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Old 12-27-2012, 10:38 AM   #1
trysail
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Arrow Andrew Lloyd Webber and the substitution of loudness for talent



I attended a performance of Les Misèrables o'er the Christmas holiday and was greatly underwhelmed.


The lyrics were completely unintelligible; I suspect that was due to the fact that the words and music were amplified. The decibel level can only be described as approaching violation of The Geneva Conventions.


This was not an isolated episode. Today's musical productions are routinely amplified. It occurred to me that this sorry state of affairs is entirely attributable to the advent of Andrew Lloyd Webber and his ilk. It further occurred to me that this represents an intentional and deliberate attempt to obscure the poor quality of today's lyrics. They're simply awful.


If you make 'em loud enough, maybe nobody will notice just how bad they are.


The lyrics simply do not hold a candle to those of Rodgers, Kern, Lerner, Loewe, Hammerstein, et al. The pure cleverness and musicianship contained in plays such as Showboat, Oklahoma !, Camelot, Annie Get Your Gun, My Fair Lady, etc. are so much better than the current fare that one wonders whether Broadway and Mayfair reside in a new Dark Age.


I submit that Lloyd Webber and his contemparies have managed to dupe the current generation of undiscriminating theatre-goers into mistaking sheer audio volume for talent.



Last edited by trysail : 12-27-2012 at 02:23 PM. Reason: Adding the correctly accented è to Les Misèrables
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Old 12-27-2012, 11:11 AM   #2
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Annie get your gun was clever?

Must be me, back when I had season tickets to the Providence Performing Arts Center there were only two plays I left during intermission, Annie Get you Gun was one and NUnsense the other.

Guess I'm just not clever.
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Old 12-27-2012, 11:25 AM   #3
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It doesn't get much better than Ethel Merman belting out:

Oh my Mother was frightened by a shotgun, they say,
That's why I'm such a wonderful shot.
I'd be am out in the cactus and I practice all day,
And now tell me what have I got.
I'm quick on the trigger with targets not much bigger
Than a pen point, I'm number one.
But my score with a feller is lower than a cellar-
Oh you can't get a man with a gun.
When I'm with a pistol
I sparkle like a crystal,
Yes, I shine like the morning sun.
But I lose all my luster
When with a Bronco Buster.
Oh you can't get a man with a gun.
With a gun, with a gun,
No, you can't get a man with a gun.
If I went to battle
With someone's herd of cattle
You'd have steak when the job was done.
But if shot the herder,
They'd holler "bloody murder"
And you can't shoot a male
In the tail like a quail
Oh you can't get a man with a gun.
I'm cool, brave and daring
To see a lion glaring
When I'm out with my Remington
But a look from a mister
Will raise a fever blister
Oh you can't get a man with a gun.
The gals with "umbrellars"
Are always out with fellers
In the rain or the blazing sun
But a man never trifles
With gals who carry rifles
Oh you can't get a man with a gun.
With a gun, with a gun,
No, you can't get a man with a gun.
A man's love is mighty
It'll leave him buy a nightie
For a gal who he thinks is fun.
But they don't buy pajamas
For Pistol packin' mamas,
And you can't get a hug
From a mug with a slug,
Oh you can't get a man with a gun.
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Old 12-27-2012, 12:26 PM   #4
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What's Andrew Lloyd Webber got to do with Les Mis? He didn't write it. And even if he had, he's not a lyricist - he writes music. Maybe your ire should be directed at Cameron Mackintosh, the chap who produced the first UK production of Les Mis (he also produced some of Lloyd Webber's shows).

Don't get me wrong, I'm not a huge fan of Les Mis either. Not my cup of tea.
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Old 12-27-2012, 01:50 PM   #5
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Gilbert, the lyricist of Gilbert and Sullivan, used to insist that the artistes of the Savoy Opera Company should pronounce and sing his words clearly.

The Savoy Opera Company still does and has influenced many UK musical productions to make the words clearly heard.

I suspect that you attended a poorly produced version of Les Miserables. When I went to see it I could hear almost every word spoken and sung and I have impaired hearing. While there was amplification, it was well balanced so that the performers and the music complemented each other.

Of course, I have also been to performances of other musical works that have had poor balance and I felt like dragging the sound engineer out of his booth and telling him to learn his trade.
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Old 12-27-2012, 04:08 PM   #6
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ALW had nothing to do with Les Miz, but I get your point.

I attended a live performance of Phantom of the Opera at the Fox Theater in Atlanta, GA back in 1989 and the sound was a disaster. Most of the lyrics were unintelligible and the music distorted. I approached the box office afterwards, complained and requested my money back. It was returned with apologies.
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Old 12-27-2012, 04:32 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by trysail View Post


I attended a performance of Les Misèrables o'er the Christmas holiday and was greatly underwhelmed.

The lyrics were completely unintelligible; I suspect that was due to the fact that the words and music were amplified. The decibel level can only be described as "approaching violation of The Geneva Conventions.

