Saturday, March 11, 2006

Poetry and Music vs Lyrics and...

A bit of quibbling on Musicalmakers
someone said of the Shakespeare words for "I Am Ashamed That Women Are So Simple"from KISS ME KATE that it is not a poem at all - it's a speech from TAMING OF THE SHREW."

My 2 cents:
I'd say it's a poem. Shakespeare's a poet. Romeo and Juliet "meet cute" with a sonnet. Lots of poets in his day wrote poems that they expected would be turned into songs. There was no copyright law, so a musician could make a song out of any poem he liked. The old poems in anthologies--, many of them have associated tunes, and were as likely to be sung as recited. People didn't use to read silently, the way we do now. They read aloud, and so the pressure to make sense on first hearing was as strong as it is for theatre lyrics-- but it's always ok to have implications that don't emerge until repeated hearings.
There's a huge Shakespeare songbook with 400 years worth of settings of his poems-- some of verses used as songs in the plays, some sonnet settings, some settings of blank verse or even prose-- like "What a Piece of Work", from HAIR.
Choir and chorus music is usually psalms, prayers, and poems.
I have the feeling that there's a whole range of musical theatre that we've forgotten-- melodramas and ballad operas and the like-- in which the musical structure was made up of songs that began as poem-settings and were then sprinkled into a plot.


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