Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Frogs


I don't know if it's popular these days to like the composer Stephen Sondheim?  I know Andrew Lloyd Webber ("Andy" as my Music Theory teacher called him) is considered kind of lowbrow in "true musician's" circles, but Sondheim has been avant-garde for so long, I'm not sure if he's now become "expected" and lost his trendy edge in the musical world. 

Anyway, who cares, because I love Sondheim's work.  (When I composed my art songs for my honors thesis, my teacher said they reminded him of something by Sondheim---I was so flattered.)  I haven't seen anything of his in person, except West Side Story of course, oh, and Into the Woods.  And Sunday in the Park with George at BYU when I was little.  But here we are talking about his musical called The Frogs.  So, it's weird.  It's based on a Greek play by Aristophanes, but it's modernized and kind of sarcastic and silly in parts.  And it was originally performed in a swimming pool (including, quote, a "frog ballet on bungee cords") so at first glance it looks like one of those things which is trying mostly to be artsy rather than good.  But it turns out, it IS good.  Well, the music is.  Sam bought it for me for Christmas and I can't get enough of it.  I like the complicated, clever, almost puzzle-like lyrics (I hear Sondheim's a puzzle guy, one of those math/music genuises) and I like the range of music: there's a section of Shakespeare's Cymbeline set to music that is really ethereal and gorgeous, and there's a hymn to Dionysus that seems like some sort of odd mix of Hebrew music and Jazz, and then there's the song sung by the eponymous Frogs, which includes lots of "Brekekekéx-koáx-koáx" (that's how frogs croak in Greek, apparantly).  Something for everyone :)

Intrigued?  I realize I may not have the MOST mainstream musical tastes (seeing as I probably couldn't name a popular song from the past 15 years) but I think it's pretty accessible and, more important, INTERESTING.  Maybe you'd enjoy it too.  Sam bought the album on iTunes, and the more I listen to it the more I like it.

4 comments:

  1. You forgot to mention that the hymn to Dionysus is also a tribute to drinking alcohol. Great for singing along with the kids!

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  2. A Little Night Music.

    Sondheim always seemed to me a little in danger of being just a little too fond of his own oddness. I don't know how "they" feel about him these days. (Indiscriminate women it pains me more than I can say...)

    My old friend Robert Stoddard was a great fan of the man. And once upon a time, a mutual friend of his and mine, for Robert's birthday, called one of the broadway theaters where they were staging - something of his - this was years ago - and asked for "Steve," when somebody answered.

    The somebody said, "He's gone home." And the friend said, "Oh shoot - I missed him. You have his home number?" And danged if they didn't give it to her. So she called him, as I recall, and told him about Robert - about the work Robert had done, and how very much Robert respected Sondheim's music. And talked Steven Sondheim into calling Robert on the night of his birthday. Which he actually did do.

    Funny, huh? I'm curious about Frogs. So you've only heard it, not seen a staging?

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  3. K--that's a cool story! Robert Stoddard . . . a musician? I feel like I've heard the name.

    I think you may be right about Sondheim (I've read stories about him that make me think he's kind of self-important) but there's still so much of him I like. Yeah, I haven't seen an actual staging of this one, but it sounds interesting, hmm?

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  4. Sam: like I said, something for everyone!

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