How Sondheim Found His Sound by Prof. Steve Swayne
There have been so many books written about Stephen Sondheim and his revolutionary scores that it's hard to believe anything's left to analyze. But Swayne has found a new angle, and in this scholarly tome, he examines the impact other artists and mediums have had on Sondheim's work. The Dartmouth music professor offers some fascinating and fresh insights into possible inspirations behind characters and musical moments in shows including Follies, A Little Night Music, Sunday in the Park with George and Passion, citing classical and Broadway composers Ravel, Rachmaninoff, Gershwin and Arlen, as well as dramatists like Sondheim mentor Oscar Hammerstein and, most intriguingly, French new wave filmmaker Alain Resnais. The author probes Sondheim's past and excavates his classical record collection, student papers and musical compositions, early musicals written at Williams College and even all the college plays he took part in. Amid the trove of details, Swayne doesn't always successfully connect the presumed influence to something in Sondheim's oeuvre. That he owned a lot of records by certain classical composers, for example, doesn't necessarily mean that every composer greatly shaped his work. Additionally, the author offers lengthy dissections of the songs "What Can You Lose?" from the movie Dick Tracy and "Putting It Together" from Sunday that will best be appreciated by music scholars. Sondheim enthusiasts who are not musically inclined will most enjoy the chapters on his film and theater influences.