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Friday, April 19, 2013

Subtext

Clarity is one of the principles I learned from the great Stephen Sondheim. Lyrics written for the musical stage, he teaches, must be easy to understand, non-intellectual, concrete. That applies also to other song lyrics, especially to pop songs. What good musical songs additionally need is a subtext. There must be something between the lines, something that remains unsung, or else the audience may become bored after a few bars. It's important to let them sense another truth behind the words we hear. By far the best subtext is irony. It has three disadvantages though: Irony is difficult to write, hard to perform and rarely understood by the audience.

1 comment:

  1. Achim ThiemermannApril 20, 2013 at 2:27 AM

    Re: Disadvantages of using irony - not in country music.

    (Waltz)
    "I slapped her only once a week
    but now she done divorced me.
    I might have broke a coupl'er ribs
    but only when she forced me."

    See? I wrote it in 5 minutes, any yahoo can sing it, and every female gets it.

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