This was not an isolated episode. Today's musical productions are routinely amplified. It occurred to me that this sorry state of affairs is entirely attributable to the advent of Andrew Lloyd Webber and his ilk. It further occurred to me that this represents an intentional and deliberate attempt to obscure the poor quality of today's lyrics. They're simply awful.

If you make 'em loud enough, maybe nobody will notice just how bad they are.

The lyrics simply do not hold a candle to those of Rodgers, Kern, Lerner, Loewe, Hammerstein, et al. The pure cleverness and musicianship contained in plays such as Showboat, Oklahoma !, Camelot, Annie Get Your Gun, My Fair Lady, etc. are so much better than the current fare that one wonders whether Broadway and Mayfair reside in a new Dark Age.

I submit that Lloyd Webber and his contemparies have managed to dupe the current generation of undiscriminating theatre-goers into mistaking sheer audio volume for talent.


I fear you are not comparing like with like. And,
You don't say whether it was a live performance or the film.

According to Wiki:-
Herbert Kretzmer did the lyrics.
Claude-Michel Schönberg did the music.

I loved your view that the sound level was
"approaching violation of The Geneva Conventions."
I must remember that one next time I go deaf with some of this modern crap the kids call music.

So if you have a real beef with those who produced this particular tragedy, I commend that you take it up with them in no uncertain terms;
particularly the idiot in charge of the sound at the time and not make random moans about Andrew Lloyd-Weber !
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Old 12-27-2012, 05:10 PM   #8
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Andrew Llloyd Webber's music was never what I would consider great music (other then Jesus Christ Superstar), but then again, much of what is on the musical stage in recent decades is quite frankly not very good, the Disney Musicals and any number I have seen are popified schmaltz...but unfortunately, that is where broadway and musicals have headed, they have become spectacles. The music in Phantom was bombastic ick, and evita was not exactly great, either.

A lot of that unfortunately has to do with the economics of shows and what producers think is important. One of the reasons for amplification (in theaters) is because more and more they use pop stars to try and draw and audience, and many of them can't sing for crap, in their pop life they lip synch in concert, and their recordings are auto tuned and auto blended to death....and on top of that, live music is going the way of the dinosaur, to save costs many theaters are using a couple of people playing synthesizer or are using recorded music, amplified in fouled up ways, to save money and it makes for crappy sound.

I also will be careful comparing present day stuff to the past, because you have to be very careful, for every Oklahoma! or Sound of Music or Guys and Dolls or West Side Story (probably IMO one of the most incredible broadway musicals from a music standpoint ever done), there were a lot of Max Bialystock specials, with insipid music and stupid casts, and we are looking back at roughly 100 years of musical theater and culling out the gems.

It is funny that the OP mentioned substituting loudness for talent, theater critics used to tag that on Ethel Merman all the time, that all she did was belt the piece out double forte (I don't agree, by the way), and have heard the same thing levelled at Patti Lupone and Elaine Page, which I don't agree with either.

I think the dynamics of musicals is such that we are going to see a lot more pap (it is interesting that ALW hasn't had a hit in prob 20 years at least), and also a lot more 'pop influence' musicals, like SpiderMan (though I hear the music isn't that bad) but I also think that there will be classics coming out, too, there are a lot of good, young composers out there, hopefully they will get a chance, the way Stephen Sondheim was given a chance years ago
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Old 12-27-2012, 07:25 PM   #9
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I've never been a fan of Broadway style productions. The music sounds contrived to me - probably because it is. The one exception would be Westside Story, perhaps because I was enthralled by Maria's cleavage?

Advice for the sound problem: The middle of the theater would be the best place to sit. The farther away from the walls you are, the less the reflected sound and bass build up will be obscuring the lyrics. The volume problem is a tough one. I can't watch movies or go to concerts anymore without earplugs. These days, you can get "musician" earplugs which cut the volume level by 10 or 15 db without changing the frequency response. They're not that expensive, and could greatly enhance the theater-going experience.
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Old 12-27-2012, 08:12 PM   #10
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I went to the premier production of Les Miz at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., in whatever year that was that it opened. (The Kennedy Center owned the musical then--I don't know if it still does.) It's the first stage musical I saw with not only amplified sound, but feeding backup music into the theater. Not only that, since I knew some of the nonspeaking-part cast members, I found out that one of the leads wasn't on that night and her voice was being piped in and lipsynched by an understudy. I thought that, together, that was going much too far.

