Category Archives: Listen to this…

Owen Pallett rocks my world

Owen Pallett‘s new album Heartland is just fantastic. I was introduced to his work by Sequenza21 and after listening to a couple of tracks I made a special trip to Aquarius Records to pay full price for the CD (hooray for supporting artists and local record stores). It was that compelling. A month later, theContinue Reading

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It’s time to admit I have a problem…

I wrote one more #operaplot tweet today. It’s for Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex. But as a rap. I thought that would be particularly appropriate, since the whole show is about Oedipus’s hubris, which seems to fit right into the rap genre.  So this is what I came up with… Oedipus Rex Ego Rex,yo! With my madContinue Reading

16 Responses to It’s time to admit I have a problem…

  1. Dave Moschler says:

    I have to say Brian, this is pretty amazing. Sort of like Prince Paul meets PDQ Bach. Definitely one of the best #operaplots I have ever seen (does #operaplot allow submissions for opera-oratorios?).

  2. Becky says:

    Love this Brian!

  3. Andy Mayo says:

    Actually, it sounds like Humpty. I think you’ve got an 80’s thing going on, or perhaps an early 90’s thing. But don’t quit the day job…

  4. Jennifer Peterson says:

    Word, yo. #operaplot

  5. Michael Fitch says:

    Guess what Stravinsky is going in his grave right now?

    (Ha ha, you thought I was going to say Rolling over!)

    Truly one of the best raps I’ve heard in the CIR (Caucasian Intellectual Rap) genre.

  6. […] with shimmy. This year’s competition features Jonas Kaufmann as the judge, and inspired a rap song and a movie trailer. I am a total […]

  7. […] rhyming couplets and limericks as well as dazzling displays of wit.  There’s even been a rap and an epic film […]

  8. Sister says:

    Oh no he di’int’.

  9. […] A hysterical rap by Brian Rosen. Watch out, he’s going neo-classical on yo’ ass. […]

  10. Gale Martin says:

    This was brilliant!!!! Good luck from a fellow wangsta.

  11. […] Best Creative Use Of An #Operaplot: Brian Rosen (MusicVsTheater) for his Oedipus Rex rap […]

  12. […] auch ausgehen mag Music Vs Theatre – Easily Digestible Opera Chunks | More #Operaplotting | It’s Time To Admit That I Have A Problem | How To Write An #Operaplot Vancouver Opera Blog – Do You Operaplot? Another Musicology Blog […]

  13. […] Did you have a favorite–yours or anyone else’s? I thought Brian Rosen’s Oedipus Rex rap #operaplot was brilliant. Probably made more brilliant by the fact that he recorded it:  […]

  14. […] my way back to the office, I stopped to grab food, and ran into our friend Brian of the #operaplot rap back in the day, and a very sweet member of the Adler fellowship, also named Brian. He was studying […]

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Collect all three!

The string quartet is DONE! Actually, it was done a year ago, but now it’s been premiered, recorded, annotated, and released to the public. The third movement Off the Rails is finally available for listening and downloading and reading about and whatnot. So what happens now? Hmm. Good question. I’ve already submitted it to severalContinue Reading

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Radiohead + Bluegrass = Crazy Delicious

Time for another transformative cover.  This time the source material is Radiohead’s Morning Bell  This track isn’t exactly uncoverable.  There’s plenty of harmonic and melodic material in there with room for an artist to interject their own sensibilities. And now here’s a cover by bluegrass super group, The Punch Brothers.   That’s right, bluegrass.  ChrisContinue Reading

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On the virtues of being baked

Two weeks ago I swung by the free Hot Air Music Festival at the SF Conservatory.  It was an all day affair with dozens of pieces from composers who, save for four, all shared a trait that almost guarantees that they’ll be largely unknown and unheard, specifically, they’re alive. I was only able to attendContinue Reading

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Covering the Uncoverable

Whew.  A full six days since my last post! What can I say.  Those Sondheim posts wiped me pretty hard. That was at least a month’s worth of blogging concentrated into a week’s time. The next few posts will be a lot less dense. I’ve been thinking about the point I brought up in myContinue Reading

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Top 10 Moments of Sondheim Genius (part 2)

Gah!  I would have published this earlier, but I spent two evenings tearing my house apart trying to find a photograph of me and Sondheim taken when I was in the ensemble for the 2001 PBS production of Sweeney Todd in Concert. I’m a bit freaked out that I haven’t been able to find itContinue ReadingContinue Reading

11 Responses to Top 10 Moments of Sondheim Genius (part 2)

  1. gerald rosen says:

    I knew it!!

