Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's BĂȘte Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Wednesday, February 23, 2005


Quickly -- up too late again, so no links, but I'm sure they're out there --

While honoring Presidents' Day by listening to some Lester Young, I noticed an early use of recorded fade-out -- the end of Count Basie's 1939 recording of "Dickie's Dream." A great tune, written by the Count and Pres, a feature for trombonist Dickie Wells, and that fade-out is just so right.

A few years ago, on a whim I rented D.A. Pennebaker's documentary on the recording of the soundtrack album of Sondheim's "Company." Very moving -- Dean Jones pouring it all out for "Being Alive," and Elaine Stritch (sp?) ripping it up on "Ladies Who Lunch"; and Pennebaker's astute comment on the paradox of the greatness of Stritch's performance -- *for film* -- while being too excessive for the record. Terrific movie.

I liked the movie so much I later bought the soundtrack whose making it documented, and was interested to find that Pennebaker filmed only the songs that turned out to be my favorites of the show. The ones he skipped were more lackluster -- or did I think that only because I didn't have the memory of seeing film of the fleshy breathing singers singing them? I don't think so, but still --

I hadn't been much of a Sondheim fan. Sophomore year of college, in Ann Arbor, the opera company in Detroit put on "A Little Night Music," and the parents of a childhood friend of mine, who had season tickets and drove 3 hours each way from Kalamazoo to see the shows, gave me their tickets, because they didn't like musicals. I took a date, a classmate I wasn't interested in (why her? dunno -- maybe because she said she liked Sondheim -- don't remember), we went, and aside from "Send in the Clouds," which I already knew, nothing about the show stuck. Whereas lots of art experiences from that era did stick. Other than that, my only Sondheim exposure had been covers by Barbra Streisand, and they struck me as skillful, very post-'60s psychobabble-era dramatic songs, which I liked only OK -- the emotions didn't quite gel for me.

"Company" has some topnotch songs, lots of great music. The lyrical and musical milieu is reminiscent of the songs of Hal David and Burt Bacharach. Bacharach writes much pingy-er, zestier, tangy-er orchestrations, and I found myself being put off by the Ta-Da showy big endings of most of Sondheim's songs. I checked my Dionne Warwick records to see how Burt ended his stuff. Almost all the songs fade out.

Sondheim's songs are Broadway. Can't fade out on stage.

The prose equivalent of the fade out? Of course! The ellipsis . . .

I'd include you in my blogroll, but I'd need your name since that is how it is organized. If you're interested, drop me a note at silliman@gmail.com,

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