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Teasing the Korean

Sondheim Rips the Great Lyricists

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A side comment. I know very little Sondheim, but...

but he suffers from the same problem Benjamin Britten does...very little melodic gift.

Assertions like this leave me utterly baffled!

Me, too.

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not me - but than again -

I can't get no satisfaction -

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Sure, I can get that out of ""You & The Night & The Music", that's obvious. Doubt aplenty.

"Dancing In The Dark" seems more tentative, hopeful but not sure. Cautious optimism.

"Alone Together" seems like yeah, we made it after all. Triumph.

A nice little cycle, actually, but still, all this drama and anxiety and stuff...too "theatrical" for this day and time, really, musically and lyrically. We got "theater" pushed in our face 24/7 as is and are numb as a result. Backtracking is an easy out, just as succumbing to the onslaught.

Which leaves...what, exactly? Hell if I know, but when given two bad choices, I do my damnedest to accept neither. Call me crazy.

Anthony Powell on Thomas Love Peacock (I know, "Who he?" -- but there we are):

"One of Peacock's worst failings ... was that he thought the past funny in relation to the present. I find it hard to conceive a more detestable literary characteristic...."

About "Dancing in the Dark," from the title on the cues seem abundant to me:

"and it soon ends"

"Time hurries by, we're here and we're gone"

"Hear this heart of mine

Wailin' all the time

Dear one, tell me that we're one"

About "Alone Together," as I said before, the slight enforced-by-Schwartz's-music pause between "alone" and 'together" in the final line (different in this respect than all previous appearances of the title phrase in the song) suggests to me that the couple will end up alone in their togetherness. If so, there are ample, logical reasons for this -- in particular, the lines "We're not to proud to cling together, we're strong as long as we're together" suggest that we've got two threatened (by "the great unknown") people who think they can't make it on an "ev'ry tub" basis. It's a romance of clinging in order to survive; the long-range prognosis is not hopeful.

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I don't get that at all from "Alone Together". Sorry, I guess, but not really. If that pause means anything to me at all, it means that "together" trumps "alone".

As for that line in "Dancing In the Dark", you can take it that way if you like, but I take it to be more of an acknowledgment of the fleeting nature of life itself, so take it when you find it, and hope for the best.

Once again, we take out of it what we bring to it. Is that a problem, or is there only one "right" way to feel these songs? Is there a user's manual somewhere? If so, please provide it, because I do so want to honor these marvelous creations at any cost, up to and including sacrificing my own natural instinct and intellect.

And hell yeah the past is funny in relation to the present. It's all funny, and will always be so. It's also all tragic, absurd, profound, meaningless, etc., whatever. It's whatever we need it to be at any given time.

But in the end, you either choose to get through the day or choose to not get through the day. It really does come down to that. If one feels the need for a certain amount of drama to do that, fine. But that's ultimately a choice, not a necessity.

I've yet to see the world stop turning & life stop going on just because somebody gives up. Or doesn't. Think there's a lesson there?

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Of course the world doesn't stop turning, but I think there are obvious benefits in possessing/retaining the ability to see the past through its own eyes whenever possible. That doesn't mean that how any chunk of the past might have regarded itself in its own time automatically trumps what we might think of that chunk now, but it's an approach that can give us potentially useful information -- a "stereoptican" view, so to speak.

As for there being a "user's manual" somewhere -- no, there is not one right way, but more information can be enlightening, especially when it comes to styles of performance. And not in an antiquarian way -- for example, John McGlinn's "restored" recording of Kern-Hammerstein's "Show Boat" easily is the most effective recording of "Show Boat."

Your willingness to sacrifice your "own natural instinct and intellect" has been taken note of and is appreciated.

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Treat it gently, it bruises easily... :g

Ultimately, though, if a "popular song" ceases to have a certain.."immediacy", either musically or lyrically, then it kind of crosses the line from "popular song" into "historical artifact" and then it's as right to insist on "correctness of meaning" as it is to ignore it completely. Until then, it's that liquidity of meaning that keeps it alive & vital to anybody, not just those who "own" (in whatever sense) it.

So, still, you get out of it what you bring to it. When that stops being the case, beware.

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It might just be the way I hear things, but I've always thought "Alone Together" is more about aloneness than togetherness... in the readings I know, anyway.

