29 February 2008

Song of the day: "Children and Art" by Stephen Sondheim

Another poignant song which reinforces the idea that children and art are the only things that really last in life. The song is especially poignant because the actress performing it has to do it in the fragile, tired voice of a 80+ year old person.

From Sunday in the Park with George
You would have liked him,
Mama, you would.
Mama, he makes things-
Mama, they're good.
Just as you said from the start:
Children and art...
Children and art...

He should be happy-
Mama, he's blue.
What do I do?

You should have seen it,
It was a sight?
Mama, I mean it-
All color and light-!
I don't understand what it was,
But, Mama, the things that he does-
They twinkle and shimmer and buzz-
You would have liked them...

Henry... Henry?... Henry...

It's George, Grandmother.

Of course it is. I thought you were your father for a moment.
Did I tell you who that was?

Of course. That is your mother.

Isn't she beautiful?
There she is-
There she is, there she is, there she is-
Mama is everywhere,
He must have loved her so much...

Is she really in all those places, Marie?

This is our family-
This is the lot.
After I go, this is
All that you've got, honey-
Wasn't she beautiful, though?

You would have liked her.
Mama did things
No one had done.
Mama was funny,
Mama was fun,
Mama spent money
When she had none.

Mama said, "Honey,
Mustn't be blue.
It's not so much do what you like
As it is that you like what you do:"
Mama said, "Darling,
Don't make such a drama,
A little less thinking,
A little more feeling-"
I'm just quoting Mama...
The child is so sweet...
And the girls are so rapturous...
Isn't it lovely how artists can capture us?

Yes, it is, Marie.

You would have liked her-
Honey, I'm wrong,
You would have loved her.

Mama enjoyed things.
Mama was smart.
See how she shimmers
I mean from the heart.

I know, honey, you don't agree,
But this is our family tree.
Just wait till we're there, and you'll see-
Listen to me...
Mama was smart...
Listen to Mama...
Children and art...
Children and art...
Goodbye, Mama.

28 February 2008

Song of the day: "You must meet my wife" by Stephen Sondheim

One of Sondheim's best comic songs. And as usual, with Sondheim, comic songs are witty. The most famous line in the song is "What is she, a bird?"

From A Little Night Music
She lightens my sadness,
She livens my days,
She bursts with a kind of madness
My well-ordered ways.
My happiest mistake, the ache of my life:
You must meet my wife.
She bubbles with pleasure,
She glows with surprise,
Disrupts my accustomed leisure
And ruffles my ties.
I don't know even now quite how it began.
You must meet my wife, my Anne.
One thousand whims to which I give in,
Since her smallest tear turns me ashen.
I never dreamed that I could live in
So completely demented, contented a fashion.
So sunlike, so winning,
So unlike a wife.
I do think that I'm beginning
To show signs of life.
Don't ask me how at my age one still can grow--
If you met my wife, you'd know.

Dear Fredrik, I'm just longing to meet her. Sometime.

She sparkles...

How pleasant.

She twinkles...

How nice.

Her youth is a sort of present--

Whatever the price.

The incandescent--what?--the--


--of my life.
You must meet my wife.

Yes, I must. I really must. Now--

She flutters.

How charming.

She twitters.

My word!

She floats.

Isn't that alarming?
What is she, a bird?

She makes me feel I'm--what?--

A very old man.




I must meet your Gertrude.

My Anne.


She loves my voice, my walk, my mustache,
The cigar, in fact, that I'm smoking.
She'll watch me puff until it's just ash,
Then she'll save the cigar butt.

Bizarre, but
You're joking.

She dotes on--

Your dimple.

My snoring.

How dear.

The point is, she's really simple.

Yes, that much seems clear.

She gives me funny names--


"Old Dry-as-Dust."

Wouldn't she just?

You must meet my wife.

Yes, I must, yes, I must.

A sea of whims that I submerge in,
Yet so loveable in repentance.
Unfortunately still a virgin,
But you can't force a flower--

Don't finish that sentence!
She's monstrous!

