[Smt-talk] Looking for bad text settings

kos at panix.com kos at panix.com
Fri Aug 22 16:04:56 PDT 2014

On Fri, 22 Aug 2014, Paul Setziol <setziolpaul at earthlink.net> asks:

> Question:  Are there other examples so clearly intended?  I'm not talking 
> about those examples like Gilbert and Sullivan where it is in jest.

I recall an article in 19th Century Music (from the 1990s) which reproduced and 
discussed an interview with Arthur Sullivan that appeared in a book 100 years earlier.

Part of the interview was about how Sullivan proceded to set texts.  The point 
he emphasized is that he avoids setting the text in the obvious manner because 
he felt the strong beats of the text should NOT coincide with the music 
(because of phrase structure, I believe).  He then used "Three Little Maids" 
from THE MIKADO as an example.  The words would seem to imply a strong beat at 
the beginning of each line:

THREE little maids from school are we
PERT as a school-girl well can be
FILLED to the brim with girlish glee
THREE little maids from school.

So Sullivan's setting avoids the obvious to achieve a strong conclusion:

Three little MAIDS from school are we
Pert as a SCHOOL-girl well can be
Filled to the BRIM of girlish glee
THREE little maids from school.

Just a reminder that sometimes composers intentionally set words that 
superficially appear to go against the musical rhythm.

Bob Kosovsky, Ph.D. -- Curator, Rare Books and Manuscripts,
Music Division, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts
blog:  http://www.nypl.org/blog/author/44   Twitter: @kos2
   Listowner: OPERA-L ; SMT-TALK ; SMT-ANNOUNCE ; SoundForge-users
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