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Musical Confessions 
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Post Re: Musical Confessions
Hans wrote:
3KidsOr4 wrote:
3KidsOr4 wrote:
2. I hate Stephen Sondheim. I think he's too pretentious and wooden. The Herman Melville of musical theatre.

This was unspeakably stupid too.


That is fascinating :) Why did you change your opinion?


I became a big fan of Assassins (it was my second-favorite musical for a long while), so, on the advice of a Sondheim fanatic friend, I went back and reinvestigated the Sondheim I'd already seen and discovered I'd misassessed it. I'd seen a production of Sweeney Todd, which seemed very professional to me, and there were people I (indirectly) knew in it, but I didn't care for it regardless, so I'd just kind of come to the conclusion it was a good production of a bad show. My friend told me that he'd seen the same production and had come to the opposite conclusion, so I watched the OBC proshot and fell in love with it (still preferred Assassins, though). Went on to appreciate Into The Woods (ugh, so nervous about this upcoming movie, it's going to be a disaster), Sunday In The Park With George (my least favorite Sondheim show to date - but still flawless, really), and Company.

I still don't think we're ever really going to get along taste-wise, though. I've come to appreciate perfect rhymes more over time, and imperfect rhymes have come to grate on me, but we have pretty different definitions of perfect rhyme. A lot of "imperfect rhymes" you've pointed out in Matilda, for instance, are, from my standpoint, perfect rhymes written for a distinct dialect, which isn't cheating at wordplay - it's just making wordplay a more complicated game. Wordplay with regional pronunciations isn't something original Minchin brought to the musical, either - it was always a prominent feature in Dahl's writings and particularly his poetry, so it makes the musical feel not just more authentic to its characters but more authentic to the source material. And it's not sacrificing something to attain that authenticity - it's retaining a positive quality.

My current second favorite musical is Heathers, which just closed off-Broadway, and which I strongly doubt is your speed. It only has one false rhyme that currently grates on me, but even it seems reasonably clever (decreed it/deleted). There's another point that grated on me for a while, before I examined the rhyming scheme of the song and realized the words weren't supposed to rhyme with each other, and, ironically, I'd been tripped up by the sounds being close, rather than the other way around (feelings/leaving). I just scanned through the libretto for additional false rhymes, and found one (collar/la la). I hate to beat on the old "character-appropriate" drum, but the characters singing the false rhyme are nearly black-out drunk while doing so. (On that same note, the character singing the "decreed it/deleted" rhyme is mildly drunk at the time.) You can kind of tell I'm not a rhyme-obsessive person, though, because there's one song that is otherwise a fairly standard musical theatre song, but, to induce a trancelike quality, doesn't have any rhymes (Kindergarten Boyfriend). I didn't notice for several weeks of listening to the cast album.

My immovable favorite musical is Little Shop Of Horrors, though, and despite our disagreements it's nice to know we both hold Howard Ashman in very high regard. :) Does it not use false rhymes, though? By your strange standards I disagree with, is "poor/sure" in Skid Row, for instance, not a false rhyme? "Petunia/Junior" in Sudden Changes? "Greatest/sadist" in Somewhere That's Green?


Thu Sep 11, 2014 5:33 pm
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Post Re: Musical Confessions
I actually kind of like Legally Blonde, and really want to play Emmett some day!
I appreciate Sweeney Todd for the brilliance of the material, but it's not a show that I am dying to see again, or be in.
I think bare a pop opera is a stronger show than Spring Awakening, and it saddens me that it's not well known.

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Sat Sep 13, 2014 6:34 am
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Post Re: Musical Confessions
3KidsOr4 wrote:
I still don't think we're ever really going to get along taste-wise, though. I've come to appreciate perfect rhymes more over time, and imperfect rhymes have come to grate on me, but we have pretty different definitions of perfect rhyme. A lot of "imperfect rhymes" you've pointed out in Matilda, for instance, are, from my standpoint, perfect rhymes written for a distinct dialect, which isn't cheating at wordplay - it's just making wordplay a more complicated game. Wordplay with regional pronunciations isn't something original Minchin brought to the musical, either - it was always a prominent feature in Dahl's writings and particularly his poetry, so it makes the musical feel not just more authentic to its characters but more authentic to the source material. And it's not sacrificing something to attain that authenticity - it's retaining a positive quality.


I am confused by why you call my standards strange, as they are only what is defined as perfect rhyme is dictionaries:Rhyme in which the final accented vowel and all succeeding consonants or syllables are identical, while the preceding consonants are different. As that definition naturall concerns pronounciation rather than spelling, all those Ashman rhymes you mention meet that standard (which to my understanding common rather than strange).