"Dancing in the Dark": imo, a very depressing song overall (because, as Jim noted, it's focused on the fleeting nature of life itself). Has always struck me as a shade too melodramatic for my taste. (Like "Body and Soul" - love the melody, hate the lyrics!)

I'm more partial to a lot of Ira Gershwin's work (dealing with love; there's humor in much of it) and ... Johnny Mercedr's lyrics for Midnight Sun and Early Autumn.

Re. Sondheim, here are the lyrics to "I Remember," though you really need to hear them with the music to get the full effect...

I remember sky.

It was blue as ink.

Or at least I think

I remember sky.

I remember snow,

Soft as feathers,

Sharp as thumbtacks,

Coming down like lint,

And it made you squint

When the wind would blow

And ice, like vinyl, on the streets

Cold as silver,

White as sheets,

Rain like strings and

Changing things

Like leaves

I remember leaves,

Green as spearmint,

Crisp as paper.

I remember trees,

Bare as coat racks, spread like broken umbrellas

And parks and bridges,

Ponds and zoos,

Ruddy faces,

Muddy shoes,

Light and noise and bees and boys and days.

I remember days,

Or at least I try.

But as years go by

They're a sort of haze.

And the bluest ink

Isn't really sky.

And at times I think

I would gladly die

For a day of sky.

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One for the road (sort of)... Audra McDonald's version of "Down with Love" -

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(2x)

Ass, titties, ass 'n titties

Ass ass titties titties, ass 'n titties

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But - about a century's worth of "other" Americans (regional, economic, racial, religious, you name it), and other peoples of the planet (once we found out about them as peoples rather than as stories...) have provided just as much to work with, just as much that is relevant to yesterday, today, and tomorrow, and just as much, if not more, that speaks to what it means to not inhabit a world that is as irrelevant to them as they are to it.

I've been deeply attracted to boleros for about 30 years now, and from time to time will actually bother to attempt to translate one. You talk about lyrics, about "love songs", I don't know that "classic" American songwriters even had a clue about what the guys who wrote these songs were coming from... of course, to get the full impact I'm sure that spanish needs to be a language you feel at least as much as you speak, but still, even the English translations blow me away far more often than not. Here's the latest that got ahold of me, recorded by Los Tres Ases

Tu Me Acostumbraste

Tu me acostumbraste A todas esas cosas

Y tu me enseñaste

Que son maravillosas

Sutil llegaste a mi

Como una tentación

Llenando de ansiedad

Mi corazón.

Yo no compendia

Como se queria

En tu mundo raro

Y por ti aprendi

Por eso me pregunto

Al ver que me olvidaste

Por qué no me enseñaste

Como se vive sin ti?

Translated, roughly (if anybody can provide a more nuanced translation, please do!)

I have become accustomed to you,

To all these things.

And you have taught me

That these are marvelous things.

You came subtly to me,

Like a temptation.

Full of anxiousness

(Was) my heart.

I cannot even begin to express

what (else?) I could possibly want

In your rare world,

And for you to teach me.

For this reason I ask,

When I see that I am oblivious to you,

Why did you not teach me

How to live without you?

Straight to the heart...

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There's a sincerity and depth to the best of these kinds of lyrics that we Anglos just can't begin to fathom, I think.

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well, that "I Remember" is a terrible lyric, methinks.

And who you calling an Anglo?

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Grateful for the post of the "I Remember" lyrics. IMO they epitomize Sondheim's coyness.

I remember shit.

It was warm and stunk

Or at least I thunk

I remember shit.

I remember piss,

Slowly streaming,

Just can't stop it,

Trickling down my thigh,

and I'd often sigh

at this flow of whizz.

And come, like vinyl, on my cheeks,

Cold as ice-cream,

White as snow,

Snot-like strings and

changing things

Like sheets

Etc.

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Seeline: I know what you're implying but you use too broad a brush, on both of the border, I think.

Sngry: with but few exceptions, FACT: songs & marches win, and I say that as great advocate of composition. As for "sound" (mere sound, some might say), that's PHILOSOPHY, not music, unless we're really going to pretend Bill Dixon, admirable-- even heroic-- polymath & all, was REALLY a "great" "composer." Yeah, what fucking song? (Maybe the RCA album?)

I won't even get into Ben & Lester, tho' if we were younger, & swingers, we'd both thrill to get into Claire Austin "four or five times."

