Bleh with Barry

Random with a cynical twist of lime.

Posts Tagged ‘next to normal

Somethings that Make Me Tear Up Everytime

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So, I’ll be honest with you. I’m a person who is pretty dead when it comes to being emotional in front of people. Part of this may be due to my raising because in the south boys aren’t supposed to cry. Part of it may also because I am just a person who understands that there is a time and a place for emotions. For example, I don’t think that everyone should share the dirty laundry of their break up with people that they might at best consider acquaintances. It’s just a thing. Perhaps, I suffer alone without rhyme or reason. I don’t know. However, I will continue to do such because it’s ingrained in my nature now.

There are a couple of things that get me every time though. Both of them are musicals. Like I mentioned in an earlier post, music is the great emotional manipulator in my mind. Why? It mixes the strong emotions of the world with music.

 I am a sucker for music. It is a great love of mine. I love music from classical to contemporary because it hits on so many levels within my psyche. It manipulates me like no person will ever be able to. I am a wimp when it comes to musical manipulation or surprises (don’t get me started on this…the end of Atonement , a movie, and Next to Normal, a musical).

The main things that get me are musicals. It’s because of the music. It’s the one thing that will get me time after time. It breaks down all the barriers and makes me feel at ease before it shatters the barriers that I put up to contain my emotional baggage.

Recently, there have been two musicals that have done this to me. Next to Normal and Les Miserables cause me much grief as I listen to the beautiful heartache that is contained within the melodies and harmonies of each. They each have a great overarching story that makes me sad (what with a bipolar mother and the effects on the family and the French Revolution). However, each of them presents their sad tale in the form of a musical drama. This is the worst/best part for me. I love the music of each musical (matter-of-factly, N2N is brilliant across the board musically).

They set me at ease and then take me into the depths of despair. They each leave me with hope and allow me to face emotions that I would never think about pouring myself into. They make me think which is pretty phenomenal for anything that is supposed to be as superficial and candied as a musical. I find myself starting to get into the action and feel with the characters every time with these two musicals. Quite frankly, I suggest that if you haven’t heard/seen them that you do so as soon as possible because they are an experience not to be trifled with.

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Better Than Before (*Spoiler Alert*)

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So, I think I’ve already talked about this in some capacity, but I am going to rehash it now…so, yeah…The musical Next to Normal is brilliant. A friend and I were discussing it into the wee hours of the morning a couple of weeks back, and we both agreed that it would probably be on our respective iPods for many, many months to come. If you know us, this would make more sense. You see there are musicals and artists that go in and out of vogue for us as the mood strikes. Right now, I’m in a Les Miserables mood with a touch of 90’s music on the side.

The song from this show that I am recently infatuated with is actually two songs. However, I consider them one because they bleed into each other so perfectly. “Better than Before” and “Aftershocks” would be these two songs.  The song “Better than Before” is a happy melodic piece until the very end. The family is talking about how after Diana’s electro-shock therapy they will be better than they were. However, the end of the song hits very minor chords and harmonies which indicate that everything isn’t okay.

This idea is then expounded by the song “Aftershocks” which shows that everything is not okay. Gabe, the dead son/hallucination, sings that although he may be gone for now he can never be completely gone. This is the genius of the musical. It builds complex ideas and imagery into the chord construction and structure of the songs themselves. It’s quite beautiful and shows a lot of thought on the part of the composer and lyricist.

It just goes to show that creativity and interesting ideas are still out there. Like I said, this musical will be on my iPod for many months to come. I believe it should be on yours too.

Written by barryr22

May 11, 2010 at 10:48 pm

“I’ve Been”

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A song from the musical Next to Normal taking place after (SPOILER ALERT!!!!) Dan’s wife tries to commit suicide. It is very poignant and gives the audience a peek into Dan’s psyche which is interesting. However, it also pertains to anyone who has ever been in a relationship whether it be friendship or otherwise. It speaks to the inner parts of us as humans because we “could never be alone.”

Dan:
Standing in this room,
Well I wonder what comes now.
I know I have to help her,
But hell if I know how.
And all the times that I’ve been told
The way her illness goes.
The truth of it is no one really knows.
And every day this act we act gets more and more absurd.
And all my fears just sit inside me, screaming to be heard.
I know they won’t, though, not a single word.
I was here at her side
When she called, when she cried.
How could she leave me on my own?
Will it work, this cure?
There’s no way to be sure.
But I’m weary to the bone
And whenever she goes flying
I keep my feet right on the ground.
Oh now I need a lift
And there’s no one around.

