Thoughts on Content Dictates Form

At 44 there seems to still be an endless stream of lessons that I need to learn. The latest is “Content Dictates Form”. I first came across that several times while reading interviews with Stephen Sondheim (part of my endless quest to glean everything I can from Sondheim’s wonderful brilliance).

My own musical theater project has been full of so many discoveries. Sometimes I feel like a fact hunter. Endless articles, ordering books from Amazon, going over scores, etc. All trying to find those little gems and sign posts that will help me to avoid repeating pitfalls of past artists. I know I’ll have some. Just trying to minimize the damage.

Content Dictates Form – I actually had to look that up for crystal clear clarification and the best prose explanation I found for this is “know what you want to say and that will show you how to say it.”

Am I the only one that has such a sinking feeling when they discover something so simple. The sinking feeling is always “Why didn’t I know that before?”

So long story short I have spent months and months figuring out my best orchestration. Comparing Rimsky Korsakov orchestrations to Holst, perusing Mozart orchestrations, comparing the orchestration for successful Broadway plays (including side by side comparison of Sondheim’s major works), along with discovering the modern window of players required by Broadway unions. Argh.

All I had to do was to know crystal clear what I wanted to say and then the orchestration will reveal itself in how I want to say it. Simple. Well, sort of. The hard part is realizing what EXACTLY you want to communicate. That’s the hard part but no one’s business except the author’s.

The other part of this is that when you know EXACTLY what you want to say, it is naturally said in the way you would say it. There’s no need to worry about being original or finding your own voice. Because even if you try to say it like someone else would, it will still end up being your own voice because YOU ARE SAYING IT. This isn’t my own revelation – it was also borrowed (stolen!) from Sondheim. Thank you Stephen!

So more coffee, more thoughts on communicating clearly. And the Daemon and Muses will show up to help you express that.

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