  2. Brian Rosen says:

    You did? Well, that makes one of us. I was actually reordering up until pretty late in the game.

  3. Gina says:

    Absolutely loved this. Read every word and even listened to the clips. (“Even” because I’ve heard the music many times and knew which bits you were referencing even before you went into detail.) There were only a few things on your list that I already noticed, so it was wonderful to find out about the others. No doubt it helps to play an instrument/be a composer yourself.

    Bookmarking your page because I have much appreciation for a good theatre-related blog. There aren’t not enough out there. I’m always tempted to make one, but I really don’t know as much as I’d like to, unfortunately.

  4. Brian Rosen says:


    That’s the main reason I started this one. At first I thought, “what the heck do I have to say that other, more qualified people haven’t already said.” But I realized that a) I haven’t found many folks writing about this stuff and b) this would be a good way to introduce my own friends to the stuff that I care about.

    Thanks for reading…

  5. EricMontreal says:

    Great list, especially appreciated having the clips, even though I knew the music by heart, there were still some great revelations. I hate to complain with the typical “where’s [my fave show]” but I admit I missed not having anything from Company, Pacific Overtures and Passion, particularly.

    “It’s easy to imagine that it was the producer’s fear that audiences wouldn’t realize that a second act existed that led to the narrator’s non-sequitor interjection “To be continued!” right before the last chord of the act.”

    And that’s exactly what was done–in the original San Diego workshop audiences were leaving after Act I. I believe the line was thrown in some weeks into the Broadway production, in fact.

  6. Elliott says:

    I agree with ErikMontreal; the lack of Pacific Overtures, Passion, and Company was slightly saddening, but this was still a great read. 😀 Well done!

  7. Sister says:

    I can’t believe the falling chandelier didn’t make the top 10.

  8. Adam says:

    This was wonderful…thank you for writing it!

  9. Brian Rosen says:

    Adam, thanks for reading it! It was a fun one to put together.

  10. Wow, what a great essay. I am so with you about the chord at the end of Sweeney’s Ephiphany. What an amazing thing to do. It reminds me somewhat of the out-of-key chords at the end of Don José’s Flower Song, the way that the music communicates that this guy has departed the world that most of us live in and has encamped himself very firmly on the planet of his own obsession.

    I did see the first Broadway production of Sunday in the Park, and saw it before the cast album had come out, too, so hardly anybody in the audience including me knew any of the music and words yet. There are some things about that show that irritated me, but boy, watching the first act finale unfold without realizing quite what was coming was incredibly powerful.

  11. Charisma says:

    Wow, that was a wonderful read. It really exposed some nuances I hadn’t noticed at all before. I’ve just recently been getting into Sondheim, saw Sweeny Todd, Into The Woods and A Little Night Music (some live dvd’s and recordings), and I must say that Mrs. Lovett’s rendition of “Nothing’s gonna harm you…” back to Toby gave me shivers and was musically maybe the most impactful part of the show for me. I noticed the major dissonances in the two other parts you mentioned, though not in such exacting detail, and I hate the versions I heard where they removed that from the epiphany and make it meld ~ it’s so wrong for the play.

    I didn’t notice what was going on in the explanation that it’s okay to kill the giant and not the steward, though I must say the song always seemed to highlight for me how alone the giantess is, and how alone the witch is. I didn’t even notice those connecting “discovery” notes, nor the continuation of the waltz meter in A Little Night Music. I’m going to come back and read the other parts once I’ve watched those musicals. Maybe you could do a sort of sequel to this highlighting one favorite musical + theatrical moment in each of Sondheim’s plays (other than the one’s included in the top ten)? Thanks for the detail!

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Top 10 Moments of Sondheim Genius

In honor of the eightieth birthday of the greatest musical theater writer/composer to ever live, I’ve gone ahead and curated the 10 most brilliant moments in a body of work that is chock full of genius.  For purposes of this list, I’ve tried to identify specific moments, as opposed to stretches of time or entireContinue ReadingContinue Reading

7 Responses to Top 10 Moments of Sondheim Genius

  1. gerald rosen says:

    One of my favorite all-time lyrics from Sweeney Todd; “with or without his privates.”

  2. Brian Rosen says:

    Ahh…that gives me an idea for my next list, Top Ten Funniest Moments in Sondheim. That should be easier to write.

  3. Dave Moschler says:

    Brian, thanks for sharing this very well-written list and all the great recordings of each selection! I have to admit I was extremely disheartened not to see “Opening Doors” (or anything) from Merrily We Roll Along on the list (or “Someone in a Tree” from Pacific Overtures). Did Sweeney Todd and Into The Woods really deserve to occupy half of the list (and on that note is no. 7 a moment of genius)?