She's frightened.


She'd strike you as unenlightened--

No, I'd strike her first.

Her reticence, her apprehension--

Her crust!





You must meet my wife.

Let me get my hat and my knife!

What was that?

I must meet your wife.

Yes, you must. Yes, I must.

26 February 2008

Song of the day: "Sunday" by Stephen Sondheim

The triumphant finale to both acts in the musical; it's a celebration of the creative process.

From Sunday in the Park with George
By the blue
Purple yellow red water
On the green
Purple yellow red grass,
Let us Pass
Through our perfect park,
Pausing on a Sunday
By the cool
Blue triangular water
On the soft
Green elliptical grass
As we pass
Through arrangements of shadows
Towards the verticals of trees

By the blue
Purple yellow red water
On the green
Orange violet mass
Of the grass
In our perfect park

Made of flecks of light
And dark,
And parasols:

People strolling through the trees
Of a small suburban park
On an island in the river
On an ordinary Sunday...

24 February 2008

Song of the day: "Every Day a Little Death" by Stephen Sondheim

I really like the tone of this song and the idea that when you're depressed, you feel helpless and every ordinary act of daily seems like a burden.

From A Little Night Music
Every day a little death
In the parlor, in the bed
In the curtains, in the silver
In the buttons, in the bread
Every day a little sting
In the heart and in the head
Every move and every breath
And you hardly feel a thing
Brings a perfect little death

He smiles sweetly
Strokes my hair
Says he misses me
I would murder him right there
But first I die
He talks softly of his wars
And his horses
And his whores
I think love's a dirty business

So do I
So do I

I'm before him on my knees
And he kisses me
He assumes I'll loose my reason
And I do
Men are stupid
Men are vain
Love's disgusting
Love's insane
A humiliating business

Oh how true

Ah well
Every day a little death

Every day a little death

In the parlor, in the bed

In the looks and in the acts

In the curtains, in the silver
In the buttons, in the bread

In the murmurs, in the gestures
In the pauses, in the sighs

Every day a little sting

Every day a little dies

In the heart and in the head

In the looks and in the lies

Every move and every breath
And you hardly feel a thing
Brings a perfect little...

Quote of the day from A Little Night Music

I frequently laugh myself to sleep contemplating my own future.
- Charlotte, A Little Night Music

21 February 2008

Sondheim musicals ranked

It's a bit unfair to rank anything, but I want to record how I feel about the Sondheim musicals I've listened to and seen thus far.

Sweeney Todd
Sunday in the Park with George
A Little Night Music

Really good, but not my favorite:
Into the Woods
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum


20 February 2008

Company review

I finally saw a real production of Company on PBS's Great Performance series. This production was from the 2006-2007 Broadway revival. Company originally debuted in 1970 on Broadway.

Company was one of first shows where Stephen Sondheim wrote both the music and lyrics for the songs. The idea for the music came about when George Furth showed Sondheim a bunch of one-act plays he had been writing about marriage. Sondheim consulted his friend director/producer Hal Prince who told them, "Gentleman, it's a musical!" So in the end, Company became a series of sketches about five married couples who are friends with the perennial bachelor Bobby. The sketches are tied together by the emotional development of Bobby. He goes from being a bachelor who is skeptical of marriage to being a man who realizes how much he needs somebody and how commitment is part of what makes a person alive. Historically, Company is considered one of the first (if not the first) "concept" musical. There is no clear plot, but the music and dialogue are centered around a theme. In fact, it's not clear if the events are real or if they are going on in Bobby's head. Bobby blows out his birthday candles three times. Have three birthdays really occurred or does Bobby have a dream about his birthday?

