallel seems to call for a rhyme and either none is available or it would neaten the structure too much the solution is to use two words which sonically have nothing to do with each other so that the ear doesn t register them as a near miss That had been for me anyhow a problem with Together Wherever We Go in Gypsy where at the end of the chorus Together and Wherever were sung slowly sounding as if they should rhyme In that case the fogginess of the near rhyme was partly mitigated by the two words coming together in the title so that it seemed part of the fabric of the lyric Here the word others was the only word that I wanted to use and I couldn t avoid the juxtaposition Much as I like this song the sound of others still makes the word a wrong choice Given comments like this one might suppose that Sondheim would accede to the idea that a computer program could be devised which through algorithm and dictionary alone as opposed to databases of exemplars could consistently churn out original and emotionally resonant works with few if any boners No doubt there are AI s out there that produce good facsimiles of poetry and song I ve heard some great MIDI fractal generators which fed enough pieces to analyze can occasionally mimic music composition fairly well and no doubt either that eventually a Kurzweill will produce a program that devises one or pieces which an educated musicologist cannot distinguish as automated in origin though I would nonetheless credit the programmer for the output I don t ultimately see a distinction between the creative abilities of human versus artificial intelligence I just think that any effective artistic statement reuires variation among a set of one or many factors including changeable rules and input while strict adherence to a one size fits all. Lished songs from each show songs that were cut or discarded before seeing the light of day He discusses his relationship with his mentor Oscar Hammerstein II and his collaborations with extraordinary talents such as Leonard Bernstein Arthur Laurents Ethel Merman Richard Rodgers Angela Lansbury Harold Prince and a panoply of others The anecdotes filled with history pointed observations and intimate details transport us back to a time when theater was a major pillar of American culture Best of all Sondheim appraises his work and dissects his lyrics as well as those of others offering unparalleled insights into songwriting that will be studied by fans and aspiring songwriters.