    I think you hit the nail on the head for Assassins though . . . always thought one of the most powerful moments of the show when Booth drops the N-bomb as well as the march from El Capitan rewritten. Thanks again for the post!

  4. Brian Rosen says:

    Dave, ya caught me. Merrily and Pacific Overtures are the two Sondheim shows I’ve never seen produced, so I can’t really speak to them. As for no. 7, I wrestled with that, but I decided to specifically single out those last measures of Moment’s In the Woods as “the” moment of genius in that whole discovery song concept. I think it’s the only time that Red’s theme comes back unaltered.

  5. Jeffrey says:

    How wonderful to read this post via a link posted on All that Chat. Great to get your insights.

    And the Act I closer for Sunday? It was my first Broadway show. With the characters stepping into their final positions, the painting scrim dropping with the actors aligned perfectly behind it, and the music swelling, I literally starting heaving tears. It’s one of the most brilliant piece of theatre ever.

  6. Brian Rosen says:

    Jeffrey, totally with ya there. I never got to see it on broadway, but even just reviewing the video while writing this post, I started tearing up. Ooops…did I just say that out loud?

  7. Noel Katz says:

    I very much enjoyed your analysis, and it brings to mind a similar explication of musical devices my wife did long before I met her: hearing about it was the first time marriage entered my mind.

    I’ll pick a bone with the Into the Woods songs of discovery. Yes, they’re connected by similar accompaniments, but, for me, this is something that made me go, in the theatre, “Haven’t we heard this one already?” A character telling the audience what he’s learned (from a familiar fairy tale, no less) is not my idea of effective entertainment. Ideally, we feel for the characters, so when they go through a dramatic arc, we feel what they feel, discover what they discover. Jack, Little Red and Cinderella announce to us that they’ve learned something profound, and Here It Is. But what they’ve learned isn’t profound or surprising enough, and it annoys me that an otherwise swiftly-told plot is being stopped for an ersatz revelation.

    In weaker Sondheim shows, I find myself not caring about the characters. The mob that claims to have saved Roosevelt are all very frenetic, but I was wholly unmoved, unclear as to what the show as a whole was saying about Americans. Or, I guess, the .0001% of us who shoot at politicians. How could you expect Booth NOT to drop the n-word? We already knew, from the history books, of his vile view.

    But I come here to praise: the torch song Losing My Mind takes familiar elements – the structure of Gershwin’s The Man I Love, the melodic motif of Rodgers’ He Was Too Good To Me – sets them to an ever augmenting chord structure, while the lyric talks about stasis. That’s crazy. Crazy good.

    When I think of the myriad paeans to my hometown, Sondheim’s Another Hundred People rises near the top. The busy synth paints the pace of the city, and each key change involving the singer sustaining an enharmonic, is a delightful surprise. Similarly, I get ecstatic about the harmonies under the lines “And the life moving on” in Move On.

    I love me a good quodlibet, and Sondheim wrote a couple of delights for the young ghosts in Follies. First came Who Could Be Blue?/Little White House, the tune of which is better known from its reuse in Stavisky. This was replaced by Love Will See Us Through/You’re Gonna Love Tomorrow, a deliciously cheerful output for Sondheim’s natural cynicism about marriages.

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First movement now available for download

I’m happy to announce that the first movement of my string quartet is now available for free download. I’ve also written up extensive notes for that movement if you’d like to know more about the composition and where it came from. (Of course you’d like to know more. Why else would you be reading thisContinue Reading

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A lovely convergence of my favorite things

I’m on something of a David O’Reilly kick here.  His stuff is fascinating.  And I just discovered that he made a video for the Venetian Snares track Szamar Madar off of their unpronounceable but very listenable DnB/IDM/Classical mashup album Rossz Csillag Alatt Született, which happens to be one of my favorite albums ever. And then onContinue Reading

2 Responses to A lovely convergence of my favorite things

  1. gerald rosen says:

    There must be something wrong with one of us, because I kind of like this music.

  2. Brian Rosen says:

    Wow. If I manage to get my dad interested in The Venetian Snares, then this blog has truly fulfilled its purpose.

    Actually, it’s not that surprising. I got my taste from somewhere. And the rest of the album may be a bit glitchy and noisy for you, but there’s a lot to like. It’s pretty much Stravinsky with the rhythms turned to 11 (and the harmonies turned down to 3 or 4).

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