Company is one of my favorite Sondheim shows so far (the others being Sweeney Todd and Sunday in the Park with George). It's a show that requires good acting and showcases outstanding acting. The ensemble numbers are beautiful. The Original Broadway Cast recording sounds very 1970s-ish, but John Doyle has updated the music to sound modern and classy. The musical has three of my favorite songs: "Being Alive," "The Ladies Who Lunch," and "Getting Married Today." The show is funny and witty, but it carries a strong message, too. Marriage, in fact any kind of commitment, is a compromise. It sucks that when we choose one path, we close many others, but that's what life is about. Life is about making choices. There's nothing wrong with Bobby being a bachelor. The problem is that it's all he knows. He's never tried anything else. He's never made a choice; he's always waiting to see what other people do. Joanne's stinging number "The Ladies Who Lunch" reminds Bobby (and the audience) that you can sit around wasting your life pretending you're actually living it. Delusion is insidious. There are so many ways to waste time, whether it's going to fittings, taking in high art like Mahler symphonies and Pinter plays, mocking other people, surfing the internet (wait, that's not in the musical...) [I have too many interests and it's so hard to commit to doing just one or two. I'm trying to wean myself off this Sondheim craze, so that I get some research done.]

In the end, Bobby realizes that he can't put off the inevitable. He wants to live a real life and feel real feelings. Hence the song "Being Alive." In a touching finale, he hides from his married friends, blows out his candles, and makes his own wish. He doesn't need his friends anymore. He's had his party and he knows that it's time to leave.

Some people find Company bitterly pessimistic about marriage. I think that's a misconception. First of all, we are seeing the married couples interact from Bobby's point of view. There are never any scenes where the couples are alone on stage (except "Poor Thing" where the couples are commenting on Bobby's non-married state). As Larry (Joanne's husband) says, his wife likes to grandstand in public. She's actually wonderful in private. Of course, since Bobby is a perpetual bachelor, he's looking for reasons why marriage is bad. Second, even though we see marriage depicted in a negative light, it's clear that Sondheim and Furth think that being a playboy is even worse. If commitment at its worst is still better than staying on the sidelines, it's clear what the best choice is.

As for the PBS broadcast, I loved Raul Esparza as Bobby. He played a very calm, sweet guy who gradually becomes more and more distraught about being as an outsider. The New York Times review described him as being icy like the drink perpetually glued to his hand and that as the show went on, he thawed until he exploded at the end. In the second act opening, Raul has a broad smile on his face as he watches his friends march around party-style. Towards the end of the number, two of the couples play solos on their instruments. The husband plays and the wife answers. When it comes to Bobby's turn, he attempts a few notes on a kazoo but no one is there to respond. He just stands there glowering for the rest of the song.

Raul's performance of "Being Alive" is my favorite so far (better than the recording on the original cast album by Dean Jones). I wasn't too crazy about the other performers. They were good, but not outstanding. The New York Times critic (name?) thought that since the the rest of the cast was slightly bland, that it gave more attention to Bobby (in a good way). I could see that. It was a bit disappointing to see my favorite songs "The Ladies Who Lunch" and "Getting Married Today" not come off as the showstoppers that they are. Still, who can top Elaine Strich's "Ladies" (one of the most legendary Broadway performances ever) and Madeline Kahn's "Getting Married Today"?

The Company revival was yet another John Doyle production. Doyle's trademark in recent years has been to take old musicals and redo them with the actors doubling as the orchestra. He pulled off this concept previously in the revival of Sweeney Todd to great critical acclaim. I enjoyed the doubling of musicians/actors. It wasn't as gimmicky as I thought it would be. I was amazed that some actors played two different instruments! How do they play with no conductor??

The fact that the instruments were onstage gave the musical a cabaret feel (not that I've ever been to a cabaret show, this is a guess). The cabaret feel was enhanced by the simple, black costumes and mostly bare set. Marriage and relationships are an intimate topic and the intimate setting works wonderfully. The piano was used very effectively. I liked seeing Marta sing while sitting on top of the piano. I liked watching Bobby clumsily climb on top of the piano (emphasizing that he's still a boyish voyeur). I liked how the actor stopped playing the piano and closed the keyboard case just as Barbara Walsh was finishing "The Ladies Who Lunch." I enjoyed seeing the actors walk around marching-band style in "Side by Side by Side".

