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Please enlighten me 
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Post Re: Please enlighten me
Dvarg wrote:
I actually think that DIHAW is the one Rodgers musical I connect the most with because I appreciate and recognise the irony in the combination of jaunty tunes and bitter lyrics. Maybe a lack of irony or emotional distance in R/H musicals is what makes me feeling suspicious towards them. Over analytic feelings ring more true to me because I’m an over analytic person.

Besides, so many of those R/H songs sounds very happy. I know I asked Font about this several times over at MFdN, but he never got around to answering me. It is true. The Carousel score, for example, does not sound tragic and sad to me. It twirls and waves about sounding pretty, great and happy to my ears. I can’t help it.


Well, Sondheim did write the lyrics to DIHAW so that might explain why you like that better.

This is my take on why you might not find the music tragic and sad. I don't claim to be right by any means. I think it may be that Rodgers doesn't use a great deal of minor chords. He uses primarily major chords which are interspersed with chords which create colours - diminshed and augmented (this is particularly true in "If I Loved You")

From what I can tell from recordings and synopses (having never seen the show) the songs are in place to provide a respite from the heavier plot - "A Real Nice Clambake" etc. "If I Loved You" is cleverly set up to be a very pretty melody for the young lovers and then reminiscent and a bit melancholy in the reprise.

"You'll Never Walk Alone" is also cleverly written to ensure a climax is reached. It starts low and gradually builds. I can understand how when performed well it would move me to tears. Again I believe this is because Rodgers uses the augmented chord which creates so much tension.

Feel free to disagree with me if I'm uninformed about any particular area. :D


Sun Jul 15, 2007 5:25 pm
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Post Re: Please enlighten me
Dvarg wrote:
Besides, so many of those R/H songs sounds very happy. The Carousel score, for example, does not sound tragic and sad to me. It twirls and waves about sounding pretty, great and happy to my ears. I can’t help it.


For me, Carousel is the most flawed of the four shows about which you originally posted, in the sense that I don't think it ultimately achieves everything that it sets out to achieve - its aspirations are in some ways greater than its accomplishments; nonetheless, it's accomplishments are great.

The problems for me lie in the excess fat in the score that could be trimmed - "Blow High, Blow Low" is a charming song that is characterful without ever truly establishing character and is more of a distraction than anything else. I also am not sure that the afterlife sequences are completely spot-on. And of course, the focus of some things (like the spousal abuse) does tend to slip into the background - depending on the production, it can be easy to ignore it if you want to - but I think that has as much to do with Carousel being written in the 1940s as it has to do with anything else.

Getting back to your post - I can't see how you can't find "tragic" elements in the Carousel score. Of course, the question inherent to the statement is, what does "tragic" music sound like? Even so, the score is clearly not just rainbows and sunshine.

The opening of the Carousel waltz, for example, is dissonant and really points to the dark underbelly that lies behind the front of the lives of these characters. In the same fashion, a carnival seems joyous and pleasant but there is an element of the grotesque to it that you can't ignore. And all four main characters and their situations have truth that in some way contradicts appearance. And that theme is esablished here musically in the first few minutes of of the show.

"If I Loved You" is not a joyful love song like "Let People Say We're In Love" or seductive like "Make Believe". There is immense emotional repression in the song. This is reflected in the score and in the way the dialogue, lyrics and music combine to form a scene. I think Mara brought up a useful thing when she mentioned colours. The colours here aren't bright; they aren't primary colours. The pulsating rhythms in the orchestrations that drive the song forward reflect this sense of multiplicity, of shade and shadow so beautifully, supportng the fact that the process of falling in love for Billy and Julie is happening quickly and almost as if it is beyond their control, as if there is an element of fate - even while the lyric seems to deny that it is happening at all. For the "if" isn't just about making it an unconventional love song: it's about creating the sense of apprehension, even fear, that the characters feel even while they are experiencing attraction and first-sight-love.

I'm running out of time right now, so I can't discuss this at greater length right now - but off the top of my head, I'd say that there are "tragic" elements that appear in at least "Soliloquoy", "What's the Use of Wond'rin'?" and "The Highest Judge of All". But this is an interesting discussion and I shall return later.

Later days
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Sun Jul 15, 2007 9:25 pm
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Post To bring SOM into the discussion
I'd really love to bring SOM into the discussion. I know it wasn't a strong stage show, but there are some endearing things about it.
Yes, I know that Lindsay & Crouse wrote the script, but Hammerstein's lyrics need not be sentimental. The title song demonstrates the genuine sense of longing for liberation and freedom that we all experience when our loves become an iron cage. This is similar to the sense of longing that Hammerstein achieved in so many of his lyrics.
Turning, rather surprisingly, to Edelweiss, I can see some deeper undertones in this song because Hammerstein identified with Captain von Trapp's sense of loss when he was writing this lyric, suffering from cancer.
But to add to this general discussion of R&H, I really like the way you discuss Hammerstein's sincerity. I like it how his lyrics give us strength in trying times, yet with an honesty that was all his own. And not just in You'll Never Walk Alone and Climb Ev'ry Mountain, but also in Lady Thiang's song, Something Wonderful. I like the words that Hammerstein makes her sing, because they help us recognise good things in what may be considered bad.


Mon Jul 16, 2007 12:11 am
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Post Re: Please enlighten me
RainbowJude wrote:
I think Mara brought up a useful thing when she mentioned colours. The colours here aren't bright; they aren't primary colours. The pulsating rhythms in the orchestrations that drive the song forward reflect this sense of multiplicity, of shade and shadow so beautifully, supportng the fact that the process of falling in love for Billy and Julie is happening quickly and almost as if it is beyond their control, as if there is an element of fate...


