Saturday, 14 October 2017

Part 10

To write a musical, I'm calling on everything I know about using and receiving language. Not much, I admit, but a lot, too. 
And the thrill of coming across, during a routine trip to the kitchen, the beat and harmonic guts of an opening number--well I tell you, that's a thrill that 20 minutes later has not worn off.
I'll figure out the words later!

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Today, the Musical, Part Nine

I pause from my labours at keyboards to watch some baseball post-season action. That puts me in the path of the irritating SGI "Drive Alive" commercial.
Irritating because its rhyming is so lazy. The four couplets end "hosts/most," "friends/trends," "begins/in," "ride/alive." That's one pure rhyme, two near rhymes, one flat-out impure rhyme.
Dedicated readers of this blog--a fond autumn greeting to you both, Aunt Sneaky and Uncle Pete--will know I've long enjoyed the challenge of formal constraints. The more obsessively I establish them, the more generative they become, has been the prevailing idea these last 35 years, or ever since I encountered this idea as 
Fred Wah's creative writing student in Nelson, B.C.
Pure rhyme is the latest formal constraint I've taken on. The sense such a pursuit makes to me is that rhyme is at the heart of what moves me about musical theatre. 
So I'm going to stay true to it.
PS: Stephen Sondheim speaks also of trick rhyme: like his "personable/coercin' a bull" in "You Could Drive a Person Crazy" from Company. Use sparingly, he reminds us. And only if it fits the character.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Today the Musical, Part Eight

Today I sat down with The Great Broadway Fake Book. (I pause to tell this story: years ago--50 of them--my friend Terry turned me on to jazz. (I should also credit my sister Fay and her Ray Charles collection, and even dad's big band LP by, a band whose name I can't remember--the Elgar brothers, or something. That band was usually pitched as mellow, but they could really swing when they let it go.) Terry was into the hardest contemporary jazz--Coltrane, Ornette, later Miles and, my fav, the Jones-Lewis big band which was a powerhouse for a few years into the 70s. He was clear by the time we all finished high school that he'd be a jazz musician, which he became. And he used to talk about fake books, or fakebooks, of well-known tunes represented by only title, composer and lyricist, lyrics, melody, time signature, tempo term, and chords. Often they seemed cobbled together from different photocopiers or sheet music scores. Plastic spiral binding. 
I don't know why they're called that. Maybe because if you have the melody and the changes, you can fake the rest.)
Anyway, this afternoon I sat down, at the piano, with the fakebook of Broadway tunes and worked through four or five pages, maybe half a dozen songs, in an hour. I can read music; I know how to play chords. I'm clumsy as hell as a piano player, though. I'll have to practice before I can perform songs, accompanied by myself at the piano. 
I tell you, it's like magic. Play a Richard Rodgers tune from Allegro, you'll hear it as simple, and perhaps (lyrics by Hammerstein) sentimental, but then you're at the end of the song feeling as if you've learned from it. 
That's what I'm after: why this is so. Why I'm so moved.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Today, the Musical, Part Seven

I think I've figured out how to get Patty, as I'm calling her for now, to get from the vestibule of her apartment building, where she's locked out and buzzing strangers to let her in, to the series of scenes in which we all get to know these strangers. Once the big oak front door opens, which it does after a cacophony (perhaps fugue) of "No" and "bugger off" and "oh yeah? You should hear my problems," Patty does her hallway dance, sometimes chanting a simple verse about "this is how I move" this is where I step," sometimes walking silently. These serve as transitions from one scene to the next. Her chant will have to remind us what progress is being made in these scenes.