Hey!

Gabe:
Hey!

Dan and Gabe:
Ohhh

(Together)
Dan:
Ahhh oooh
No

Gabe:
Ahh oooh
No

Dan:
And I’ve never had to face the world without her at my side.
Now I’m strolling right beside her as the black hole opens wide.
Mine is just a slower suicide.
I’ve been her for the show,
Every high, every low.
But it’s the worst we’ve ever known.
She’s been hurt, and how?
But I can’t give up now.
‘Cause I’ve never been alone.
I could never be alone.

It expresses the fears of someone who is about to embark on a new part of life whether it be forced or no, and the fears that they feel as a result. It speaks to the inner parts of all people…Also, it is just a beautiful song sung by the incredible J. Robert Spencer. Enjoy the song…and the meaning behind it.

Written by barryr22

May 1, 2010 at 11:50 pm

I Miss the Mountains: Spoiler Alert

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In the show Next to Normal (N2N), Alice Ripley’s character Diana sings a song called “I Miss the Mountains” in which she talks about missing the pain that she had when she wasn’t in a drug induced stupor. She talks about when she was younger and how she misses the woman that she used to be. Yesterday, while at dinner with some of my friends, we were discussing N2N and this song came up. I was saying that I enjoyed the songs that Diana sings because 1: they’re beautiful and 2: they’re in my range if I sing them in lower octaves (I’m a baritone and the men in the show are all pretty tenortastic).

One of my friends who is familiar with the musical as well, we actually saw it as a group in NYC, made the comment that the song doesn’t fit with the overarching musical feel of the show. It is a rock opera, and this number feels very much like a power ballad…not very rock opera-y.  It doesn’t rely on the drum set or the electric guitar to convey the emotion…it mainly uses Alice Ripley’s voice and a few softer toned instruments like the piano and strings. It is a beautiful piece that shows that she has hope for herself to feel again (however derogatory this may be for her health and wellness). The imagery used in the song paints a wonderful picture of someone struggling emotionally against themselves and the medicine that is keeping them “balanced and on an even keel”. While “everything is perfect, nothing’s real” for them. Finally at the end of the song, she decides that she will risk it without medicine so that she can feel again.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j2CXMXEIPI0

But going back to the idea of the song not fitting, I agree with my friend. It is a beautiful song, yet it does seem out of place in the musical. With musical form, it is the odd ball. However, I will say that in my mind it does fit. The reason being that the song itself is a moment of clarity for Diana in the cacophony of the life that she lives in…of the musical that she resides it. It allows us a brief peek into the  calm that Diana is feeling and the fact that it doesn’t feel “normal” or real to her…it is outside the realm of reality that she has been living in…the song itself represents the drug induced stupor that Diana is in…it is calm and seemingly wonderful, but in reality, it is not what she is used to…it is not what makes her come alive. The fact that the music change is symbolic of the change that has occurred to her between this song and “My Psychopharmacologist and I”…it’s actually quite brilliant within the framework of the musical.

My other reason for the song is that I believe every musical writer writes with some idea in mind of having a stand alone song and “I Miss the Mountains” is this. If you watched it performed anywhere, you can get a feel for the song without having to have the overarch of the story. Honestly, I believe that it is good for any musical that is going to try to drum up publicity with concerts to have at least one number like that, and this one does just that. It gives enough of a hint at the story to be intriguing and has its own meaning and structural support as a solo piece.

So, yeah, I think it’s quite obvious at this point that I am enamoured with N2N…It’s a wonderful show that I would suggest everyone seeing if they get the chance. If not, I recommend getting the soundtrack and listening to it on repeat so that you can begin to fall in love with a Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize Winning masterpiece.

Written by barryr22

April 13, 2010 at 11:59 am

The Power of Good Writing

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With the overflow of new creative works coming into being each day, it’s a wonder that so much of it gets acclaim for being “good” writing. In fact, most of it that is considered “good” writing is quite mediocre in comparison to some of the greats. However, that being said, there are some literary based works that have come out within the past little while that have caught my attention and intrigue me even more each day.