However, having the actors play instruments wasn't good in all cases. I don't think they added anything to "You Could Drive a Person Crazy." I thought they were downright annoying in "Have I Got a Girl for You." Why would John Doyle have David play the cello while singing "have I got a girl for you"? What was Doyle thinking??

If you missed the PBS broadcast, don't worry. The broadcast will be available on DVD in a few months. I'll certainly be in line for it!

16 February 2008

Passion review

OK, I admit all these Sondheim musicals are wearing me down. I rented Passion which opened on Broadway in 1994 and only lasted for about eights months. It was a flop but not anywhere as bad as Merrily We Roll Along (lasted less than one month). Although Passion was short-lived on the stage, Stephen Sondheim and director/book writer James Lapine had the presence of mind to film it shortly after the musical closed.

The musical is based on a movie called Passione d'Amore. The story is about a handsome Italian officer named Giorgio. He is having an affair with a married woman in Milan. Her name is Clara. Giorgio is suddenly transferred to a new station in a little town far away. His superior officer, Colonel Ricci, has a sickly and ugly cousin named Fosca who falls in love with Giorgio.

I have to say that I was bored out of my mind during my first viewing. I wasn't exactly sure where the plot was going and watching an obsessive woman (Fosca) throw herself desperately at a man is not much fun. I didn't really start liking the musical until almost the end when Giorgio has a radical change of mind and decides that he admires Fosca and even loves her (though not as much as she loves him). He realizes that he wants real love, love that is without "reason" or "mercy" or "pride" or "shame," love that is not simply a "practical arrangement."

My second viewing was much more enjoyable since this time I knew where the plot was going. The music, costumes, and set design are lush, gorgeous, and of course very romantic. The acting is extremely good, the standout being Donna Murphy who played Fosca and won a Tony Award for her performance. Sondheim tries to hard to draw parallels between Fosca and Clara with both of them using some of the same songs and lyrics. Clara appears to be an angel (always wearing bright, breath-takingly beautiful dresses), a salvation of sorts, but it's clear that it is an empty one. Fosca is an emotional force (who in contrast wears dark green dresses) and seems like an obsessive maniac, but Donna Murphy's acting in the train scene (where Fosca follows Giorgio to the station) really sold me on the fact that Fosca is just misguided. She doesn't know how to control her feelings and she sincerely loves Giorgio. Fosca rightly points out that Clara and Giorgio's relationship is only surface deep. She understands that because she once made the mistake of falling for a handsome man who cheated her. However, I'm still not completely convinced of Giorgio's change of heart (when he starts loving Fosca).

It was a good show. I enjoyed the music and appreciated the novel concept, but I'm not sure I'd watch it again. The characters struck my emotional cord weakly; Passion didn't seem that passionate to me.

15 February 2008

Assassins review

Assassins was Sondheim's last musical on Broadway. It opened on Broadway on 2004 as a revival of the 1991 Off-Broadway production. Assassins is a musical with an unusual premise: who were the men and women who tried to assassinate US presidents and why did they do it? The said assassins include famous figures like John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, and John Hinkley as well as more obscure people like Charles Guiteau, Leon Czolgosz, and Sara Jane Moore. Each assassin has their own song, their turn in the spotlight to explain why they did it.

Like Sweeney Todd, much shock value is derived from having dark and manic characters sing beautiful songs in the style of Civil War ballads, Sousa marches, and other patriotic music. I'm a big fan of pre-1950s American tunes, so I certainly enjoyed Sondheim's music (after my elementary school unit on the Civil War, I ran around singing "Goober-peas").

