"Sondheim on Music: Minor Details and Major Decisions," a new book on the work of composer Stephen Sondheim, has been published by the Library of Congress in association with Scarecrow Press. The book is derived from transcripts of interviews that were conducted by author Mark Eden Horowitz over a three-day period in 1997 at Sondheim's New York City home. Using Sondheim's manuscripts as a reference, Horowitz focused the discussion on the composer's creative processes.
"We are grateful that Stephen Sondheim not only generously agreed to bequeath his manuscripts to the Library of Congress, but also consented to a series of videotaped interviews about his methodology," said Librarian of Congress James H. Billington. "The Library is pleased to support the publication of these interviews, which anticipate the questions of future scholars."
Beginning with a discussion of his latest work at the time, "Passion," and working back to "Pacific Overtures," this collection of interview transcripts details Sondheim's body of musical compositions. Among the topics discussed are the composer's approaches to dramatizing with music and lyrics; the creation and use of motifs and thematic material; the use of harmony, melody and rhythm to reflect character; the structuring of a score; and the practical aspects of collaboration.
Sondheim's anecdotes about his shows, his musings on art and musical theater, and his thoughts about those who have influenced his work, are part of these conversations. The composer's list of "Songs I Wish I'd Written" and his reasons behind some of the choices are also included. The work is complemented by the most complete listing of songs and discography of the composer's recordings to date, along with publishing information for his songs and scores, including vocal ranges.
The author, Mark Eden Horowitz, is a senior music specialist in the Music Division at the Library of Congress, where he has been the archivist for the collections of the papers of composers Leonard Bernstein, Jerome Kern, Frederick Loewe, Cole Porter and Richard Rodgers. He co-produced the Library's 70th Birthday Concert for Stephen Sondheim in 2000, and in 2002 presented the lecture series "Six by Sondheim," a joint presentation of the Library and the Smithsonian Resident Associates Program. He also taught "The American Musical on Stage and Screen" at Georgetown University and presented the lecture series "Masters of the Musical" for the Smithsonian. His articles and reviews have appeared in the Kurt Weill Quarterly and The Sondheim Review.
Prior to his appointment at the Library of Congress, Horowitz worked for more than a decade at the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. He is a graduate of Clark University in Worcester, Mass., and studied musical composition privately with Asher Zlotnick.
"Sondheim on Music," a 401-page clothbound book, with more than 65 musical examples, most derived from the composer's sketches, is available in major bookstores nationwide for $39.95 and the Library's Sales Shop. Call toll-free (888) 682-3557, to order with a major credit card.