I don't agree that ALW doesn't write outstanding music for stage musicals, though. I've had leads in two productions of Phantom, and the music was great. I rank it below Sondheim (I've done A Little Night Music, Into the Woods, and Sunday in the Park with George)--and maybe Rodgers and Hammerstein (South Pacific, Carousel, Oklahoma), but above Lerner and Loewe (I'm done leads in Brigadoon, My Fair Lady and Camelot. The leads of these were written for someone who doesn't have to have a singing voice at all--Richard Burton and Rex Harrison)

As far as demanding, ALW writes the most demanding music in range and Sondheim writes the most demanding in intricate rhythms, timing, and pitch changes. R and H just wrote great melody lines for their times.
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Old 12-27-2012, 09:13 PM   #11
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I would disagree with ALW, structurally his music is not very sophisticated, his basic chords structures and melodies and rhythms are not exactly original nor particularly complex, and while broadway musicals don't demand incredible technique, the best of them are crafting music that works...quite frankly, you heard one ALW score, you have heard them all. Richard Rodgers if you look at the musicals he did with both Oscar Hammerstein and with Lorenz Hart, wrote some pretty complex pieces, and if you look at what rodgers did outside the theater, his score for victory at sea, for example, there was a lot of depth there. The thing about broadway musicals is you are limited, because of the nature of musicals, you aren't exactly (thank God!) going to be putting up Schonbergian tone rows and similar stuff, given the nature of what they are doing, it is hard to be that creative. The score done for Carousel is pretty interesting, and working within the parameters of what broadway demands, is not lightweight either.

One of the reasons the music in West Side Story stood out was because it was so different, it was written by someone with feet in many worlds. Rhythmically and structurally the music was not run of the mill, and of course it incorporated elements well beyond the typical tin pan alley-ish music on broadway. Actually,Bernstein's score for Candide was quite different, too, as was "On the Town", it was a very different level in my opinion.

On the other hand, the millions of people who love ALW's shows would disagree and after all, critics in classical music get delirious over the 12 tone/serialistic music of 'modern classical', minimalism and 12 tone has been the darling of critics for roughly 100 years, and audiences hate it.....
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Old 12-27-2012, 10:14 PM   #12
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It's fine to disagree. My views are from singing scores from all of them--on stage--not just listening to them.
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Old 12-29-2012, 06:08 PM   #13
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Quote:
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It's fine to disagree. My views are from singing scores from all of them--on stage--not just listening to them.
It just keeps getting better.

Please someone start a thread talking about winning a cow chip eating contest so Pilot can come out and say he's eaten the biggest cow chips in history.

The man is such a pathetic pathological liar it shouldn't be funny.

But it is
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Old 12-30-2012, 10:29 AM   #14
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Webber is a dickhead who was very good at claiming all the credit for JCS and then followed that up with a bunch of rubbish without Tim Rice (and others) and is still doing it and getting away with it - up to a point. Although OBVIOUSLY some people are beginning to have the guts to say he has no clothes.
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Old 12-30-2012, 05:15 PM   #15
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Miserable is right

Saw it on Broadway. Endless. And it was on a date so I had to pretend to like it and find something to say during intermission other than, "Please, just shoot me, or hit me over the head with a shovel. Anything to make it stop." Turning the volume down would do nothing to help that steaming pile of crap. Trimming it by say two hours. That would be an improvement.
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Old 12-30-2012, 08:33 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by trysail View Post


I attended a performance of Les Misèrables o'er the Christmas holiday and was greatly underwhelmed.


The lyrics were completely unintelligible; I suspect that was due to the fact that the words and music were amplified. The decibel level can only be described as approaching violation of The Geneva Conventions.


This was not an isolated episode. Today's musical productions are routinely amplified. It occurred to me that this sorry state of affairs is entirely attributable to the advent of Andrew Lloyd Webber and his ilk. It further occurred to me that this represents an intentional and deliberate attempt to obscure the poor quality of today's lyrics. They're simply awful.


If you make 'em loud enough, maybe nobody will notice just how bad they are.


The lyrics simply do not hold a candle to those of Rodgers, Kern, Lerner, Loewe, Hammerstein, et al. The pure cleverness and musicianship contained in plays such as Showboat, Oklahoma !, Camelot, Annie Get Your Gun, My Fair Lady, etc. are so much better than the current fare that one wonders whether Broadway and Mayfair reside in a new Dark Age.


I submit that Lloyd Webber and his contemparies have managed to dupe the current generation of undiscriminating theatre-goers into mistaking sheer audio volume for talent.


Got to agree, speaking as a true Brit, I have to state that there is no worse shit than the shit peddled by this man, Timothy Leary got six years for peddling shit, ALW got a fucking Title. All his musicals are long drones of mscellaneous noises, with ALW's latest shag warbling tunelessly in the middle of it - truly music to commit suicide by...
If your wife insists on dragging you to any of these pretentious arse-gravy productions, you have my pemission to divorce her arse, she's tone deaf and retarded
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Old 12-30-2012, 09:45 PM   #17
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Anybody ever heard any of Jason Robert Brown's stuff?
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Old 12-31-2012, 01:43 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by carlieplum View Post
Saw it on Broadway. Endless. And it was on a date so I had to pretend to like it and find something to say during intermission other than, "Please, just shoot me, or hit me over the head with a shovel. Anything to make it stop." Turning the volume down would do nothing to help that steaming pile of crap. Trimming it by say two hours. That would be an improvement.
I read the book, in french, and I kind of felt the same way about the book, too...either that or it was simply that my comprehension of french was that lousy (which it was, believe me
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