Sondheim's technique

Sondheim, Stephen and Herbert, Trevor (1989). Sondheim's technique. Contemporary Music Review, 5(1) pp. 199–214.



This article is primarily made up of an edited transcript of an interview which Stephen Sondheim gave in 1985 for a BBC/Open University television programme. In it the composer discusses his compositional processes and the relationship between text (lyrics) and music. He also discusses issues relating to performance practice of his work, in particular idioms (musical theatres, opera houses) inasmuch as they influence his compositional method. The idiom of performances are further dealt with in respect of the nature of audiences. The examples that Sondheim draws on are "The Ballad of Sweeney Todd" from Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (1979) and "Send in the Clowns" from A Little Night Music (1973).

A note on the editing of the transcript

My questions are précised but retain their original sense. I have edited out obvious superfluities in Sondheim's responses and the order of the various sections of the interview have been modestly rearranged, but not to the extent that they alter the original sense. The music illustrations are those which Sondheim played at the piano, the single exception being the first, which was illustrated in the programme by a film extract.

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