TOP 25 SONGS: VOLUME 2

This blog is a part of The Directory of Contemporary Musical Theatre Writers, found online at www.contemporarymusicaltheatre.com
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Enjoy this week’s volume of Top 25 Songs, including insightful interviews with the writers.  These are songs and folks you definitely want to know!

Basic Black

Music by: Craig Baldwin
Lyrics by: Kathy Lombardi

Tell us about your song. If it’s from a musical, set the song up for us.

“Basic Black” was written for a musical based on the Stepford Wives. Johanna and Walter Eberhard have moved to the seemingly idllyic town of Stepford, Connecticut in an attempt to escape the pace and pressures of New York City. Joanna has agreed to the move very reluctantly. As they attend their first “Stepford” social function – an outdoor Labor Day fair, Joanna is immediately taken back by the appearance of the “Stepford Wives” and remarks to her husband, “These women look like they are wearing tablecloths”.

The Stepford women are equally appalled at Joanna’s appearance and begin to make snide remarks about her – “Did she think this was a funeral?” “Can you believe those dark, dreary, urban clothes?” “A lady should always look her best for her husband”. The song “Basic Black” is Joanna’s response to the Stepford women.

Did you write it for anyone in mind?

CRAIG: I honestly prefer to write with friends or performers in mind. I went to Manhattan School of Music with a wonderful singer named Shira Lissek. She has a mighty show biz personality and can pretty much sing anything. She was definitely in my mind when I was writing the music.  Luckily for us, she performed the leading role of Johanna in our 2nd year BMI presentation.

What are you most proud of with this song?

KATHY: Craig and I worked on this song for quite a while. It took a lot of  cooperation and compromise to finish it and I think the song is all the better for it. “Basic Black” was featured in the York Theatre’s NEO5 concert, performed by the fabulous Sara Wordsworth.

CRAIG: I’m most proud of the feel of the song.  It’s urban, sassy, and completely captures my love of New York City.

What was the most difficult thing about writing this song?

KATHY: As the lyricist, I wanted to convey an accurate, yet vivid portrait of the character and there were four elements that I thought were essential to weave into the lyric – color, fabric, style and attitude. The lyrics are as much about what she won’t wear as the Basic Black that she does wear and, even with four A sections, two bridges and a coda, the lyrical possibilities seemed endless and were difficult to pare down. Not really a bad problem to have!

CRAIG: Kathy’s lyrics are always so structured and musical. Writing melodies from them is always such a breeze.   The most difficult task for me in this song was voicing the chords in the accompanying harmony.   My high school jazz teacher Joan Wildman never let me get away with harmonizing a melody with just chord symbols. She made me check every melodic line present in the harmonic scheme to make sure it was a living, breathing melody.  This process is incredibly time consuming, but always worthwhile.

What else would you like us to know about this song?

KATHY: I recently changed a few words in the lyric. It may seem like a small change, but it’s monumental to me because the new lyric is so obvious. I can’t believe I didn’t write it in the first place! I was literally coming out of surgery, when it hit me:

I COULD BE PRE-MENSTRUAL,
I COULD BE POST-OP,
AND I’LL STILL OPT FOR BASIC BLACK.
 

instead of…

AND I’LL BE WEARING BASIC BLACK.

So obvious. Even coming out of anesthesia, I’m writing and changing lyrics!

CRAIG:  I wanted the idea of Basic Black to also be present in the printed sheet music and in the choice of black keys on the piano over the white keys, hence the F sharp minor key, and a printed page saturated with accidentals.

Tell us what excites you most about contemporary musical theatre.

KATHY: I think that musical theatre today is a wide open field. With so many  diverse themes and musical genres filling the theatres, the sky is the limit for writers. Also, the talent and dedication in the theatre community provides a continuous level of excitement and inspiration.

What do you find to be most challenging about this business?

The length of time and energy that it takes to complete a project. There are so many moving parts and so much that can go wrong. I believe you have to make it a labor of love. I am reminded of the old expression “Don’t look at your feet, just keep dancing”.

What are you currently working on?

KATHY: I am currently working on two projects. I am writing the book and lyrics for “The Yellow Wallpaper”, a short story written in 1892 by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. The story portrays a young woman’s descent into madness and the impact of the story was so powerful that it actually changed the way doctors treated post partum depression.

On a lighter note, I am also working on “The Juliet Club”, written by Suzanne Harper – the story of a young girl who wins a contest about “Romeo and Juliet” and goes to Verona, Italy for the summer, vowing to never fall in love.

How can we keep track of what you’re up to?

KATHY: For now, my email – kuehnsie@gmail.com. I have a website that is in the works.

Blue Horizon & To Excess

Music by: Michael Kooman
Lyrics by: Christopher Dimond
 

Tell us about your songs. If they’re from a musical, set the songs up for us.

Both “Blue Horizon” and “To Excess” are from our song cycle HOMEMADE FUSION.  Each is self-contained, so there’s (hopefully) no real introduction necessary.

Did you write them for anyone in mind?

Nope.  One of the truly exciting things about writing songs like these has been getting to see the wide array of interpretations by a number of different performers.

What are you most proud of with these songs?

For us, the accomplishment in both of the songs is being able to tell a complete story, including a clearly defined arc for an active character, in a very limited amount of time, and to do so in two completely different ways.

What was the most difficult thing about writing these songs?

In “Blue Horizon”, we worked really hard to avoid the pitfall of cliche, to write a song that would hopefully be universal in terms of its theme, but would approach the idea in a relatively interesting, original way.

With “To Excess” the challenge was to figure out how far we could push the humor without crossing lines of taste.  It was also a challenge to continually try to top the humor in a song that gets rather extreme rather quickly.

What else would you like us to know about these songs?

We hope people enjoy singing and listening to them as much as we enjoyed writing them.  Also, both songs are available on our album, which can be purchased on iTunes or our website, www.koomandimond.com.

Tell us what excites you most about contemporary musical theatre.

We’re most excited by the infinite range of stories that musical theater has the capacity to tell.

What do you find to be most challenging about this business?

Perhaps the greatest challenge facing us, or any new writers for that matter, is the idea that in order for a musical to be successful it has to be a commercially-oriented entity, most often based on a recognizable preexisting property.  It’s often difficult to convince people that an original musical can truly succeed.

What are you currently working on?

We’re currently working on a couple of projects, including a new original comedy about a man who wakes up to discover that his life has become a musical, and an original children’s musical that was commissioned by the Kennedy Center.

How can we keep track of what you’re up to?

You can check us out at any of the following locations:
www.koomandimond.com
http://www.facebook.com/koomandimond
http://www.youtube.com/user/koomandimond
 
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Visit www.contemporarymusicaltheatre.com for more information on over 180 contemporary musical theatre writers and 550+ songs, all searchable by voice and song type.

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