***

= to best of ALL jazz, best of ALL boleros, EVER --->

George Jones "Open Pit Mine" (written by mysterious D.T. Gentry*)

From Morenci, Arizona where the copper mines glow

I could see Clifton in the canyon below

In Clifton lived Rosie, we danced and we dined

On the money I made in the open pit mine.

I loved my sweet Rosey and she loved me too

There was nothin' for Rosie that I wouldn't do

Her hugs and her kisses they were something divine

Gave me reason for working the open pit mine.

While I was out walkin' with my Rosie one day

We passed a store window with rings on display

I bought those she wanted, how they really did shine

Spent the money I saved from that open pit mine.

Her love would bring heartbreak that I would soon learn

'Cause she would two-time me when my back was turned

Rosie would go dancin' and drink the red wine

While I worked like a slave in that open pit mine.

One night I caught Rosie on her rendezvous

She was huggin' and kissin' with somebody new

It was there that I shot her while their arms were entwined

Then I buried her deep in that open pit mine.

I took a look at my future and what did I see

There was nothin' but trouble a-waiting for me

But on the sun's next rising I'll be satisfied

'Cause they'll find me there sleepin' by my sweet Rosie's side.

* real person, not publishing co. fiction

There's a sincerity and depth to the best of these kinds of lyrics that we Anglos just can't begin to fathom, I think.

Edited by MomsMobley

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Re. "I Remember": I think it might help to have some background on the show (actually a teleplay, "Evening Primrose") and on who the characters are and why one of them might be singing a lyric like that.

Ultimately, either you like it or you don't. I don't see any need to be crass/sarcastic about it, though.

But I suppose The Great Critics know best.

Edited by seeline

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Sngry: with but few exceptions, FACT: songs & marches win, and I say that as great advocate of composition. As for "sound" (mere sound, some might say), that's PHILOSOPHY, not music, unless we're really going to pretend Bill Dixon, admirable-- even heroic-- polymath & all, was REALLY a "great" "composer." Yeah, what fucking song? (Maybe the RCA album?)

Yeah, well let's pretend that songs are destined/doomed to forever follow the prescribed/proscribed structural assumptions of the current paradigm and then FACT: fuck that. That ain't nohing but suicide, a resistance to reality.

Now let's pretend that the "philosophy" of "sound" gets applied to the "fact" of "songs (and marches too, if you need that in your life), and let's see if we can get this shit moving along and up to speed. FACT: maybe that makes "song" relevant again as something besides entrapment, enslavement, and whoredom.

How you use your imagination is your choice.

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Re. "I Remember": I think it might help to have some background on the show (actually a teleplay, "Evening Primrose") and on who the characters are and why one of them might be singing a lyric like that.

Ultimately, either you like it or you don't. I don't see any need to be crass/sarcastic about it, though.

But I suppose The Great Critics know best.

I saw the lyric of "I Remember" as a little challenge -- how to make it utterly vulgar rather than archly poetic, while retaining much of the shape of the original. No doubt I failed. As for crassness and sarcasm -- for me Sondheim invites this, but again I probably failed to bring it off.

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Did you make the mistake of thinking that being utterly vulgar & archly poetic were mutually exclusive?

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I liked it Larry - my favorite parody since Yiddishe Prufrock ("I grow, I grow old.....and my bellybutton grows cold."

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If you know who the character is, and why the lyrics (archly poetic or not) might be sung by them, it changes things - quite a bit, I think. Granted, this is a very obscure show (only aired once), but it's easy enough to find synopses out there.

At any rate, I think the lyrics make a lot of sense in context; also that, given the character's situation, there's a good reason for them to be singing/speaking about the world in this way.

Edited by seeline

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Did you make the mistake of thinking that being utterly vulgar & archly poetic were mutually exclusive?

Pretty much. :rolleyes:

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they are forced and awkward.

What does that mean, in a totally objective sense?

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But, Seeline, when you posted the "I Remember" lyrics, though you did say they needed to be heard with the music to have their full effect, it was in a context within this thread where you were implying (or so it seemed to me) that you thought they also were quite beautful. Now you're saying that within the context of the show for which they were written, they're supposed to be taken as archly poetic? (which it me doesn't jibe with beautiful). I don't get it.

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they are forced and awkward.

What does that mean, in a totally objective sense?

And this is the same man who said yesterday that Howard Dietz's lyrics not only aren't in tune with the way people express themselves today but also that even back then people probably didn't express themselves that way. Objectively speaking.

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