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Sondheim on Music: Minor Details and Major Decisions Hardcover – 16 Oct 2010
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In this exciting new expanded edition, Mark Horowitz reveals the compositional process of Stephen Sondheim through a fascinating series of conversations with the composer himself. It is thrilling to discover the intimate details of how these classic songs, scores, and shows were created. Utterly captivating and illuminating.--Stephen Flaherty, Tony Award-winning composer of Ragtime, Once On This Island, and Seussical
In these remarkable dialogues Mark Horowitz has elicited cogent, illuminating insights into the creative process from Stephen Sondheim, the ever-astonishing titan of the musical stage.--Robert Kimball, Musical theatre historian and artistic advisor to the estates of Cole Porter and Ira Gershwin
Sondheim devotees will be forever grateful to Library of Congress music specialist Mark Horowitz for the interviews he conducted with Sondheim in 1997, the most extensive about how the composer works and the basis of an upcoming book, Sondheim On Music: Minor Details and Major Decisions.--Chip Brown "Smithsonian Magazine "
Indispensable for any student, writer, or ardent fan of drama and musical theater. Sondheim on Music opens up the usually private process of putting a show together; clarifying how science, craft and design can meet the mysteries and wonder of life and story. It puts the reader in the room with one of our greatest American masters.--Jeanine Tesori, composer of Caroline, or Change and Shrek the Musical
About the Author
Mark Eden Horowitz is Senior Music Specialist at the Library of Congress where he has worked as archivist for the collections of manuscripts and papers of Irving Berlin, Leonard Bernstein, Vernon Duke, Oscar Hammerstein II, Jonathan Larson, Jascha Heifetz, Jerome Kern, Frederick Loewe, Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers, and Vincent Youmans, among others. He has taught courses in musical theater and Sondheim at Georgetown University and is Contributing Editor to The Sondheim Review.
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The interviews begin exploring musical drafts of "Passion" (the most recent completed score), then work back through "Assassins", "Into the Woods", "Sunday in the Park With George", "Sweeney Todd" to "Pacific Overtures". Not discussed in the same extraordinary detail (though touched upon here and there) are "Merrily We Roll Along", and the early Hal Prince collaborations "Follies", "Company", and "A Little Night Music".
Horowitz is clearly well prepared, and Sondheim is a wonderfully relaxed, enthusiastic and honest interviewee. The emphasis is very much on the process of music composition rather than lyrics. All musical extracts are clearly and diligently transcribed from the original manuscripts. This reader felt he was being given a privilledged insight into the careful blend of intuition and skill that has produced the most inspiring body of work in post-war Broadway history.
Part two of the book is less compelling and a bit of an anticlimax. Sondheim's list of "Songs I Wish I'd Written (at least in part)" unearths some lesser known gems from yesteryear. The list is of some interest (though we don't learn why he wishes he'd written a lot of them,) and the words of praise by his contemporaries that fill several pages more add little to our understanding. (This whole section comprises reprinted programme notes from a Birthday Tribute Concert.)
The extremely full Discography which follows, and takes up the second half of the book, was added at the request of the author and may be considered a useful reference work in its own right. (Personally, I would have loved more interviews!)
Although quite expensive, I'd say this book is well worth having if you are a more musicologically-minded fan, or a musician interested in composing for the theatre. Of the books on Sondheim I have read, this is one of the most absorbing and insightful, and makes a marvellous companion piece to Craig Zadan's magnificent "Sondheim and Co."
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