I am not a native English speaker, so I may be wrong about how some dialects pronounce certain words. I am anxious to learn how those dialects pronounce umbilical/miracle in a way that follows this universal defiinition of perfect rhyme. They certainly don''t sound like that on the recording: should it be something like "umbirrecal" or "millycal"? In that case my English is far more limited than I was aware of, and they ought to have casted actors who can master that regional dialect. (I agree that my imagined words millycal and umbirrecal would rhyme with umbilical and miracle, respectively.)

I am aware and agree totally that because of regional pronounciations and dialects some words rhyme some places while the same words don't rhyme otherplaces, like dance/romance (in The King and I) and penchant/trenchant (in A Little Night Music). I just fail to understand how one could possibly pronounce miracle/umbilical in a way that makes them rhyme. As I have mentioned, the reason may be that I'm not a native English speaker. I acually don't find any necessarily wrong with a rhyme like collar/la la, provided one pronounces collar approximately like "cala".

As for you bringing authenticity into the topic - in my opinion authenticity is the one great false idol and cliché of contemporary pop music, and of pop culture in general (number two is "pure energy"). I really don't think pop music is or should be concerned with authenticity at all, musical theatre least of anything. I think the quest for authenticity pervades the cultural discurse and establishes an irrelevant standard.

The enjoyment and relevance of musicals are based on among other things the abstracted, the campy and the histrionic. That establishes totally different parametres for judgement of the quality of musicals than authenticity. For example does the perhaps dumbest character in the genre, Philia in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum express her monumental stupidity in nothing less than perfect rhyme. And the audience accepts that it's completely character-appropriate without sing into the clammy depths of false rhyme, because of the non-realistic, non-authentic, stylized way of storytelling which is exactly what we appreciate in musicals.

I believe that people's appreciation of popular culture would be substantially wider if they were not so monomanically fixed on authenticity.

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Mon Sep 15, 2014 2:43 am
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Post Re: Musical Confessions
Oh dear, it appears that I was speaking based on a vague memory of a vague opinion, and not an actual informed assessment. Ten points for you, Hans, and my gravest apologies. It also appears that I did not truly grasp perfect rhyme, an inexcusable fact given the easy research opportunity provided by the internet. I was unaware of the significance of the last stressed syllable, and thought that Hans's personal definition required the words to be pronounced according to a specific elite dialect. I do think looser standards than perfect rhyme may sometimes be acceptable, and Matilda is an example of such a case, but I'm now realizing that I'm far from a studied expert in the field of rhyme classification.

Collar/la la could absolutely be pronounced as a rhyme, and it would be appropriate for the scene/character, but it's very distinctly not in the cast recording. I guess that'd be a failure on the part of the performer and/or director, and not the lyricist?


Mon Sep 15, 2014 11:05 am
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Post Re: Musical Confessions
3KidsOr4 wrote:
Oh dear, it appears that I was speaking based on a vague memory of a vague opinion, and not an actual informed assessment. Ten points for you, Hans, and my gravest apologies. It also appears that I did not truly grasp perfect rhyme, an inexcusable fact given the easy research opportunity provided by the internet.


Are you being sarcastic? In case not: :)

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Mon Sep 15, 2014 1:38 pm
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Post Re: Musical Confessions
Hans wrote:
Are you being sarcastic? In case not: :)

Not being sarcastic. I think the world would be a better place if more people admitted when they were wrong. :)

Actual confessions time:
I freakin' love the "were/are/ler/lar" rhyme in Popular in Wicked and I think it's relevant to our conversation because it's a riff on our rhyming expectations. Don't care for most of the libretto, or the story, for that matter, though I think the score is remarkable.
I revised a handful of lyrics in my Assassins screenplay and was satisfied with the results? Who the hell do I think I am rewriting Sondheim???


Mon Sep 15, 2014 2:04 pm
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Post Re: Musical Confessions
Miracle = Mi-ric-l
Umbilical = Um-bil-ic-l

It is the "ic-l" that rhymes.


Mon Sep 15, 2014 6:26 pm
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Post Re: Musical Confessions
3KidsOr4 wrote:
Not being sarcastic. I think the world would be a better place if more people admitted when they were wrong. :)


:)

Mungojerrie_rt wrote:
Miracle = Mi-ric-l
Umbilical = Um-bil-ic-l

It is the "ic-l" that rhymes.


Do you pronounce them "miricl" and "umbilicl"? In that case, I agree. They don’t on the recording, though. There they pronounce it the more common way ”miricl” and ”umbilicl”. Remember, it's the final accented vowel that counts.

