In my seventh-grade music class, we needed to choose a composer to put in writing a biography of. I picked Hector Berlioz as a result of I assumed he was Latino, as a result of I’d by no means met a non-Latino named Hector earlier than. Thanks to this error, I ended up falling in love together with his Symphonie fantastique and the best way he winds these themes round each other and retains unravelling them. I bear in mind listening to the drumroll on the finish, which represents the pinnacle rolling away from the guillotine, and considering, wow. I couldn’t imagine classical music might try this! I did a deep dive on his music at a really formative time. You care essentially the most about music whenever you’re 13.
The musicals you’re fortunate sufficient to do in school change into part of you on a mobile stage, since you rehearse them so intensely. I used to be fortunate sufficient to be forged because the Pirate King in ninth grade, which implies I received the job over a senior which was extraordinarily validating. Someone may be very mad at me for getting that function so younger! To have interaction with Gilbert and Sullivan is to interact with a masterclass of lyric writing. The manner the lyrics sit on prime of the music is fairly distinctive. As somebody who was listening to hip hop each minute he wasn’t doing The Pirates of Penzance, I noticed the 2 as being fairly comparable. The pleasure of discovering the precise phrases in the precise order to sit down atop the music – that’s a convention as outdated as time. Seeing the Major-General figuring out the right way to rhyme ‘strategy’ with one thing else is so humorous and thrilling. The factor I like concerning the lyrical custom of hip hop is the surprising rhyme, not the pure rhyme. It’s the left-field one, and so they play with that and have enjoyable with that.
I proceed to search out solace within the unbelievable Latin music I grew up with by artists like Rubén Blades. He was a blessing and a curse in my household – a blessing, as a result of his music taught me how a lot story you may get into the lyrics of a track, but additionally a curse as a result of he’d gone to regulation faculty, so my mother and father tried to steer me to do the identical! His use of lyrics was so intelligent although. It wasn’t till I listened to ‘El Padres Antonio – Y El Monaguillo Andres’ concerning the a centesimal time that I realised it was a few priest getting killed, as a result of I’d danced to it at events. He was in a position to marry this real-world poetry to this unbelievable danceable tune. You cease and hearken to the lyrics and it’s the story of Romero and his martyrdom and the lyrics are so beautiful.
As I’ve been mourning the demise of Sondheim, I’ve been listening to the music he beloved. He talks lots about Ravel and Debussy. All I do know of Ravel is Bolero – that’s the hit single.
Sondheim’s rating for Sweeney Todd is a masterpiece. It’s Sondheim doing his finest homage to Bernard Hermann and the unbelievable horror scores he wrote. What’s thrilling concerning the Sweeney rating is that it zigs whenever you suppose it’s going to zag. When Sweeney’s about to chop Judge Trippin’s throat, it breaks into ‘Pretty Women’, which is perhaps one of the vital stunning ballads Sondheim ever wrote. There’s a scrumptious stress created when he goes to magnificence whenever you suppose he’s going to horror and vice versa. The ‘Johanna Quartet’ within the second act is made up of among the most beautiful melodies – however takes place when Sweeney is actually slitting throats. When I heard it carried out just lately and I heard the Johanna reprise, the road ‘We learn, Johanna, to say goodbye’, I burst into tears. How many various methods did Steve train us the right way to say goodbye? That will probably be right here lengthy after the remainder of us have gone.
Anyone who tells you that Sondheim isn’t an affect on their music or their work is mendacity. They’re both chasing him and emulating him or they’re consciously operating from him. That’s how huge his legacy is.
His mentor and father determine Oscar Hammerstein as soon as stated to him, ‘you’re making an attempt to put in writing like me, however you’re not like me. Your considerations should not my considerations. You’ll be 90% forward of everybody else in case you can write such as you fairly than like me.’ That was a very vital message for me to listen to. Dig down on what you – and solely you – can carry to the desk.
