How Sondheim Found His Sound

How Sondheim Found His Sound: 0472114972: pdf

Product details


  • Full Title: How Sondheim Found His Sound
  • Autor: Steve Swayne
  • Print Length: 336 pages
  • Publisher: University of Michigan Press; Fourth Printing edition
  • Publication Date: August 8, 2005
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0472114972
  • ISBN-13: 978-0472114979
  • Download File Format | Size: pdf | 1.08 MB


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“The research is voluminous, as is the artistry and perceptiveness. Swayne has lived richly within the world of Sondheim’s music.”
—Richard Crawford, author of America’s Musical Life: A History

“Sondheim’s career and music have never been so skillfully dissected, examined, and put in context. With its focus on his work as composer, this book is surprising and welcome.”
—Theodore S. Chapin, President and Executive Director, The Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization

“What a fascinating book, full of insights large and small. An impressive analysis and summary of Sondheim’s many sources of inspiration. All fans of the composer and lovers of Broadway in general will treasure and frequently refer to Swayne’s work.”
—Tom Riis, Joseph Negler Professor of Musicology and Director of the American Music Research Center, University of Colorado

Stephen Sondheim has made it clear that he considers himself a “playwright in song.” How he arrived at this unique appellation is the subject of How Sondheim Found His Sound—an absorbing study of the multitudinous influences on Sondheim’s work.

Taking Sondheim’s own comments and music as a starting point, author Steve Swayne offers a biography of the artist’s style, pulling aside the curtain on Sondheim’s creative universe to reveal the many influences—from classical music to theater to film—that have established Sondheim as one of the greatest dramatic composers of the twentieth century.

Sondheim has spoken often and freely about the music, theater, and films he likes, and on occasion has made explicit references to how past works crop up in his own work. He has also freely acknowledged his eclecticism, seeing in it neither a curse nor a blessing but a fact of his creative life.

Among the many forces influencing his work, Sondheim has readily pointed to a wide field: classical music from 1850 to 1950; the songs of Tin Pan Alley, Broadway, and Hollywood; the theatrical innovations of Oscar Hammerstein II and his collaborators; the cinematic elements found in certain film schools; and the melodramatic style of particular plays and films. Ultimately, Sondheim found his sound by amalgamating these seemingly disparate components into his unique patois.

How Sondheim Found His Sound is the first book to provide an overview of his style and one of only a few to account for these various components, how they appear in Sondheim’s work, and how they affect his musical and dramatic choices.


Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

There have been so many books written about Stephen Sondheim and his revolutionary scores that it’s hard to believe anything’s left to analyze. But Swayne has found a new angle, and in this scholarly tome, he examines the impact other artists and mediums have had on Sondheim’s work. The Dartmouth music professor offers some fascinating and fresh insights into possible inspirations behind characters and musical moments in shows including Follies, A Little Night Music, Sunday in the Park with George and Passion, citing classical and Broadway composers Ravel, Rachmaninoff, Gershwin and Arlen, as well as dramatists like Sondheim mentor Oscar Hammerstein and, most intriguingly, French new wave filmmaker Alain Resnais. The author probes Sondheim’s past and excavates his classical record collection, student papers and musical compositions, early musicals written at Williams College and even all the college plays he took part in. Amid the trove of details, Swayne doesn’t always successfully connect the presumed influence to something in Sondheim’s oeuvre. That he owned a lot of records by certain classical composers, for example, doesn’t necessarily mean that every composer greatly shaped his work. Additionally, the author offers lengthy dissections of the songs “What Can You Lose?” from the movie Dick Tracy and “Putting It Together” from Sunday that will best be appreciated by music scholars. Sondheim enthusiasts who are not musically inclined will most enjoy the chapters on his film and theater influences.
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