The motivations of the assassins are as varied as their personalities. Sometimes they are political. Leon Czolgosz claims to have done it for the sake of the poor and oppressed (he tried to join anarchist organizations). John Wilkes Booth claims that he did it to save the South from that tyrant Lincoln. However, the commentary of the Balladeer and Booth's subsequent appearances in the musical make it seem like Booth was after fame and theatrics (Booth was a charismatic actor). Other people are simply insane. Charles Guiteau was a megalomaniac who wanted to be ambassador to France and felt insulted when the president wouldn't grant him the position. Guiteau and Booth are the most flamboyant and outgoing assassins. The loner John Hinkley wanted to impress the actress Jodie Foster. Giuseppe Zangara suffered from severe abdominal pain, which seems to have driven him crazy. To relieve the pain, he decided to murder a president; he wanted everyone to hear his suffering. The women assassins, Sara Jane Moore and Lynette Fromme, are treated unfairly, in my opinion. They are simply reduced to comic relief characters. Moore is depicted as a klutz who can't even load a gun. Finally, there is Lee Harvey Oswald. No one really knows what his motivations were, so the musical invents a story about how Oswald wanted to kill himself, but the other assassins goad him into killing the president. Huh?

The musical does not celebrate these assassins. Not a single person really gets their "prize", except maybe Guiteau who finally got the media attention he wanted. In fact, as the Balladeer points out, Lincoln ended up being one of the most revered American presidents because his term was cut short by Booth's assassination -- surely not the result Booth would have wanted.

What is the audience supposed to make of Assassins? The obvious answer is that it's about the corruption of the American Dream. The office of president is the pinnacle of the American Dream, so assassinating the president is equivalent to trying to destroy the American Dream. What seems like a beautiful idea - "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" - has a dark underside. If you have money, health, and joy in your life, there's someone else in the country who doesn't have that and wants it badly, maybe badly enough to take it away from you by gunpoint. However, I don't think this idea is unique to America. How is the American Dream different than the generic yearning for a better life? Because we have a legacy of freedom and anti-aristocracy in America, (some) people feel entitled to a perfect life, the most coveted objects being money and fame. If popular television is an accurate barometer of American culture, it seems like people value fame more than anything (e.g. acting like morons on talk shows like Jerry Springer). Killing is about the quickest shortcut to fame I can think of. You can "make your way to the head of the line" as the Balladeer explains in "Ballad of Czolgosz." Even in our jaded modern society, killing can emotionally devastate people and thus generate media attention, if you pick the right targets (presidents, innocent students). Moreover, in a land which celebrates diversity and welcomes immigrants, we have to take the bad apples (the insane, deranged) with the good. The dreams of the assassins (wanting fame, wanting to impress Jodie Foster, wanting to make political statements, etc) are just as valid as our own. The problem is that they went to unacceptable extremes.

I noticed a chronological progression in motivation from political (Booth and Czolgosz) to self-absorbed and fame-grabbing (Hinckley and Fromme). Are we supposed to think that TV and popular culture is responsible for increasingly senseless killing like the Virginia Tech massacre? There is probably some truth in that, though I'm not sure pop culture can account for all of it. With the internet, TV, cable, etc, you can isolate yourself completely from sane human beings and warp your perceptions. If someone can achieve fame by singing terribly on YouTube, why can't you get your moment in the spotlight by murder?

After some deliberations and several listens of the cast album, I felt like I learned a lot about some obscure historical figures and added to my conception of what the American Dream is about. I'm cerebrally satisfied, but emotionally, no. If I went to get a personal take on revenge and killing, I'll turn to Sweeney Todd. Assassins is indeed a thought-provoking and original piece of work, but when it comes to the music that resonates with me, it's the heart and not the head.

13 February 2008

Pithy information

Here's a thought I've been having lately. One of the challenges of communicating dense information is simply remembering it. The human brain is only capable of digesting information in chunks. For example, a US phone number is 10 digits and that's pretty much the maximum the average person can remember. One of the challenges of giving good presentations or lectures is how to package them so that people will remember them the next day. That's why my master's thesis advisor always told his students to tell a story. Stories are the basic coin of art and incredibly effective in making information delivery potent.

