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Stephen Sondheim RIP

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Insular...like jazz?

Or lazily path-of-least-resistance "populist", like the other jazz?

 

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And in fairness to Broadway, it had no choice but to write insularly, since the days when radio would play even the most wonderful songs from Broadway ended in 1967.

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11 minutes ago, riddlemay said:

And in fairness to Broadway, it had no choice but to write insularly, since the days when radio would play even the most wonderful songs from Broadway ended in 1967.

Not totally.  Songs from 'Hair' ruled radio in 1969 ("Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In", "Easy to be Hard", "Hair", "Good Morning Starshine", "Where

Do I Go", "I Got Life", "Walking in Space").  But I agree in general and might even make the date much earlier.

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What kind of radio are we talking about here?

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5d20dfd012fa818ebbaef774d929b258.jpg

 

Edited by riddlemay

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I heard "easy listening", and other non-rock AM stations (and even more FM)  playing records from Broadway shows well into the middle 1970s. The newer shows might not have had as many hits as the older ones, but they had a few, and they got played on the stations that would play them, of which there were some. Not a lot, but some.

And as Felser points out, "Broadway" moved in two directions, both more insular and at the same time more lowest-common-denominator. Andrew Lloyd Weber, anybody?

 

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13 minutes ago, JSngry said:

 

And as Felser points out, "Broadway" moved in two directions, both more insular and at the same time more lowest-common-denominator. Andrew Lloyd Weber, anybody?

 

That excellent point was made by TTK.  I can't take credit for it, as astute as it would make me seem.

20 minutes ago, riddlemay said:

5d20dfd012fa818ebbaef774d929b258.jpg

 

Mine was a GE, and had a little white headphone I could stick in one ear while listening in bed with the radio under my pillow.  Got it as the requested gift for my 10th birthday on this date in 1964.  I turned 67 today.  My requested gift is to go to the opening showing of the new West Side Story movie (greatest score ever by miles and miles).

 

Edited by felser

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The stuff I've heard from "recent" Broadway hits like Rent & Hamilton...the shows are hits, but none of the songs are?

and they really don't sound like songs, they sound like plot devices set to music. So is that insular, or is that just flat-out negation of song-ness?

I'm ok with that, really, "songs in the old sense, pretty much obsolete imo, but are these any better? Not to my mind.

I don't blame Broadway, though. I blame society as a whole. It's an increasingly insular world, and at the same time more standardized.

These are very odd times.

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About the supposedly uncolloquial cleverness of Hart's rhymes, I think Sondheim misses the point. Take, for example;e the lyric to Rodgers and Hart's "Manhattan,"  (1923) which ranks high in that category  ("We'll have Manhattan/ The Bronx and Staten/ Island too" ... etc., etc.)  In terms of rhythm, the oblique placement of the rhyme words weaves a veritable tap dance of explosive accents into and around the song, as though the lyric of the song were its own virtuoso multilevel shadow performance. This interaction of levels more or less is the song, and in this it is aimed, one might say, at mirroring the jangly syncopation of Manhattan itself.

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1 hour ago, JSngry said:

The stuff I've heard from "recent" Broadway hits like Rent & Hamilton...the shows are hits, but none of the songs are?

and they really don't sound like songs, they sound like plot devices set to music. So is that insular, or is that just flat-out negation of song-ness?

I'm ok with that, really, "songs in the old sense, pretty much obsolete imo, but are these any better? Not to my mind.

I don't blame Broadway, though. I blame society as a whole. It's an increasingly insular world, and at the same time more standardized.

These are very odd times.

I agree that some of the newer Broadway musicals are less than memorable. I hated Chicago - The Musical, mostly annoyning characters and none of the songs stuck with me. If you aren't humming at least one song as you leave, it was a waste of time and money.

6 hours ago, Rooster_Ties said:

Isn’t that rich. :lol:

 

6 hours ago, clifford_thornton said:

if it were west coast jazz-focused and penned for our beloved Chewy, it could be titled "Send In The Crowns" 

My wife and I wrote a parody we called "Send in the Crowns" around 20 years ago when we were facing unplanned dental expenses.

We've sung it a few times for people and her dentist has the text framed in his office.

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Chicago, that was another one.

To be fair, though...do melodies/songs even serve a functional purpose these days for the culture at large? Other than being sampled as nostalgic signifiers on ads/movies/etc? Have songs evolved into fodder for memes, and that's it?

Serious question, 30 or so years into the Digital Paradigm Shift.

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4 hours ago, JSngry said:

Insular...like jazz?

