Growing up and discovering I suddenly like Sondheim

Oh, I’d liked the music before.   Who couldn’t love “I’m not getting married today“?  (And I have always loved A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, but that’s an exception.)  But the shows, the shows… so… conflicted.  So depressing.  So unsettling.

In high school the show that spoke most to me, really spoke to my deepest inner adolescent depths was The Fantasticks.  “Without a hurt the heart is hollow.”  The sufferings of teenagehood were buffing up my character, making things more real somehow.  Sondheim also does that trick where everything ends prettily in the first act, only to be broken at the start of the second, but his second act doesn’t end with everybody with more real happiness at the end of the show.  He’s not really big on closure.

Life’s not really big on closure.

Lots of people in high school liked Sondheim.  I’m pretty sure #2 numbers among them.  (True!  #2 has loved Sondheim since the age of like 12, when she was still missing a lot of the lyrical jokes but starting to appreciate how very difficult it was to sing his incredible melodies.  My very favorite is A Little Night Music.  #1 loves this Stephen Colbert cover of Send in the Clowns.  He explains where they are.  See, closure.)

Were they more cynical?  Less cynical?  More mature?  Is my new appreciation for Sondheim showing growth on my part or just an acceptance?

I went to a talk at a conference once where they had a couple of psychologists talking about how our emotions change as we age.  One of the big things is that as we get older each negative event doesn’t affect us as much… we focus more on the positive and don’t let the negative get us down quite so much as before.  Of course, as you get older there’s more negative events… people die off, get divorced etc.

So… I wonder how old I have to be before I like any Wagner other than Die Meistersinger.

How have your tastes matured as you’ve gotten older?  Do you appreciate more or less?

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18 Responses to “Growing up and discovering I suddenly like Sondheim”

  1. hush Says:

    I enjoy Cole Porter’s old Broadway melodies, but never could suspend my disbelief enough to truly appreciate most musicals. While
    “Book of Mormon” and “Spamalot” are my kind of fare, it certainly seems to me that Sondheim also has a respectable body of work. The older I get, the more I tend to think in matters of taste and style, if you absolutely love it then that’s what really matters. Who cares if the so-called tastemakers agree.

  2. pvcccourses Says:

    Interesting… Well, I’ve never been crazy about musicals, so couldn’t speak to that aspect.

    As a veteran of aging, though, I’d say it’s not so much that you focus on the positive as that you just don’t have the energy to get upset about the negatives. You begin to recognize the things you can’t do anything about, and you stop thinking about them.

  3. Bryan at Pinch that Penny! Says:

    I hear you about the Wagner; I have my B.A. in music, and I always feel like I *should* therefore enjoy opera in general and Wagner in particular. I just have a hard time with him (“Kill the Wabbit” notwithstanding).

    Sondheim is a favorite of mine. I remember when I was in elementary school, and my class got to go see a performance of “Into the Woods.” My friends and I really enjoyed the first act, so we were a little curious as to why the teachers made us leave at intermission (I guess I can kind of see where the teachers were coming from, but I still don’t think there were any good reasons to have us leave).

    If you like Sondheim, you might also like some of Jason Robert Brown’s work, especially The Last 5 Years. It’s a little gimmicky, but there are some grand, powerful moments.

    As far as my music tastes changing, I’m having a harder and harder time with rock music nowadays. I am having a harder time seeing the point of generally incomprehensible lyrics,* even if I still enjoy the music. Also, rock concerts are so loud. Soon, I’ll be shouting at kids to stay off my lawn.

    * See Nirvana’s lyrics to Smells Like Teen Sprirt, “A mulatto, an albino, a mosquito, my libido” as a prime example. Why would anybody put those lyrics on paper?

  4. Zee Says:

    I read the golden compass book series when I was a kid and thought it was really fun. I re-read the books as an adult and it totally blew my mind. So I think I probably see more depth in things then as a teenager, more grey, less black and white.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Oooh, yes. And the Oz books are a heck of a lot creepier now as an adult…

    • Cloud Says:

      I’ve had the reverse, too- where I go back and reread something I loved as a kid and discover that it is all thinly veiled right-wing cold war propaganda. (I can’t remember the name of the series now- it was a fantasy thing I adored when I was about 12.)