One of my favorite artforms is the musical. It doesn't get any better than that. With a musical, you have a compact two hour story with important moments captured in song. An expertly written song (e.g. many Sondheim songs) conveys so much information. The lyrics are like a poem and the music enhances the emotional power of the words. I don't know quite how to describe it, but the music is like a drug that rushes into your brain and turns on your emotional centers and consequently enhances your ability to take in the words. Unlike most songs though, a song in a musical is part of a larger framework - a story made of dialogue and more songs. I suppose everyone has their preference for length: poetry, short story, or novel. Musicals are analogous to short stories and that's the length I enjoy most. (Aside: for written work, I like both short stories and novels.)

I love good songs because you can sing and perform them and because they're so dense and compact, you can carry them in your pocket. When you come across an interesting moment in your life, you can simply pull out the song and use it as a mirror to reflect on the moment. You can say the same things about poetry, but somehow I just haven't developed a taste for poetry... yet.

08 February 2008

Passion and me

I have a backlog of Sondheim musicals which I need to write reviews for: Sunday in the Park with George (probably in April after I go see the revival again), Company (probably in a few weeks after I see the PBS broadcast), and Passion (which I watched on DVD this past week). I will probably review Passion sometime in the next few days, after I've had a chance to re-watch the DVD.

I will say that Passion is a difficult work to understand, even as far as Sondheim musicals go. But I'm starting to "get" it. The story is about a handsome captain Giorgio who is having an affair with a married woman named Clara. He gets transferred to another station where he encounters the cousin of his superior officer, a sickly woman named Fosca. In the DVD commentary, Sondheim says that Donna Murphy was so good in her audition for Fosca, that she understood every nuance. Murphy says that it's because she was like Fosca a long time ago; she was sick and at some point, her illness started to define her.
"It actually had to do with a period of my life where I was physically vulnerable and was dealing with an illness, a condition that I came to sort of identify myself by that, in terms of that, I should say, which I completely shifted my sense of self. And there was a kind of defensiveness that developed in me..."

I've been going through an "illness", shall we say, and I'm not sure that even I understand completely. All I can say is that once illness takes over your life and becomes your identity, it's very hard to shake.

05 February 2008

Song of the day: "Ladies Who Lunch" by Stephen Sondheim

This song reminds me a lot of my mother. It has possibly some of the most devastating lyrics I've ever heard.

From Company
Here's to the ladies who lunch--
Everybody laugh.
Lounging in their caftans
And planning a brunch
On their own behalf.
Off to the gym,
Then to a fitting,
Claiming they're fat.
And looking grim,
'Cause they've been sitting
Choosing a hat.
Does anyone still wear a hat?
I'll drink to that.

And here's to the girls who play smart--
Aren't they a gas?
Rushing to their classes
In optical art,
Wishing it would pass.
Another long exhausting day,
Another thousand dollars,
A matinee, a Pinter play,
Perhaps a piece of Mahler's.
I'll drink to that.
And one for Mahler!

And here's to the girls who play wife--
Aren't they too much?
Keeping house but clutching
A copy of LIFE,
Just to keep in touch.
The ones who follow the rules,
And meet themselves at the schools,
Too busy to know that they're fools.
Aren't they a gem?
I'll drink to them!
Let's all drink to them!

And here's to the girls who just watch--
Aren't they the best?
When they get depressed,
It's a bottle of Scotch,
Plus a little jest.
Another chance to disapprove,
Another brilliant zinger,
Another reason not to move,
Another vodka stinger.
I'll drink to that.

So here's to the girls on the go--
Everybody tries.
Look into their eyes,
And you'll see what they know:
Everybody dies.
A toast to that invincible bunch,
The dinosaurs surviving the crunch.
Let's hear it for the ladies who lunch--
Everybody rise!
Rise! Rise! Rise! Rise! Rise! Rise! Rise!