More or less, though on a slightly different timeline.  But yeah, both jazz and Broadway had less and less of an impact on pop music.  Not sure if they abandoned pop, or if pop abandoned them.  Or a combination.  

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Maybe it's no so much any thing consciously abandoning anything? Maybe it's just that it's gotten REALLY easy to get known answers to known questions? Which is a wonderful thing. But then...at what point does not having to work for THOSE answers devolve into thinking that those answers are ALL the answers? And then when the people who have questions that do not necessarily have those answers ask them and look for answers and fewer and fewer people care about any of that...insulator does indeed ensure.

I don't know that "majority taste" has ever been predicated on "curiosity" as much as it has been "satisfaction", but when in the course of human events the intersection between the two turns more divergent than convergent...

Maybe it's just a phrase we're going through... hell if I know.

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Lorenz Hart died in 1943.  Sondheim's quotes about him were from 2010.  Doesn't seem fair to judge the "colloquialism" of lyrics written almost 100 years prior.  Do we really know how people spoke then?   Are we really in position to judge that?  

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13 minutes ago, JSngry said:

Maybe it's no so much any thing consciously abandoning anything? Maybe it's just that it's gotten REALLY easy to get known answers to known questions? Which is a wonderful thing. But then...at what point does not having to work for THOSE answers devolve into thinking that those answers are ALL the answers? And then when the people who have questions that do not necessarily have those answers ask them and look for answers and fewer and fewer people care about any of that...insulator does indeed ensure.

I don't know that "majority taste" has ever been predicated on "curiosity" as much as it has been "satisfaction", but when in the course of human events the intersection between the two turns more divergent than convergent...

Maybe it's just a phrase we're going through... hell if I know.

My point is that Stephen Sondheim's yardstick for "good" Broadway lyrics would not have really applied in the 1920s, 30s, or early 40s, because Broadway was more or less a laboratory for creating pop songs at that time, and little more. The idea of Broadway lyrics deeply driven by plot or character came more into vogue in the Rodgers and Hammerstein era. 

Sondheim's criticism of Hart would be akin to a contemporary jazz pianist criticizing Erroll Garner for playing a three-minute arrangement of "Misty" on TV variety shows and talk shows in the 1950s or 1960s.  Jazz was more closely entwined with pop music then.  

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Ok, but Broadway also includes Weber and Lin Miranda and whoever did Rent/ Chicago/etc. And are those "good lyrics" but "bad songs"? Hell if I know, I can't really get through any of them. And yet the shows...immensely popular, and in the case of of Weber, some sickening songs that really were hits.

So what's really going on here? To be honest, I don't really care, but any time there's a conversation about ANYTHING getting separated from pop music, my default is to wonder about pop/popular music and just how vital IT has become.

And from all I get told, it's a Tik-Tok world now and everybody else is a trailing indicator. Let's see how sustainable that is...but I'm placing no bets.

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2 hours ago, JSngry said:

Ok, but Broadway also includes Weber and Lin Miranda and whoever did Rent/ Chicago/etc. And are those "good lyrics" but "bad songs"? Hell if I know, I can't really get through any of them. And yet the shows...immensely popular, and in the case of of Weber, some sickening songs that really were hits.

So what's really going on here? To be honest, I don't really care, but any time there's a conversation about ANYTHING getting separated from pop music, my default is to wonder about pop/popular music and just how vital IT has become.

And from all I get told, it's a Tik-Tok world now and everybody else is a trailing indicator. Let's see how sustainable that is...but I'm placing no bets.

Good point about pop music.  Hasn't meant a thing to me in 30 years, and is largely unlistenable to my ears, with the monotony of it.  And it sure doesn't sell like it did 45-50 years ago (I know, everything is free to stream).   "Rent" actually had some really good songs, and at least one ("Seasons of Love", the one about 525,600 minutes) has imbedded itself in mass culture, with no objection coming from me.  Like the music a lot more than the play itself.  Have "Chicago" on my unplayed DVD shelf (which is a lot longer than my unplayed CD shelf, that often is empty), need to give it a viewing.  "Cabaret" is also on there, waiting to be viewed.

Edited by felser

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10 hours ago, felser said:

Lorenz Hart died in 1943.  Sondheim's quotes about him were from 2010.  Doesn't seem fair to judge the "colloquialism" of lyrics written almost 100 years prior.  Do we really know how people spoke then?   Are we really in position to judge that?  

Sondheim was criticizing Hart as early as the 1980s, if not before.  I specifically remember having conversations about this in the 1980s.

