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Sondheim's Broadway Musicals (The Michigan American Music) Paperback – 31 Aug 1995

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Sondheim's Broadway Musicals (The Michigan American Music) + Art Isn't Easy: The Theater Of Stephen Sondheim (Inlcudes New Chapter) + Reading Stephen Sondheim: A Collection of Critical Essays: 10 (Studies in Modern Drama)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 472 pages
  • Publisher: The University of Michigan Press; New edition edition (31 Aug. 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0472080830
  • ISBN-13: 978-0472080830
  • Product Dimensions: 3.2 x 16.5 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 782,897 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By J Scott Morrison HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 14 Aug. 2006
Format: Paperback
This is not a book for the casual Sondheim fan. Be warned, unless you have a fair degree of musical sophistication -- and this involves music theory and musicology -- this is not the book for you. But for those who do understand such arcane things as harmonic (including Schenkerian) analysis, or how a typical Broadway tune is constructed, or, to use Banfield's favorite term, the diegetic uses of music, this 1993 book is a gold mine. The emphasis throughout is on the music, not on dramatic construction or the lyrics themselves; they are noted but not dwelt on.

Banfield gives us some historical and biographical background, with a fair discussion of Sondheim's pre-Broadway career (including some tidbits about the collaboration with Bernstein on 'West Side Story'), an overview of the compositional process, detailed exegesis of each of Sondheim's works from 'A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum' through 'Into the Woods.' There are many scholarly references and a voluminous bibliography as well as a slightly light-weight index. One is disappointed that the book stops in the early 1990s. Perhaps Banfield will update it one day.

This is definitely a book for serious students of Sondheim's work. It is a densely written text but definitely repays close study.

Scott Morrison
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By M. Board VINE VOICE on 21 Oct. 2003
Format: Hardcover
This book is an excellent and scrupulous assessment of Sondheim's musical works. His analysis of the tiny details in Sondheim's songs, in regards to how his composing and lyric-writing come together, is incredible and fascinating.
For the most part, Banfield is careful to keep tying his analysis back into the work as a whole - however, there are times when he just gets lost in this complicated dissection of musical theory. I'm not sure whether this is because I don't understand many of the musical terms he's using, or whether it's because his prose style is a little too verbose sometimes.
On the other hand, this is an especially insightful read for wannabe composers who admire Stephen Sondheim - it certainly gives you a lot of ideas to think about.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 10 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
An essential book for students of musical theater. 25 Mar. 1999
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
An important and seminal work for students of musical theater and/or Sondheim. Like Joseph Swain's "The Broadway Musical," this book applies serious compostional analysis to an area that has not traditionally been considered worthy of consideration from that point of view. Even if you are not able to completely comprehend everything in this book, it is a fascinating and rewarding read. Banfield has a lot of insight not only into Sondheim's compostional processes, but also into the dramatic stucture of his musicals. The biographical details included are sufficient but not excessive for a book with this focus. I may disagree with Banfield here and there, and there is an occasional factual error, but his overall grasp of Sondheim's work and why it is important makes any quibbles ultimately trivial. Highly recommended.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
For musicians and Sondheim enthusiasts only 7 Jan. 2002
By Veammn - Published on
Format: Paperback
As a musical theatre composer myself, this book was dead on as far as its intricate dissecting of Sondheim's scores. However, non-musicians take note: This book may not be for you. Banfield employs deep theortical analasys of Sondheim's work, and most readers without a background in music theory will find some of this book difficult to understand. As far as Banfield's analasys goes, it is right on target. He explains the various schemes and tecniques Sondheim uses in his music to make it sound exactly like what is being expressed. Banfield also does an excellent job in explaning the various actions that drove Sondheim to write his shows and the reactions that came from the critics. All in all, this is a wonderfully written book.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Incredibly detailed analysis of Sondheim's work. 11 Jun. 1997
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Banfield's text offers practically an autopsy of each of Sondheim's musicals. Very detailed and insightful. Helps if you know music and music theory. A must for any serious students of Sondheim's work
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Dense material, but worth the work 12 April 2002
By Brittany Huber - Published on
Format: Paperback
As a Sondheim afficionado and serious music student, I adored this book and the insights it gave into the techincal aspects of Sondheim's compositions. As Banfield says in the introduction, too often the music isn't given the serious consideration compositionally that it deserves. Just a warning though, the book is really just about the music, there is fairly little discussion of the dramatic or theatrical aspects of Sondheim's work. That being said, this is an amazingly intelligent, in depth, and scholarly treatment of Sondheim purely as a composer.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Not a book for everyone but one of the best out there 13 Mar. 2007
By David Seaman - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is wonderful in that Banfield has created a series of dissertations on the composition of each of Sondheim's most important works. Those of you who have extensive music theory background will find this book to be golden. Banfield uses musical exceprts and analyzes these small musical moments in regard to how they support the character or the situation and even foreshadowing at hand. I am reminded of a Bach sacred work in which the work is scored in such a way that the printed page creates a picture of the crucifix, yet at the same time depicts a remarkable musical moment. This is the sort of detail and craft that Sondheim uses. Sondheim is a man who is writing many years before his time. The politics and unions of New York Theatre have jaded him, but at any given moment one of Sondheim's works is being produced in revival and being understood far more so than the original production. "Merrily we Roll Along" is a brilliant work that has yet to be completely understood by the public, though "Sweeney Todd" is finally begining to be seen as the major work it is: one of the most important pieces of theatre to have been created so far. "Passion" was recognized as best musical at the Tony awards though never did a road production. "Passion" is brillaintly written so that there is no applause break, no intermission and the audience is not permitted a single moment from start to intense ending where he may slip back into the "real world." In this way, "Passion" moves more like a film, so that the audience, once caught into the magic, is not permitted even an instant of coming back to the surface, making the intensity of this work even more powerful. Sondheim's inteligence and insistence that our fast food nation use its mind to experience an evening of brilliance that often hits very close to home is both part of his brilliance and part of what causes critics to shy away. (We now laugh at the foolish critics who criticized the brilliant second act of "Sunday in The Park With George." Stephen Banfield's "Sondheim's Broadway Musical" gives us a book that is not only fun to read, but allows us to understand the work better. Before staging any Sondheim work yourself you must read this book and if you teach music theory, musical theatre or acting, then this is a book that must be included in the curriculum. For me? I read it both for the professional need as well as the intellectual stimulation. This is not a souvenier book but rather a brilliant study for those who are very serious about music, lyrics and the creation of character, life and art on the stage. Sondheim is an international treasure and we have the very unusual experience of living as contemporarys with a man who will be placed in history beside Bach, Mozart and Beethoven. Banfield's book will begin to show you why.
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