There are many television shows that have come out in the last several years that rely heavily upon the writing. In the midst of the Reality TV storm, shows like Heroes, Pushing Daisies (although it was canceled), Supernatural (the writing is good for what it is…a realationship between two brothers), Dexter, and many others astound me because they play with words and dialogue. Their sheer quality astounds me because up until recently the plot driven, story-based program has been crippled by the frugality and quick production time of the reality shows. I’m glad that good tv is starting to be back on the air because honestly there are few reality tv programs that I can stand.

My main example of amazing writing  is the musical Next to Normal which follows the mental breakdown of Diana, a suburban housewife, and the effects of this on her family. I will openly admit that I have become a little obsessive about the musical. For the past few weeks (ever since I saw it in New York), I have listened to at least selected songs from it…some multiple times. However, it’s because the writing and the music itself have so many layers that each time I listen I gain something more. The word choice is immaculate, and the themes, both musical and verbal, are quite awe-inspiring because they do something that a lot of writing/music nowadays doesn’t do. They make you think. They make you have to mentally interact with them to create their meaning instead of putting everything out there from the beginning. Each time I have listened to N2N, I have started to understand more of the subtext and am allowed another peek into the ethereal realm that it delves into…the unseen…Amazing writing does this…it makes us think.

Good writing whether in TV, novel, play, music, etc. should take us to places that make us think. It shouldn’t leave us feeling like we’ve reveled in the squalor (like many reality tv shows do). I hope that over the next few years we see an emergence of more clever, creative, and wonderful writing and that the crappy stuff saunters towards extinction…

Written by barryr22

April 5, 2010 at 2:41 pm

Next to Normal: “So Anyway” My Favorite…Spoiler Alert!

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I already have several posts about Next to Normal on my blog; however, this one is about my favorite song from the show. The song “So Anyway” is just so simple but carries so much weight. Its beautiful melody with the vocals by Alice Ripley creates such an air of anxiousness, conflict, and hopefulness…She is leaving her husband to allow herself the chance to live. It’s a song of decision, and it’s evident that she doesn’t know what will become of herself…But I’ll let the song and the lyrics speak for themselves. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LvL3CDC7Rr8 

“So Anyway” 

  DIANA
So anyway I’m leavingI thought you’d like to know 
You faithful come-what-may
 

But clearly I can’t stay 
We’d both go mad that way
 

So here I go 
And anyway I’m leaving
 

I guess that you can see 
I’ll try this on my own 

A life I’ve never know.I’ll face the dread alone 

But I’ll be free. 
With you always beside me 
To catch me when I fall 
I’d never get to know the feel
 

Of solid ground at all 
With you always believing 
That we can still come through
 

It makes me feel the fool 
To know that it’s not true 
What doctors call dysfunction 
We tried to call romance 
And true it’s quite a trick 
To tell the dancers from the dance 
But rather than let chance take me 
I’ll take a chance 
I’ll take a chance on leaving 
It’s that or stay and die 
I loved you once and though 
You love me still I know 
It’s time for me to fly 
I loved you once and though 
I love you still I know 
It’s time for me to go 
And so, goodbye

Written by barryr22

March 26, 2010 at 1:09 pm

Forethought in Art

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I really enjoy forethought in the construction of a musical’s score/lyrics to add tension to the overall feel of the show. Why do I even reference? It’s because recently I have fallen deeply in love with the musical Next to Normal which is a musical/story which is all about forethought. Now, I know some of you are probably saying that every composition is about thinking ahead, but this musical is just brilliant in its usage of this device.

The songs that I happen to be referencing “Better Than Before” and “Aftershocks”.

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FWWGrptSpvg

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t8GnpG_bE88

The first song blends into the second seamlessly (you need to hear it without the break)…why does it do this? It’s because they’re wanting to build the ominous tone to make Gabe seem like he’s up to something. This is coming right after “Better Than Before” where the family is finally getting back to normality after Diana’s (the mom’s) stint in a mental facility…They’re trying to tell you that everything isn’t peachy. While this may seem hokey or overdone to some, I love the amount of planning that this must have taken on behalf of the composer and the lyricist. It builds complexity into the score of any show…or any musical piece because there are some classical pieces like this such as Haydn’s Symphony 94: the “Surprise” Symphony.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lLjwkamp3lI

Overall, I just like good forethought on an artist’s part whether they be composer, novelist, painter, etc. It’s nice to know that they had a definite plan for themselves as they performed their artistry. Michelangelo had to have his golden vision of the Sistine Chapel in his head before the first brush stroke. If not, the place might have looked like crap…