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Sondheim on Music: Minor Details and Major Decisions Second Edition Edition

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ISBN-13: 978-0810874367
ISBN-10: 0810874369
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Editorial Reviews


Mr. Sondheim was interviewed onstage by Mark Eden Horowitz, whose essential book, Sondheim on Music, offers in-depth discussions with the composer. (The New York Times)

In this exciting new expanded edition, Mark Horowitz reveals the compositional process of Stephen Sondheim through a fascinating series of conversations with the composer himself. It is thrilling to discover the intimate details of how these classic songs, scores, and shows were created. Utterly captivating and illuminating. (Stephen Flaherty, Tony Award-winning composer of Ragtime, Once On This Island, and Seussical)

In these remarkable dialogues Mark Horowitz has elicited cogent, illuminating insights into the creative process from Stephen Sondheim, the ever-astonishing titan of the musical stage. (Robert Kimball, Musical theatre historian and artistic advisor to the estates of Cole Porter and Ira Gershwin)

Sondheim devotees will be forever grateful to Library of Congress music specialist Mark Horowitz for the interviews he conducted with Sondheim in 1997, the most extensive about how the composer works and the basis of an upcoming book, Sondheim On Music: Minor Details and Major Decisions. (Chip Brown Smithsonian Magazine)

The first edition of this book, published in 2003, focuses on a set of interviews Horowitz conducted with Stephen Sondheim, the legendary composer and lyricist. It also includes a few of Sondheim's original sketches. This second edition expands on the original with transcripts from two subsequent interviews, as well as an updated song listing and discography. In the newer chapters, Sondheim talks about the evolution of his show Bounce (originally entitled Road Show), how different strings of harmony distinguish composers, and his thoughts on the film adaptation of Sweeney Todd. Sondheim enthusiasts will appreciate the lengthier discussion of Merrily We Roll Along, a musical that was barely touched upon in the first edition....Much of the content in the fist edition is incorporated here, and libraries with that volume will appreciate the expanded discography and song listing. Recommended for libraries with a prominent emphasis on music. (Library Journal)

Indispensable for any student, writer, or ardent fan of drama and musical theater. Sondheim on Music opens up the usually private process of putting a show together; clarifying how science, craft and design can meet the mysteries and wonder of life and story. It puts the reader in the room with one of our greatest American masters. (Jeanine Tesori, composer of Caroline, or Change and Shrek the Musical)

One of the finest books focusing on [Sondheim's] work is Mark Eden Horowitz's 2003 study Sondheim on Music: Minor Details and Major Decisions. Horowitz is an invaluable music specialist at the Library of Congress, whose personal bailiwick is the manuscripts of Rodgers, Porter, Berlin, Bernstein and the like. While processing the incoming Sondheim Collection, he came up with the idea of conducting a series of intensive interviews with the composer 'with the intention of anticipating the questions of future scholars.' Sondheim readily agreed, with sessions on what were then his six most recent musicals (from Pacific Overtures through Passion). The general interest in these interviews was understandably enormous, so they were duly published. So invaluable was the resulting book that Horowitz and Sondheim got back together for two additional interviews, in which the composer discusses his earlier and later work. These have now been incorporated into a second edition of Sondheim on Music: Minor Details and Major Decisions, which due to the additional material happily supplants the first volume. And for those of you who believe that the pop world—as embodied by network television—and the groves of Sondheimanian academia cannot and will not ever mix, let us point out that Horowitz's book was used on camera to launch a joke in the Madonna episode of 'Glee.' So there. (Playbill)

Horowitz' quotes the composer extensively about the music that makes the words soar. (NPR)

Now in its second edition, Sondheim on Music by Mark Eden Horowitz makes an excellent companion work to the esteemed composer's book. The music scholar and Library of Congress staffer has conducted an extensive series of interviews with Sondheim about his craft and now includes expanded sections on productions not covered in the previous edition, plus an impeccably detailed discography, updated for all recent recordings, that is sure to please and inspire even the most ardent Sondheim fan. Horowitz skillfully balances his technical content, serving both the needs of the music student and the theatre enthusiast. (Bay Stages)

