TOP 25 SONGS: VOLUME 6

This blog is a part of The Directory of Contemporary Musical Theatre Writers, found online at www.contemporarymusicaltheatre.com
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I Don’t Think Of You (It’s All Good)

Music & Lyrics by: Daniel Maté

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

“I Don’t Think Of You (It’s All Good)” is a standalone song that is also a part of my (currently untitled) song cycle that I’m developing with Victoria Clark as director.  It is a fast-and-frenzied comedy song in which a character runs into an ex at an art opening and has a bit of a meltdown as she tries to act casual about it.  The harder she tries, the more she gives away the game.

Did you write it for anyone in mind?

No, although you might think so, watching Donna Lynne Champlin’s performance of it.  She found every nuance, every scrap of humor and pathos with which I’d tried to lace the music and lyrics, and all without any suggestions or hints from me.  That’s when I knew I’d written a solid song — when an expert performer like her could take it and do amazing things with it.  I felt like she’d read my mind when really, all she’d done was read my sheet music very closely.

What are you most proud of with this song?

I love the piano groove in the verses — it’s fun to play — and the sudden shifts in feel and harmonic language are likewise a lot of fun.  Lyrically, I think it captures the whole “protesting too much” phenomenon pretty well.  Overall I like how the music and lyrics capitalize on their own formal conventions for comic and storytelling effect:  the short, discrete phrases of initial surprise (“Oh, wow, hey!”) eventually becoming the sound of intimate confiding (“When you left…”);  the telling little asides followed by quick recoveries (“That’s what your Facebook said / Well, anyway…”;  “Or drawing portraits of you / Let me see, nope…”);  the way the “I don’t think of you” phrase can sound either reassuringly nonchalant or kind of manic/desperate, depending on how it’s harmonized and what’s happening around it.  I’m also pleased with how the song takes some fairly well-worn terrain (social awkwardness, exes, patter songs) and does something specific and vivid with it.  Hopefully it’s not just a song about banter or faux pas — it gets at something about the ways we conceal the truth even from ourselves when that truth is either threatening or unflattering.

What was the most difficult thing about writing this song?

Although it’s very carefully crafted and formally quite rigorous, it’s meant to flow like an actual train of thought in real time.  Finessing the rhymes and rhythms to accomplish this was tricky in a very enjoyable way — how do I indulge my fondness for clever wordplay while making the lyrics sound fluid and off-the-cuff?  A lot of this song is subtext:  what she’s not saying.  So I had to find those phrases that would convey her logic and give clues about what she’s hiding.  Also, it was a big challenge to ensure that she’s not just a ridiculous comic character, but a sympathetic and relatable one.  That meant really me looking for ways to show her vulnerability even as she’s trying her damnedest to hide it.

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

Singers would do well to learn it at half-tempo and really nail each little step of the mental journey, before eventually ratcheting up the metronome knob.  Every single moment is a different thought, a different reaction, a different strategy.  Remember, this is not a prepared speech; this woman is literally making this stuff up as she goes along (even though she may have rehearsed this situation in her mind before, it does not go according to plan — at all.)  To make a song seem that improvised takes a lot of preparation!

Tell us what excites you most about contemporary musical theatre.

I’m excited and inspired by the growing number of writers and actors and directors who are finding ways to expand musical theatre’s artistic/cultural scope — the topics it can cover, the stories it can tell, the sounds it can make, the styles it can draw on, its aesthetic and vibe and inner logic.  A healthy affection for the past is great, but I want to see musical theatre be a forward-looking art form, one that engages with the world as it is and looks for new ways to respond to what it sees.

