Or was it the music?
It depends on the composer.
Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart agreed that Rodgers would write the music first, and Hart would fit the words to the music.
Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II began with Hammerstein’s lyrics, with Rodgers fitting the music to the lyrics. In that case, yes, the Word[s] was first.
Personally, I prefer Rodgers’ melodies better as part of his collaboration with Hart than I do with Hammerstein. They seem more creative.
(Wow, I’ve committed sacrilege twice in one post and I’m <100 words in.)
When you are working on interpreting a song, what do you work on first? The words or the music? Or do you try to do them all together? What is your process?
In past studio classes, we’ve taken the text of a song and made it into a monologue to see which words stuck out as particularly important. Because a song is, basically, a monologue or a soliloquy set to music. In the hands of a great composer, the music enhances the text and vice versa.
In next week’s studio class, we will be focusing on finding the backstory – what’s behind the text and how it informs your interpretation of the song you’re singing. In other words, how did we come to this (which is one of my favorite songs of the last 20 years)?
If you’re a current MVS member, these are included in your lessons. If you’re not, contact MVS and let me know if you’d like to attend, and I’ll let you know how you can join.
If you’d like to work on text, whether it’s from a song or a stand-alone monologue, I recommend Matt Bender as an acting coach.
He is one of MVS’ former students, has an MFA in Acting, and is an in-demand coach and adjudicator in the Midwest.
He’s also an affiliate with MVS. Check out Monologues with Matt for more information.