The largest factor I take from Sondheim’s writing is the aspect of shock and selection. There’s not one rating the place there isn’t unbelievable rhythmic and melodic selection. When I used to be engaged on Hamilton, Steve actually inspired me to develop that piece, and I’d sometimes be courageous sufficient to ship him demos. Every time, he’d write again saying ‘variety, variety, variety’. The tough factor about writing hip hop for the stage is when our head begins bopping, we cease listening to the lyrics. It’s vital to at all times shock the viewers – I actually took that suggestions to coronary heart. He inspired me, however he additionally inspired Jonathan Larson, Jeanine Tesori, Tom Kitt, Dave Malloy and Jason Robert Brown and so many others.
Rent hit me in a way more profound manner than simply its rating. Of course, it’s a revolutionary rating, but it surely hit me in a what-are-you-doing-with-your-life manner. I noticed myself in its plot. I wished to make films and write songs, simply because the characters did. It had a various forged and was essentially the most really up to date New York musical I’d ever seen. When I used to be rising up, A Chorus Line and West Side Story have been interval items. It was the present that gave me permission to put in writing musicals. It was after I went from liking musicals to suppose I might write one sometime. It handed me a key in a really tangible manner. There’s a direct line between the characters in Rent and in my musical In the Heights: all of the characters are preventing gentrification and struggling to remain of their neighbourhood. He was actually open about bringing pop and rock influences into the musical enviornment, simply as I later tried to do with bringing Latin and hip hop influences into In the Heights. That was the thesis Jonathan threw down and which I believed in and wished to advance.
The solely factor I can have on whereas I’m writing is tennis. It’s rhythmic and so they by no means have music on at any level, so there’s no infecting the work.
I’m very open about seeking to my forebears and the ancestors with regards to construction and the issues you possibly can study from. Tommy (Thomas Kail) and I used to say that the grandparents of Hamilton are Sweeney Todd, Evita, Les Mis and Gypsy. With Les Mis, it’s that notion of theme and variation – we’re telling a narrative over a really lengthy interval over 100 years. How do you carry themes again in stunning and significant methods? Plus, we have been making an attempt to wrestle with historical past and convey historical past to the stage – as can be the case with Les Mis.
With Evita, Sweeney and Gypsy, what you’re taking a look at is the robust central character, who you’ll want to get the f*** out of the best way of. They’re a life power. There’s no negotiating with Gypsy Rose Lee. She’s the hurricane round which the whole lot occurs. You see that propulsive Gypsy-like power in Hamilton, however you additionally see the affect of Sweeney in our prologue. Everyone on stage is tasked with telling that story. Whoever is near the hurricane of Alexander Hamilton will get the mic and the highlight. They’re the reveals we consciously realized from.
I don’t see an enormous quantity of dwell music. Shows are completely different, however I’m often simply completely happy to remain residence and hearken to music on CD. The exception to that rule is ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic, as a result of that dude has a four-octave vary and has to impersonate Madonna and Nirvana over the course of an evening. In plenty of cases his work has outlived the particular person he’s spoofing, and he places on a hell of a present.
I bear in mind seeing him on the Beacon Theatre in New York City after I was a teen and my pals and I had balcony seats proper on the again and we screamed ‘Yoda’ and he performed it as his encore. We couldn’t imagine it. To develop up loving Weird Al Yankovic is to develop up appreciating all types of music, as a result of there’s no style that’s secure from him for parody. You study to grasp that we’re all taking the identical 12 notes from a piano and the whole lot else is simply harmonics and elasticity. I’m actually grateful that he was one in all my heroes rising up as a result of it permits me a certain quantity of flexibility with regards to what you are able to do with style.
Lin-Manuel Miranda has just lately made his directorial debut within the Netflix movie adaptation of Rent creator Jonathan Larson’s semi-autobiographical musical, tick, tick… BOOM!, which is out there now to stream on Netflix.