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Topic: Sondheim on Music

  1. #1

    Re: Sondheim on Music

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    Thanks Craig,
    It looks fascinating. I put it on my wishlist at Amazon. [img]images/icons/smile.gif[/img]

  2. #2

    Re: Sondheim on Music

    Hi Craig,

    What a great sounding book, and all the things that many stuggle with, especially the part about write bass lines.

    And the little bit you\'ve shared about his process for exploring all the possibilities for a particular melody/harmony is so revealing. He is trying the various combinations and letting that process do the writing as oppose to hearing in his mind\'s ear what should come next. I would think that process is quite different from many composers.

    In addition to writing music, you could also be a book critic to so effectively pull out these interesting points.


  3. #3

    Sondheim on Music

    I have started reading a book by Mark Eden Horowitz called Sonhheim On Music - Minor Details and Major Choices. So far, it\'s quite amazing in its depth - composition-wise.

    The book is an interview with Sondheim done under a grant from the Library of Congress (who has all of SS manuscripts) over a three day period. It\'s all about his compositional process. How SS approaches melody, phrasing, harmony, counterpoint, form, ... What he learned working with Bernstein and others; what he has learned from the study of Gershwin, Porter, Kern, ... Lots of details like writing target chord that he wants to get to in 8-16 or 32 bars, then figuring out how to get there. Approaches to writing bass for a melody. His notation for showing chords (very interesting) How he considers countless possibilities in melody and harmony - like Kern before he settles on one. How he makes his music interesting and what make the songs by the greats interesting. The books shows musical examples almost every page. I have read many bios about composers (though this is not a bio) and have never seen this much information on the craft of composing short of theory books. The more you understand music theory, the more you can get out of this book.

  4. #4

    Re: Sondheim on Music

    Originally posted by Joanne Babunovic:

    In addition to writing music, you could also be a book critic to so effectively pull out these interesting points.
    <font size=\"2\" face=\"Verdana, Arial\">Gosh, I hope my music is better constructed then my book reviews ;-)

    There is a must-watch show on the Bravo channel called \"Inside The Actors Studio\" - interviews with mostly film actors, directors, playwrites, etc. It concentrates on craft and influences. James Lipton, the interviewer, had Sondheim on as a guest once. Sondheim\'s intellect was quite impressive. On that show, both Lipton and Sondheim revealed that they used the Clement Wood rhyming dictionary (both are famous for their rhymes).

    Since we are talking books, if you want to read a recently released, beautifully written, and extensively researched book, read \"Ben Franklin\" by Walter Isaacson. Another excellent composer bio is William McBrien\'s \"Cole Porter\" - what a life he had. One more: Otto Friedrich\'s Glenn Gould : A Life and Variations

    Biographies are some of my favorite reading.

  5. #5

    Re: Sondheim on Music

    Hi Craig,

    Yes, I very much enjoy Lipton\'s show on Bravo. He\'s not your run of the mill interviewer. First time I saw his program I thought \"oh my, what a strange man\". But he is perfect for the role and solicits such interesting and revealing things about his guests. I\'m sorry I missed the Songhiem show.

    Thanks for the additional book tips. May I ask what it was you liked so much about the Ben Franklin book?

  6. #6

    Re: Sondheim on Music

    Originally posted by Joanne Babunovic:
    May I ask what it was you liked so much about the Ben Franklin book?
    <font size=\"2\" face=\"Verdana, Arial\">Don\'t get me started ;-) Ben Franklin\'s life is a endless series amazing stories and Isaacson is an exceptional story teller (like David McCullough). The book has a great bit of detail in it owing Isaacson\'s researching abilities - Yale has over 30,000 pages of writing from BF, including his first published works written at the age of 17. As Isaacson unfolds Franklin\'s life, he builds a psychological profile of Franklin as a very complex man and not the simple man he (BF) portrayed himself to be (he doesn\'t go overboard with the psychoanalysis like many biographers though). You see, for the last 200 years, historians have generally portrayed BF in the way BF portrayed himself in his own autobiography. I think Churchill once said something about \"history will be kind to me because I plan on writing it.\" This is what BF did. BF was really one of first masters at manipulating public opinion through writing which he began at the age of 17 while he was a printer\'s apprentice.

    Isaacson, better than anyone I have read, displays BF\'s life in a way that leaves you dumbfounded that such a person could have done so many important things, given so much of himself to his community, invented the concept of the American Middle class and the \"American Dream\", had such a good time, been so influential (from the age of 17 - 82) worldwide, one of the first , if not the firdt, world superstar (he was the hit of Paris society to the point where elite incorporated his backwoods dressing styke into their own dress), ... Isaacson continually displays BFs endless curiosity about most everything - except for very abstract since BF was more interested in preactical application of ideas. The book is a quick read dispite its 600 pages.

    One thing that was nice was that Isaacson wrotes another chapter after Ben\'s death closing out the lives of others in the book who, by then, you know so well.

    BTW, Isaacson is the former managing editor of Time, chairman of CNN, and is now the President and CEO of the Aspen Institute. He has just published a book that is a followup to this one called the BF Reader. It contains about 500 pages if BF\'s most important writings. No bad.

    One more exceptional bio: J. Peter Burkholder\'s book on Charles Ives a insurance company millionaire who anticipated most major movements in 20th century composition without anyone knowing it.

  7. #7

    Re: Sondheim on Music

    Hi Craig,

    Thanks for the BF book review. I love biographies too, and think I\'ll pick this up for a christmas present for my sister. Apparently \"ben\" is an ancestor on my Mother\'s side, and it\'s funny to still see some facial similarities still running through the family. Positioning BF as a fashion hound - how funny.

    Not really much of a reader, but saw a Ken Burns piece on Thomas Jefferson. Theres another founding father type\'s reading that would be interesting. I recall one quote from Jefferson to the effect of \"the sole purpose in life is not so much to try to have fun (paraphrasing, of course), but to avoid pain\". What a dark, but pragmatic outlook.

    The Charles Ives book also sounds good. How in the world somebody could predict what would happen with music.

    Do you by chance have the Ovation Channel? I think you would really enjoy. They have a four part series with Sir George Martin that literally took apart songs/music to better understand what makes them good - Hans Zimmer had a brief appearence.

    Thank you again for the reviews and book ideas.

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