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Dec 2012
Look, I made a Hat - Stephen Sondheim - Virgin Books, 2011
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The problem with artists - good ones anyway - is that they never do precisely what you would like them to. At the end of my review of Finishing the Hat, I expressed the hope that the second volume would have something to say about how Sondheim's words and music fit together. No such luck. He says that he can't write about the musical side without "jargon". But at least he could have explained whether the music or the words come first. I think it's like a crossword, where the music forms the grid and the words must be fitted in, but it's odd that the facsimiles of his lyric development notes never seem to have musical ideas associated with them. Despite this lack, it's good to have a book that covers the latter part of Sondheim's career, for it features what I consider to be his best work and has an interesting example of the evolutions that a musical can go through to reach its final form.

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mtvessel: (Default)
Jan 2011
Finishing the Hat - Stephen Sondheim - Virgin Publishing, 2010
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Examine my CD collection and you would probably conclude that Stephen Sondheim is my favourite composer. While that isn't quite true, I do consider him to be a genius who has almost single-handedly developed the musical from a lightweight entertainment into a substantial art form with important things to say about human nature and society (in contrast to contemporary opera, which if anything has moved in the opposite direction). Many of his songs also have a strong emotional resonance for me, particularly the ones that he likes most himself: Finishing the Hat and Someone in a Tree, the last such a perfect evocation of the joy of being young, alive and in the moment that it regularly makes me cry. So a book by him was always going to be on my wish list.
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