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Oh man, have you tried watching He Man or Strawberry Shortcake? What was I thinking? (She-Ra, OTOH holds up pretty well)

      • Zee Says:

        Animal farm and the Narnia chronicles were like this for me (communism and christianity(ism)). Loved them as a kid, super creepy as an adult.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        YES on Animal Farm. I haven’t reread Narnia (last read in 3rd grade!), but DC loves the prequel (they’re reading it aloud at preschool). I wonder if A Wrinkle in Time is as good as I thought it was in 1st grade…

  5. Rumpus Says:

    I think I am mellowing as I get older, but looking back it doesn’t seem a constant progression. I can definitely say that I spend more of my attention on enjoying the good times. I also try to spend more time enjoying relationships and less time occupying myself with books and other activities.

    I don’t think my general music tastes have changed much post-college, but I continue to find new artists and styles that I enjoy. I enjoyed Harris and Colbert and the rest of the cast in Sondheim’s Company, and the music was great. Similarly, I don’t think my taste in books or movies has changed all that much.

  6. Trish Says:

    It’s great to gain closure on the clowns. In grad school a lab had a poster with merry kidney bean shaped creatures dancing thru a doorway, underneath of which was printed ‘send in the clones’.

    One of the great pleasures of growing older is gaining more control of one’s emotions. I find when confronted by an angry person I can maintain my composure and view the situation almost with detachment. And I can’t really be bothered about much of anything negative on a personal level. I bring this up because as I was recovering from knee surgery I watched the real housewives of someplace big and importsnt, or something like that. It was evidently a gathering in which the cast looked back on the season and discussed things. I was rather stunned at these women, who are roughly my age. Thier pettiness towards each other was disturbing. Are they friends or what? So it seems that not everyone takes the opportunity to let their emotions age as gracefully as botox allows their appearance to.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Yeah, the clowns got caught in traffic. (Also lost the address.) Whew. heehee, clones.

      ITA about the better control of emotions. For us, part of that is getting better in tune with our physiologies… knowing what foods to avoid, how to regulate hormones and other chemicals, but part of it is just having another decade under our belts. When research falls apart it’s also less “end of the world” and more “ok, where did I make a mistake” or “how can I salvage this.”

      And yes, even outside of “reality” shows (which probably wouldn’t be all that interesting without the drama), there’s still some folks our age and older who are still stuck in the pettiness and strong emotions. I don’t know why. But I do think the majority of folks we associate with have gotten much more laid back as they age. The ones who haven’t have cut us out of their lives for the most part. (Jane Austen suggests folks get the strong emotions and pettiness when they’re idle, which might explain the Real Housewives phenomenon.)

  7. becca Says:

    A wrinkle in time is that good (well, ok. maybe not *that* good. but entirely enjoyable).
    Narnia is not (except for reepicheep).
    *sigh*

  8. MutantSupermodel Says:

    I have no idea what this Sondthing you speak of is.

    Yes, my tastes have “matured”. First and foremost would be my clothing tastes. I was a bit nuts when I was younger as far as apparel went.

    Musically, I don’t think they’ve changed but I’ve think they’ve expanded. I still like a lot of the stuff I used to listen to. Then again, I dislike a lot of the new music and tend to live on the oldies and classic rock stations when I’m not depressing myself with NPR. Oh one exception would be the college radio station. I do love listening to that and the new music they play is much more interesting than what’s on mainstream radio.

    Tastes in reading material have also expanded, not necessarily changed. I mean, if there was some sort of adult version of Babysitters Club I’d most likely be all over that too. I do like non-fiction which I avoided when I was younger.

    And finally, I do think I handle negative things better than I did when I was younger but I attribute that to hormonal changes. In puberty and teen years they’re not just swinging, they’re rockin and rollin and surging and dipping and spinning. So I think my brain chemicals are more balanced now (not entirely perfect though) and that makes it easier to cope with things.


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