This second edition of the author's interviews with Sondheim builds on the original discussions of 'Assassins,' 'Into the Woods,' 'Pacific Overtures,' 'Passion,' 'Sunday in the Park with George' and 'Sweeny Todd.' The new material offers discussions of several other shows and a whole chapter on 'Bounce.' Horowitz, senior music specialist at the Library of Congress, asks exceptionally detailed, nitty-gritty questions about melodic lines, harmonies, time signatures, accompaniment, and more; he gets exceptionally detailed answers in return....The book also includes a valuable song list and discography, as well as the fascinating 'Songs I Wish I'd Written (At Least in Part)' that Sondheim prepared as part of the Kennedy Center's celebration of his 70th birthday in 2000. Sondheim on Music puts you just as deeply into the mind of the composer. Putting it all together, you've got a provocative, illuminating portrait of a creative powerhouse. (Baltimore Sun)

This is a series of interviews that the author conducted with Stephen Sondheim as they pored over Sondheim's manuscripts and sketches and discussed the creative process....Sondheim talks about his approaches to musicalizing characters and dramatic moments. (The Washington Times)

The first edition of Sondheim on Music appeared in 2003, and Mark Eden Horowitz has greatly expanded his text for this new edition, including new chapters (all based on interviews with Sondheim) on his career as a whole, on Bounce (later known as Road Show), on his thoughts about the film version of Sweeney Todd and on shows that were not discussed in the previous edition. The discography and other appendices have all been thoroughly updated and what was already an important book is now an essential companion for anyone seeking to understand Sondheim's musical mind, his influences and inspirations, his creative musical processes (including discussion of sketches) and his union of music and lyrics (and the problems that can sometimes pose). All of this is discussed in detail thanks to Horowitz's extremely perceptive questions (thanks to his own very detailed knowledge of the scores) and his ability to encourage some fascinating responses from the composer. All this is illustrated with extensive music examples that demonstrate specific points. For musicians, this is among the most revealing studies of Sondheim. Since this is a collection of interviews, there are occasional words and phrases in the text that might have been expressed more elegantly—but I applaud Horowitz's decision to quote Sondheim pretty much verbatim, rather than tidying up his responses: the result is fresh, authentic and vibrant. For musicians, Horowitz's book is a treasure trove of self-revelation from the most significant living composer for the American musical theatre. (International Record Review)

In the interviews collected in Sondheim on Music [Horowitz] serves Sondheim as a gracious yet provocative inquisitor, often asking questions about tiny notations in his sketches. Sondheim’s answers reveal much about his working process. Horowitz treats us to Sondheim the composer, who strikes a different figure from the cocky, combative lyricist. (The Nation)

What sets this milestone work apart from other texts on Sondheim or other interviews with the composer is the fine balance between broad and specific questions. The broader questions can be understood and enjoyed by any audience, since they deal very generally with Sondheim's thoughts and opinions about theatre. On the other hand, the specific questions provide an outstanding, first person source for scholars of music and theatre in particular, with pointed discussions on the musical scores, and a rare view of Sondheim's own compositional sketches. (Studies In Musical Theatre 2011-09-03)

About the Author

Mark Eden Horowitz is Senior Music Specialist at the Library of Congress where he has worked as archivist for the collections of manuscripts and papers of Irving Berlin, Leonard Bernstein, Vernon Duke, Oscar Hammerstein II, Jonathan Larson, Jascha Heifetz, Jerome Kern, Frederick Loewe, Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers, and Vincent Youmans, among others. He has taught courses in musical theater and Sondheim at Georgetown University and is Contributing Editor to The Sondheim Review.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 584 pages
  • Publisher: Scarecrow Press; Second Edition edition (September 8, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0810874369
  • ISBN-13: 978-0810874367
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.7 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #330,982 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 37 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 8, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This was a beautiful book, capturing every reason why Sondheim's music is so brilliant. This series of interviews explores several of his most celebrated works, and goes into everything from music theory, to lyric phrasing, to lyric choices, to what inspired him. If you really want to know what goes on in his head while he is composing his masterpieces then buy this book! Though it concentrates heavily on musical theory and sondheim's pieces from a composer's point of view, you do not need to be an expert in music theory to appreciate this book, because it is filled with exciting tidbits of everything you would ever want to know about his pieces. You also really get to know the man behind the music, and you get to see what his original manuscripts looked like! This is an exciting read for a Sondheim fan (or someone curious about what the big fuss is over him) will not be dissapointed!
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Kyle J. Parker on January 11, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I have a strong love of Sondheim's work. The genius lyrics, the engaging music, but most of all his attention to detail made me fall for him from "Attend the tale..." As someone who is exploring the world of composition I have looked to his works for encouragement and inspiration. When I heard that there was a book that housed interviews with the man himself I immediately put it on the top of my reading list. When I finally found it I was not dissapointed.