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

Staying present, patient, and appreciative of what’s happening around me is always the challenge for me.  The tendency to compare myself and my work to that of other people, and the feelings of urgency, resentment, despair, and so on that come with that:  these are all highly tempting and completely unproductive.  Also, because the creative and collaborative high, the warm and wonderful feeling I get when I’m making things I love with people I love being around, is so juicy and satisfying, it can be very easy to crash emotionally when those experiences end or just aren’t forthcoming for whatever reason.  I can’t live in my work all the time; it’s not sustainable.  So taking care of myself — my whole self, not just “me as a writer” — is very important, and something I continue to work at.

What are you currently working on?

Right now (August 2012) I’m in Palo Alto, California working on a really exciting developmental production of my musical THE TROUBLE WITH DOUG (co-written with Will Aronson, who’s also got a song in this Top 25 collection) at TheatreWorks Silicon Valley.  I’m also developing a new musical for and about middle-schoolers called MIDDLE SCHOOL MYSTERIES, with Two River Theatre Company in Red Bank, New Jersey.  And as I mentioned above, I’m working with Vicki Clark on my song cycle.  She’s still a busy performer, of course, so I feel very fortunate whenever we get time to collaborate — she’s such a smart and sensitive director, which is something people don’t generally know about her.

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

You can find me on Facebook.  You can write to me at danielbmate@gmail.com.  You can also visit my website — which badly needs an update! — www.danielmate.com .  I also have a YouTube channel.

I’m Just Glad

Music by: David Gaines
Lyrics by: Charlie Sohne

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

The song is sung by a slightly neurotic guy or girl to their partner who has just moved in.

Did you write it for anyone in mind?

No – but since both of us have certainly had our neurotic moments, we can certainly relate to the character and subject matter.

What are you most proud of with this song?

The opportunity it gives the actor to create.  The jokes are all about the subtext and therefore every performance is different and thrilling for us to watch.  Also, the turn at the end of the song.

What was the most difficult thing about writing this song?

Making sure the comedy kept building with every section.  We wanted the jokes to get funnier while still staying true to the character.

We also went back and forth a lot about the ending of the song – and it was something we never quite came to an agreement on.  David felt that the song should end with a return to the character’s neurotic state, after the sweet part:

I really mean it, I’m just glad you’re here.
And here (indicating the floor).
And here (the walls)
And here (singer indicating her/his heart).
 

Charlie, on the other hand, wanted the song to end sweetly and sincerely, where the conclusion of the song stays in the world of “I really am glad you’re here” – the music would reflect that.  What we ended up with was a compromise of sorts – the lyric of the song ends sweet, but the accompaniment returns to the more neurotic place that it lives in for most of the song.

Tell us what excites you most about contemporary musical theatre.

There are so many wonderful writers and many of them are very adventurous with their material.  It’s kind of an exciting time to be writing musicals because there is so much discussion about ways to take the form in new directions.

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

Musicals take forever and there’s not much money in the ones that aren’t blockbuster broadway shows.  So, yeah, from a practical perspective the whole thing’s kind of crazy.

What are you currently working on?

Charlie: I just finished a show that I’m immensely proud of called “The Boy Who Danced On Air.”  It’s a love story that takes place in Afghanistan.  Then I have a few other projects that are in various stages of development, ranging from more commercially oriented musicals to smaller shows.

David: Just finished the score for a  wonderful short comic film “The Poets”, directed by Sean Gannet, which will hopefully be released this fall.

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

Charlie: To find out more and to be notified of the launch of his new website,
email charlie.sohne@gmail.com.

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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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2 thoughts on “TOP 25 SONGS: VOLUME 6

  1. Hi David,

    Thank you for providing this wonderful resource of new music theatre repertoire. I’m adding so much of it to my library, however it’s sometimes really difficult to find out how to contact the composers in order to purchase their music! “I’m Just Glad You’re Here” will be perfect for one of my students who finds himself in this very situation except that the rosserandsohne.com link doesn’t work and the usual Google searches point to a David Gaines who is an older, contemporary classical composer. Can you help us out by providing contact information for these composers and their songs?

    Many thanks!
    Craig
    http://www.youcansing.ca

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