10 hours ago, JSngry said:

Ok, but Broadway also includes Weber and Lin Miranda and whoever did Rent/ Chicago/etc. And are those "good lyrics" but "bad songs"? Hell if I know, I can't really get through any of them. And yet the shows...immensely popular, and in the case of of Weber, some sickening songs that really were hits.

As you wrote earlier, the shows themselves are very popular, but the songs don't really resonate beyond the context of the shows.  Even Webber didn't have all that many "hits" in the traditional sense of the word.  

Of course, popular culture itself has increasingly fragmented over the decades, and Broadway would be yet one more example.  The fact that many of us can't name a single song that Sondheim wrote since 1973, despite his resume, would attest to this.

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3 hours ago, Teasing the Korean said:

Sondheim was criticizing Hart as early as the 1980s, if not before.  I specifically remember having conversations about this in the 1980s.

As you wrote earlier, the shows themselves are very popular, but the songs don't really resonate beyond the context of the shows.  Even Webber didn't have all that many "hits" in the traditional sense of the word.  

Of course, popular culture itself has increasingly fragmented over the decades, and Broadway would be yet one more example.  The fact that many of us can't name a single song that Sondheim wrote since 1973, despite his resume, would attest to this.

I'm no scholar of Broadway but my subjective impression at the time was that a key style-setting point on the more or less a-melodic path was "A Chorus Line" in 1975. 

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2 hours ago, Larry Kart said:

I'm no scholar of Broadway but my subjective impression at the time was that a key style-setting point on the more or less a-melodic path was "A Chorus Line" in 1975. 

And yet...it wasn't a-melodic enough for it to not be the subject of a halftime medley/routine for my first-year NTSU Marching Band!

Corniest shit I've ever played in a student situation, ever.

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18 hours ago, Teasing the Korean said:

My point is that Stephen Sondheim's yardstick for "good" Broadway lyrics would not have really applied in the 1920s, 30s, or early 40s, because Broadway was more or less a laboratory for creating pop songs at that time, and little more. The idea of Broadway lyrics deeply driven by plot or character came more into vogue in the Rodgers and Hammerstein era. 

 

 

 

Here is a recording from an event which is probably not known among most  members here and lovers of good music and lyrics.

The concert was transmitted in Germany via radio and TV  around 2000

Have made my own  copy for private use but would like to share the Information. The music  is simply great and the  Helen does a superbe job.

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8 hours ago, Larry Kart said:

I'm no scholar of Broadway but my subjective impression at the time was that a key style-setting point on the more or less a-melodic path was "A Chorus Line" in 1975. 

You may be right.  I'm no scholar of Broadway either, and what I do know of it is how it relates to the so-called Great American Songbook.  I think by the 1960s we began to see big hit shows that contained no hit songs, e.g., A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, by you-know-who.  

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Not sure about the "no hits" thing....certainly not Rock Top 40 hits, but again, there were other outlets besides those...from "A Chorus Line", "What I did for Love" was all over MOR Stations and TV variety shows. And "One" somehow seeped its way into pop culture via commercials and such. If we won't call those "hits", we can certainly say they had cultural/media penetration.

Now, Forum, that's a different deal. About the only song from that one I can recognize by name is "Comedy Tonight", and then, just because it was used as the theme song for a pretty good 70s summer replacement show on CBS that was hosted by Robert Klein. But I knew the TV show loooong before I was aware of its origins.

In Jazz, though, didn't Richie Cole do it on one of his records? And I know tht Pepper Adams quoted it on one of his Muse albums, in the middle of "My Shining Hour".

 

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6 minutes ago, JSngry said:

Now, Forum, that's a different deal. About the only song from that one I can recognize by name is "Comedy Tonight", and then, just because it was used as the theme song for a pretty good 70s summer replacement show on CBS that was hosted by Robert Klein. But I knew the TV show loooong before I was aware of its origins.

In Jazz, though, didn't Richie Cole do it on one of his records? And I know tht Pepper Adams quoted it on one of his Muse albums, in the middle of "My Shining Hour".

Oh, I'm sure artists in various genres recorded all kinds of Broadway tunes from the 1960s and later, but I think very, very few of these tunes became generally recognizable outside of the shows.  I'm sure we could come up with a list if we wanted to, but I think it would become finite very quickly, especially by the time you get to the 1970s.  Hair was a real outlier in this regard, having four or five big hits by four different artists.   That must have been the last time that this sort of thing occurred.  

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Variety shows offered an outlet, and after they died...i don't know, talk shows?

The scholck musicals still wer big, though, crap like "Annie"...TOMORROW.

Yuck.

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