Only in 'America'

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In response to yesterday's post, my friend Andy Benjamin pointed out that jitter is a measurable parameter that clearly affects sound quality. Thanks, I forgot that one. Now on to today's post. Terri and I were watching Bernstein's brilliant West Side Story the other night. Man what a great movie! Whoever lit that film was brilliant. But it got me to wondering about something. Lyrics. Does a composer start with lyrics and write the music or is it the other way around? It might sound like a silly question but it does plague me. Steven Sondheim's great lyrics like 'Maria', 'Tonight', or 'In America' really help make this a brilliant work. Who among us could imagine this music without those lyrics - or the other way around? But I have a hard time imagining how either of them could have worked in a vacuum. We know from opera that many of the great librettist's started with a common story and wrote the words in partnership with the composer. And I am sure Sondheim and Bernstein did the same. I am just struggling with how that might work. Melody first, lyrics second or the other way around? Maybe it's the engineer in me that needs to understand the mechanics of it. It really is a mystery to me.
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Paul McGowan

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