Children and art

I'm finding that Sondheim musicals are a wonderful way to reflect upon your own life. From Into the Woods, I thought about my parents, the lessons they taught me, and how occasionally their words backfire on their intentions. Didn't they know that all that emphasis on books and not socializing was going to push me towards academia and not towards a profession like law or medicine? The Baker and Cinderella claim that "No One is Alone", but in my experience, I've found that's not really true. Sometimes you just can't share your feelings with people. It would drive them away or worry them. So you have to keep living your life, alone. From Sweeney Todd, I thought about the nature of insanity (I wonder, did my mind ever crack?) and the desire to let your rage go (in the past, I have wanted to lash out at people now and then, but now I can just listen to "Epiphany" instead). From Company, I learned that you have to face life and really live it because "Being Alive" is better than being alone. I went through a period where a lot of people hurt me and for a while, I just didn't want to talk to anyone. But now things are better. I talk to strangers, hang out with friends occasionally. Emotionally I might be somewhere between "Marry Me A Little" and "Being Alive."

According to Sunday in the Park with George, the only things that last are "Children and Art." I have hardly done any research in the past two years. I feel like George in "Lesson #8".
George looks within.
George is adrift.
George goes by guessing.
George looks behind.
He had a gift.
When did it fade?
You wanted people out
Strolling on Sunday-
Sorry, Marie...

See George remember how George used to be,
Stretching his vision in every direction.
See George attempting to see a connection
When all he can see
Is maybe a tree-
The family tree-
Sorry, Marie...

George is afraid.
George sees the park.
George sees it dying.
George too may fade,
Leaving no mark,
Just passing through.
Just like the people
Out strolling on Sunday...

Crap! Get going, kiddo. Do your physics or you'll fade, too!

02 February 2008

Song of the day: "Being Alive" by Stephen Sondheim

My ultimate favorite Sondheim song. It's an anthem to living life even if you risk getting hurt (and you will). In addition, this is one of the few Sondheim songs I can sing (it's written in tenor range). I practice it now and then, hoping that I'll improve enough to sing it in public one day.

From the musical Company
Somebody, hold me too close,
Somebody, hurt me too deep,
Somebody, sit in my chair
And ruin my sleep
And make me aware
Of being alive,
Being alive.

Somebody, need me too much,
Somebody, know me too well,
Somebody, pull me up short
And put me through hell
And give me support
For being alive,
Make me alive.

Make me confused,
Mock me with praise,
Let me be used,
Vary my days.
But alone is alone, not alive.

Somebody, crowd me with love,
Somebody, force me to care,
Somebody, make me come through,
I'll always be there,
As frightened as you,
To help us survive
Being alive,
Being alive,
Being alive!

01 February 2008

Song of the day: "Finishing the Hat" by Stephen Sondheim

Some people have called this Sondheim's most brilliant song. I'm not sure I agree, but it is beautiful and expresses the bittersweet nature of doing creative work. It's lonely and oppressive, but you have to keep working if you want to get anything done, even if it means shutting out the rest of the world.

From the musical Sunday in the Park with George
You end me, pal...
Second bottle...
Ah, she looks for me...
Bonnet flapping...
Yes, she looks for me-good.
Let her look for me to tell me why she left me-
As I always knew she would.
I had thought she understood.
They have never understood,
And no reason that they should.
But if anybody could...
Finishing the hat,
How you have to finish the hat.
How you watch the rest of the world
From a window
While you finish the hat.

Mapping out a sky.
What you feel like, planning a sky.
What you feel when voices that come
Through the window
Until they distance and die,
Until there's nothing but sky
And how you're always turning back too late
From the grass or the stick
Or the dog or the light,
How the kind of woman willing to wait's
Not the kind that you want to find waiting
To return you to the night,
Dizzy from the height,
Coming from the hat,
Studying the hat,
Entering the world of the hat,
Reaching through the world of the hat
Like a window,
Back to this one from that.

Studying a face,
Stepping back to look at a face
Leaves a little space in the way like a window,
But to see-
It's the only way to see.

And when the woman that you wanted goes,
You can say to yourself, "Well, I give what I give."
But the women who won't wait for you knows
That, however you live,
There's a part of you always standing by,
Mapping out the sky,
Finishing a hat...
Starting on a hat..
Finishing a hat...
Look, I made a hat...
Where there never was a hat