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Last edited by Hans on Tue Sep 16, 2014 2:58 am, edited 2 times in total.



Mon Sep 15, 2014 11:27 pm
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Post Re: Musical Confessions
For the record, the lyrics I revised, to the best of my recollection, were:

Everybody's Got The Right:
"Aim for what you want a lot/Everybody gets a shot/Everybody's got the right to their dreams..." became "Aim for what you want a lot/Everybody gets a shot/'Cuz our founding fathers fought for your dreams..." to restore the rhyme scheme present in the other choruses at the cost of one of several repetitions of the song's most important phrase.

The Ballad Of Booth:
Added a new "The country is not what it was..." from the Balladeer to end the song, after the current "Damn you, Booth!". I thought it was clever, since the lyric applies as much to him as it does to Booth.

Unworthy Of Your Love:
"Even though" became "even so", reversing the emphasis transfer between the lyrics before and after it, making the build slightly more satisfying, I think.

The Ballad Of Guiteau:
"Sit on the right side of the..." became "Get on the right side of the...", repeating lyrics from earlier in the song in a slightly less direct way. "I have unified my party, I have saved my country" became "I have unified my party, I have saved my country true!". I'm not sure if the resolving-but-extremely-emphasized new note on "true" makes Guiteau sound more or less deranged, but I like it either way. Also, the Balladeer's instance of "This is your golden opportunity!" became "This is your final opportunity!". On-the-nose, perhaps, but I feel it heightens the final movement.

Another National Anthem:
The opening spoken lines are somewhat denser because I wove another assassin in (several, actually, but only one who gets lines in this section). Also, "There's another national anthem, and I think it just began in the ballpark, listen hard" became "There's another national anthem, and I think it just began in the Wal-Mart, listen hard". I get the significance of the ballpark imagery, but I feel there's enough of it earlier in the song, and invoking Wal-Mart, another bit of Americana, instead, creates a little more progression, with the assassins invading our modern world, and permits Czolgosz to rage against capitalism as a background detail.


Tue Sep 16, 2014 12:17 am
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Post Re: Musical Confessions
Hans wrote:
Mungojerrie_rt wrote:
Miracle = Mi-ric-l
Umbilical = Um-bil-ic-l

It is the "ic-l" that rhymes.


Do you pronounce them "miricl" and "umbilicl"? In that case, I agree. They don’t on the recording, though. There they pronounce it the more common way ”miricl” and ”umbilicl”. Remember, it's the final accented vowel that counts.

When spoken, they don't really have an accented vowel at all, and Rs tent to be almost ignored in the middle of words.

Personally, I much prefer rhymes to be unnoticed, unless there is a reason to be noticed, e.g, a rhyme (or lack thereof) drawing attention to a phase that is important for character. If an almost rhyme slips by unnoticed in the flow of the song (as the ones in Matilda do), then it is a good rhyme, because it does not break the flow of the lyrics.

Conversely, forcing an awkward rhyme by breaking the flow, the language style of the character or simply something the character would not say ("taken out and hung/...mother tongue) if far worse than any innocuous rhyme, because it distracts from the world of the story. Especially when the grammar become totally unlike natural speech for the character.

I am confused about your statements of authenticity. Remaining authentic to a character is key to storytelling. I also feel like you are confusing your own tastes with objective quality. Just because you want all songs to contain nothing but perfect rhyme, does not mean they must. Many brilliant songs and poems contain no rhyme at all. In the same way many of Sondheim's songs lack an established meter. I Guess This is Goodbye from Into The Woods contains neither rhyme nor meter, for example.


Tue Sep 16, 2014 4:56 am
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Post Re: Musical Confessions
Mungojerrie_rt wrote:
When spoken, they don't really have an accented vowel at all.


This is not true. All words used for rhyming in a stress-timed language as English (and Norwegian) have at least one accented vowel: You can read about stress and the in practical terms almost synonymous accent at wikipedia.

And if you were right, if ”miracle” and ”umbilical” did not have any stressed syllables, then your suggestion that it’s –icl and icl that rhymes would nevertheless also be wrong, as rhyme by definition is dependent on the relationship between stressed and unstressed syllables.

Without stress or accent perfect rhyme is impossible, if you accept the definition of perfect rhyme.

Mungojerrie_rt wrote:
I am confused about your statements of authenticity. Remaining authentic to a character is key to storytelling.