Mark Eden Horowitz has presented a series of interviews that delve into the mind of Broadway's leading composer. The insight that Mr. Horowitz has into Sondheim's works is clearly evident as he helps us see the creative process that went into masterworks such as Sweeney Todd, Into the Woods and Sunday in the Park with George. The discussion is broken up into a chapter for each show with each giving a focus on what concept was best exhibited in that musical. Certain works such as "A Little Night Music" and "The Frogs" are not discussed as their own chapter, but some of the works that weren't given their own chapter come up in conversation.

I should take this time to point out that if you don't have an understanding of music theory some of this book will be much harder to decipher. With a year of college theory under my belt I still had to consult my professor on a few passages. Mr. Horowitz assists the reader by printing the musical examples pertaining to the topic, but it still requires a certain level of theoretical knowledge. Most of this book delves into concepts of writing and therefore manages to stay accesible, but be warned that parts of the books will need to be read over a few times for full academic digestion.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By I. Gross Georg on February 22, 2011
Format: Hardcover
If you are buying this book secondhand, as I am, please note that there is more to this 2nd edition than just a cover art change. This is not a reprint! There is new material in this edition not included in the first one, an entirely new interview, and a refreshed discography, so to speak. I thought I should mention this because 1) I happened to use Amazon's Look Inside feature and read the introduction to the 2nd edition and found this out, and 2) Amazon is using reviews for the 1st edition as if they were for the 2nd edition, which they clearly are not and shouldn't do because they are practically two different books. Please use the Look Inside to read the author's intro and note the changes. The new Sondheim interview included in this book happened in 2009. The first edition of this book came out in 2002! Thanks.
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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Carolyn M. Dunne on March 19, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This book gives us a view within the process of Stephen Sondheim as a creative genius. At the same time it is encouraging because he takes us into glimpses in his creations: methods, favorites, changes, mistakes and growth that illustrate how he actualized his dreams into reality. For anyone that has ever considered writing for an audience with a level that takes into consideration all the nuances of color, texture, overt and underlying meaning, this book is a must read. It is followed with lists of suggested material for review based on the personal influence they had for Sondheim.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By scifiman5 on July 22, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is a great book for the Sondheim aficionado. I learned a lot about the technical aspects of his style. My only complaint is that Merrily We Roll Along is mentioned only briefly in the book. I consider Merrily to be one of Sondheim's three best scores, and its absence made very little sense. Further, all Sondheim musicals pre-Overtures are also absent (perhaps more understandable because I suppose Sondheim remembers those less and there was little time in the interviews). Nevertheless, for the hefty price I would have expected more info. Perhaps a second volume?
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By W. Smith on January 28, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you write music or are curious about how music is written, buy this book. Period. Not only are the interviews excellent and the printed excerpts of Sondheim's scores priceless, but the extra step of including excerpts of even Sondheim's drafts of songs is an unmatched idea. To have two different versions of 'The Worst Pies In London' and then have the composer explain why he picked one over the other...well, it would be harder to get much closer to reading a composer's mind than that. As with other reviewers, I can wish for a chapter each on 'Follies,' 'Merrily,' and 'Company' (at least), but it's hard to complain when there is so much invaluable material here. One note: you may also want to get a hold of a Classical Harmony book, since Sondheim uses figured bass to indicate chords (which sent me digging for my college Tonal Harmony textbook).
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