I think I might suffer from the opposite of synesthesia. Or maybe I'm just partly tone deaf?

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Mon Jul 16, 2007 6:14 am
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Quote:
Besides, so many of those R/H songs sounds very happy.




If "Lonely Room" and "Bill's Soliloquy" sound happy and joyful to you and "You're Gonna Love Tomorrow" and "Johanna" don't... well... I must say I'm a little worried for you.



As for your original question, Rodgers & Hammerstein is meant to be seen and experienced onstage. You need to actually see the show in order to get the full gist of it. Without a context, the songs don't mean much, just as "The God-Why-Don't-You-Love-Me Blues" doesn't mean very much when it is listened to outside the context of the play without understanding that it is meant to represent Buddy's emotional turmoil.


Sat Jun 13, 2009 1:48 pm
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LeocadiaBegbick wrote:
If "Lonely Room" and "Bill's Soliloquy" sound happy and joyful to you and "You're Gonna Love Tomorrow" and "Johanna" don't... well... I must say I'm a little worried for you.


I agree Lonely Room doesn't sound happy and joyful. And it's one of my favourite R&H songs. I also think Soliloqui is a great song, but it doesn't sound rather unhappy.

And You're Gonna Love Tomorrow sounds happy, but it's so obviously ironic (because it's so over the top happy), that it comes across as sad.

LeocadiaBegbick wrote:
As for your original question, Rodgers & Hammerstein is meant to be seen and experienced onstage. You need to actually see the show in order to get the full gist of it. Without a context, the songs don't mean much, just as "The God-Why-Don't-You-Love-Me Blues" doesn't mean very much when it is listened to outside the context of the play without understanding that it is meant to represent Buddy's emotional turmoil.


But I've never seen Follies onstage, either. Yet I get those songs to as higher degree.

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Thu Jun 18, 2009 7:17 am
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Post 
Quote:
I also think Soliloqui is a great song, but it doesn't sound rather unhappy.



I don't see how this possibly doesn't sound unhappy:


But what would I do with her? What could I do for her?
A bum, with no money...
I gotta get ready before she comes,
I gotta make certain that she
Won't be dragged up in slums with a lot of bums like me
She's gotta be sheltered and dressed in the best that money can buy
I never knew how to get money, but I'll try, by God, I'll try!
I'll go out and make it, or steal it, or take it, or die...



The thing is that not all dark musicals necessarily advertise themselves as so, like Sweeney Todd. Oklahoma and Carousel are much more subtly dark. It is easy to want to give Sondheim musicals multiple chances, because you know that Sondheim musicals are very complex and an acquired taste, and that discoveries about the piece will usually pay off in the end. Well things don't always look like what they are. R&H musicals are deceptively simple, but there is much more than meets the eye.


Thu Jun 18, 2009 9:23 pm
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LeocadiaBegbick wrote:
I don't see how this possibly doesn't sound unhappy:


But what would I do with her? What could I do for her?
A bum, with no money...
I gotta get ready before she comes,
I gotta make certain that she
Won't be dragged up in slums with a lot of bums like me
She's gotta be sheltered and dressed in the best that money can buy
I never knew how to get money, but I'll try, by God, I'll try!
I'll go out and make it, or steal it, or take it, or die...


It's not so much the text as the tune...

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Wed Jun 24, 2009 1:52 am
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I agree that much of 'Soliloquy' sound very cheery. That seems appropriate to me, as IMO it shows a new father rejoicing as well as freaking out. But that same 'hopeful' tune rebounds on Billy in the Ballet, as he helplessly watches his daughter's misery - the reality is contrasted with the fantasy, and Billy has to watch his daughter suffering because of a boy like the one he'd cheerfully described earlier.

When I first listened to 'Carousel' I was very conscious of something Sondheim had said in approval of it once - that the music had a lovely "yearning" quality. Guess I ended up hearing what I expected to hear, because I certainly sense that in the instrumental music and Billy/Julie stuff.

The R&H song that *I* find too cheery-sounding is "You've Got to be Carefully Taught"! I mean, is Cable meant to be overjoyed with his intellectual discovery throughout that song or something?!?


Wed Jun 24, 2009 4:03 am
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Barberous wrote:
The R&H song that *I* find too cheery-sounding is "You've Got to be Carefully Taught"! I mean, is Cable meant to be overjoyed with his intellectual discovery throughout that song or something?!?


Thanks, haha, I agree :)

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Wed Jun 24, 2009 4:24 am
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:D I forgot to mention, in Carousel's libretto it does give at least one hint that the lovely music is occasionally meant to be a bit sardonic. After Enoch Snow sings "...then a GREAT BIG FLEET of GREAT big BOATS!", the libretto says something like "In this man's mind, that achivement is the height of dramatic grandeur". The accompanying music reflects his state of mind and takes the piss a bit as well. Probably a similar effect is intended in the 'heroic'-sounding music at the conclusion of 'Soliloquy', as Billy vows to "steal it or take it or die", and perhaps the soppy bit (which I love) following Carrie's first "When I marry Mr Snow".


Wed Jun 24, 2009 2:02 pm
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Dvarg wrote:
Barberous wrote:
The R&H song that *I* find too cheery-sounding is "You've Got to be Carefully Taught"! I mean, is Cable meant to be overjoyed with his intellectual discovery throughout that song or something?!?


Thanks, haha, I agree :)


uhm how does it sound cheerful?/ the music pulsates like an angry steam roller.

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