I am not familiar with the idiom being authentic to character. The authenticity I am talking about is the common understanding of the word, wich means something like "reflecting reality meticulously". That has nothing to do with storytelling at all. Take for instance Hamlet, regarded by many as the greatest play ever written. The events in the play only vaguely resemble the actual historic events they depict. The historical Hamlet (if he did exist at all) most definately did not speak English, least of all in Elizabethan blank verse. Hence, the play is not even remotely authentic, neither historically nor realistically. Yet, few people will dismiss it as unqualified storytelling.

The musical, by it's very nature, negate what people usually regard as authenticity: People don't actually burst out in song. But whereas people in general dismiss the musical as a genre precisely for its non-authenticity, we who love it revel in its theatricality. Since the musical by definition is non-realistic, it doesn't make sense to debate wether its details (like perfect ryhme) "authentically" represent some reality.

Authenticity – the estetic that dictates complete personal expression - is the direct opposite of the theatrical, of which the musical is one of the most prominent genres. Whereas one of the great idols of punk – one of the most prominent genres with an obsession for the authentic – is Richey Edwards, a performer who demonstrated how personal his expression was by carving ”4 real” into his arm with a knife, an eqivalent legend of musical theatre is Julie Andrews. There is no doubt a punk enthusiast will get will get at least the same extacy from listening to screaming and howling as a musical enthusiast will get from listening to the My Fair Lady cast recording. It’s only that the aesthetics are complete opposits.

I believe you maybe confuse ”being authetic to character” with ”being true to character”. They are different things.

Mungojerrie_rt wrote:
I also feel like you are confusing your own tastes with objective quality. Just because you want all songs to contain nothing but perfect rhyme, does not mean they must. Many brilliant songs and poems contain no rhyme at all. In the same way many of Sondheim's songs lack an established meter. I Guess This is Goodbye from Into The Woods contains neither rhyme nor meter, for example.


I am not confusing my own taste with objective quality. The objective quality in here is the neutral definition of perfect rhyme. It remains defined regardless of you or me liking perfect rhyme or not.

My subjective taste is that perfect rhyme brings more enjoyment to me than imperfect rhyme. If they don’t bring the same enjoyment to you, I can’t argue with that.

I have also never complained about the absence of rhyme. It is false rhyme I object to.

And I Guess this is Goodbye does indeed have meter. It is rather simple, very regular, easily recognisable and perfectly suited to the situation:

I guess this is goodbye, old pal,
You've been a perfect friend.
I hate to have to part, old pal,
Some day I'll buy you back.
I'll see you soon again.
I hope that when I do,
It won't be on a plate.

Thus this is the meter:
Iamb iamb iamb spondee
Iamb iamb iamb
Iamb iamb iamb spondee
Iamb iamb iamb
Iamb iamb iamb
Iamb iamb iamb

Or alternatively

I guess this is goodbye, old pal,
You've been a perfect friend.
I hate to have to part, old pal,
Some day I'll buy you back.
I'll see you soon again.
I hope that when I do,
It won't be on a plate.

which makes the meter for example:
amphibrach anapest spondee
amphibrach anapest
amphibrach anapest spondee
amphibrach anapest
amphibrach anapest
amphibrach anapest
amphibrach anapest

Thinking of it, I probably prefer the second interpretation as it flows a nuance better, perhaps.

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Tue Sep 16, 2014 6:01 am
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Post Re: Musical Confessions
I absolutely HATE Jesus Christ Superstar and have no idea why anyone thought religious/Bible based musicals were a good idea. I was dragged to a performance of JCSS and sat there thinking "What the hell is going on in this show??? I never paid an ounce of attention in CCD/Bible School because it was so boring, so what makes anyone think I'm gonna be captivated with Bible stories set to MUSIC???" It felt less entertaining and more preachy and like I was back in Bible School being forced to follow a weird boring/confusing story.

I HATED Rent! Another show I sat through and had absolutely NO IDEA what was going on with the plot.

I basically hate ANY musical that is ALL singing and NO dialogue. Dialogue helps understand the plot. When something is ALL singing it's more confusing because it's harder to follow all the words, especially if they are sung by a BAD singer or someone who can't enunciate words while singing.

I love ALL the cheesy classics that a lot of people hate or find annoying. Annie, Sound of Music, Oliver, Music Man, Bye Bye Birdie etc...

My favorite musical of all time is Brigadoon. Which is usually followed by someone saying "Briga-WHAT?" or "Never heard of it...The title sounds stupid."

I find almost every lead character in a Musical to be very boring. I've always enjoyed the secondary/supporting roles to be the most interesting. Ernestina Money in Hello Dolly? TINY role that literally steals the show. Mayor Shinn in Music Man? He doesn't even sing, yet it's the best part in that show!


Mon Oct 20, 2014 2:01 am
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