ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER: What sets the great Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals apart for me is their directness and their awareness of construction...Years ago, I played through the piano score of SOUTH PACIFIC. It is staggering how skillfully reprises are used as scene-change music that sets up a following number or underlines a previous point. It could only be the product of a hugely close relationship in which each partner sensed organically where the other, and the show, was going...Musical partnerships are, after all, like marriages . built on a chemistry that is intangible, perhaps not even definable. Nearly 40 years later, the partnership of Rodgers and Hammerstein has not yet been equaled.It probably never will be.
RODGERS: In many ways, a song-writing partnership is like a marriage. Apart from just liking each other, a lyricist and a composer should be able to spend long periods of time together - around the clock if need be - without getting on each other's nerves. Their goals, outlooks and basic philosophies should be similar. They should have strong convictions, but no man should ever insist that his way alone is the right way. A member of a team should even be so in tune with his partner's work habits that he must be almost able to anticipate the other's next move.
HAMMERSTEIN: We know each other so well that if one of us doesn. t like what the other has written it. s apparent instantly and there is no argument. A mere dropping of an eyebrow from Dick is sufficient for me to throw away any part of a lyric.
RODGERS: I've been lucky. During most of my career I've had only two partners. Lorenz Hart and I worked together for twenty-five years; Oscar Hammerstein II and I were partners for over eighteen. Each man was totally different in appearance, work habits, personality and practically anything else you can think of. Yet each was a genius at his own craft, and each, during our association, was the closest friend I had.
Larry Hart, as almost anyone will agree, was a genius at lyric construction, at rhyming, at finding the offbeat way of expressing himself. He had a somewhat sardonic view of the world that can be found occasionally in his love songs and in his satirical numbers. But Larry was also a kind, gentle, generous little guy, and these traits too may be found in some of his memorable lyrics. Working with him, however, did present problems, since he had to be literally trapped into putting pen on paper . and then only after hearing a melody that stimulated him...
Oscar's working habits were entirely the opposite. I remember that when I first
started talking to him about our method of collaborating, he seemed surprised at my question.
""I'll write the words and you'll write the music,"" was all he said.
""In that order?"" I asked.
""If that's all right with you. I prefer it that way. You won't hear it from me until I have a finished lyric.""
And for 90 percent of the time, that's the way we worked together.
RODGERS: A friend once asked me how long it took to compose the whole score of OKLAHOMA!...I said, 'What do you mean, flying time or elapsed time?' Counting everything -- overture, ballet music, all the songs -- the most I could make it come to was about five hours -- flying time. But the total elapsed time covered months of discussion and planning, starting with the over-all conception and then getting down to specific questions like how to bring the chorus onstage and whether to end this or that scene with dialogue or music.
HAMMERSTEIN: Dick and I stay very close together while drawing up the blueprint of a play. Before we start to put words or notes on paper we have agreed on a very definite and complete outline, and we have decided how much of the story shall be told in dialogue and how much in song. We try to use music as much as we can.
RODGERS: The very first lyric Oscar finished was ""Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'"" and when he handed it to me and I read it for the first time I was a little sick with joy because it was so lovely and so right. When you're given words like ""The corn is as high as a elephant. s eye,"" you get something to say musically.
HAMMERSTEIN: Writing music doesn't tire Dick...I'm worn out when I've finished a set of lyrics, I'm really physically debilitated. But when Dick has ripped off a song he feels wonderful. He's elated, stronger and fresher than when he began.
RODGERS: For me the process of musical composition is a very rapid outpouring. I can't compose note by note, as though I were carving wood . a chip here, a chip there. Lyric writing can be like that, and that's why Oscar needs more time than I do. It may have taken him an hour, for example, to decide that he would start ""Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'"". with ""Oh"" And I have no idea how long it took him to find that wonderfully apt, simple, and perfect fourth line, . Ev'rythin. s goin' my way. . a phrase of really great inspiration. Oscar's work is mosaic work. I use a longer stroke, a longer line.
QUESTION: I was curious how you happened to write [""The Soliloquy"" from CAROUSEL] together?
HAMMERSTEIN: We didn't write it together. I wrote it all out first and it took me several weeks. Then, I gave it to him and two hours later he called me and said, . I've got it.. I could have thrown a brick through the phone.
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