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Look, I Made a Hat: Collected Lyrics (1981-2011) with Attendant Comments, Amplifications, Dogmas, Harangues, Digressions, Anecdotes and Miscellany Hardcover – Nov 22 2011

4.3 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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  • Look, I Made a Hat: Collected Lyrics (1981-2011) with Attendant Comments, Amplifications, Dogmas, Harangues, Digressions, Anecdotes and Miscellany
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  • Finishing the Hat: Collected Lyrics (1954-1981) with Attendant Comments, Principles, Heresies, Grudges, Whines and Anecdotes
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; unknown edition (Nov. 22 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 030759341X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307593412
  • Product Dimensions: 21.3 x 2.9 x 28.2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 Kg
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #63,198 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


“Sondheim is a national treasure, a giant in the world of musical theater who changed the structure and sound of the form in 20th-century masterpieces. Speaking of heaven, though, here's Look, I Made a Hat, the second part of Sondheim's two-volume collection of lyrics, this one spanning 1981-2011, with additional bits and pieces. Talmudically thorough and devilishly diverting with what the author refers to as ‘attendant comments, amplifications, dogmas, harangues, digressions, anecdotes, and miscellany,’ the book is divine. It's also even more magnanimously authoritative than the first book. The handsomely designed book, like the first volume, contains illuminating reproductions of pages from the author's beloved legal pads on which he works out rhyme schemes, as well as annotated scripts and pages of musical notations. And the second volume is brimming — a word Sondheim would probably dismiss as ‘infelicitous’ — with precise, vigorous, instructive, sharp-tongued, and often very funny comments. Look, I Made a Hat, together with Finishing the Hat, makes an enormously satisfying journal by one of the great theatrical minds of our time, a guide and touchstone for who knows how many future great theatrical minds. A” —Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly
“While the book technically covers Mr. Sondheim’s output from 1981 to the present, aficionados will delight in all the bits and bobs from early in his career that Mr. Sondheim didn’t make room for in the first volume . . . The extensive miscellany also includes a drawerful of lyrics Mr. Sondheim wrote as birthday gifts for friends like Harold Prince, Mary Rodgers and Leonard Bernstein. One of the choicest pleasures of the first volume was in Mr. Sondheim’s sharp-minded analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of musical theater lyricists from the past. He’s covered most of that territory already, so the new book features essays on ‘Awards and Their Uselessness’ and ‘Critics and Their Uses’ — savory reading.” —Charles Isherwood, New York Times

About the Author

Stephen Sondheim has written award-winning music and lyrics for theater, film and television. He is also the coauthor of the film The Last of Sheila and the play Getting Away with Murder. Sondheim is on the council of the Dramatists Guild of America, having served as its president from 1973 to 1981. He lives in New York City.

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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Most of the work of Stephen Sondheim that I love and deeply admire, is covered in the first splendid volume, "Finishing the Hat". "Follies", "A Little Night Music", "Company", "Sweeney Todd" are all treasures from the theatre that should be revived whenever the times change or something new is seen in them that audiences, not the creators, missed before. Even "Anyone Can Whistle", with major rewriting to create a character, not caricature, for the mayor and remove the last scene from Act One, would stand the test of time. So we come to volume two, which I feared would be a falling off. It is not. There is no fantastic great show to anchor the book, though "Merrily We Roll Along" finally makes complete sense and has harmony, something not even the best production I have seen has been able to bring to life. And "Road Show"? I still don't like it though I have listened to the CD five times now. But at last I understand what different forces were at work here. And though I don't like it, Sondheim has led me to appreciate it.
So the book is a learning experience, and a very necessary one if the theatre-goer wants to truly understand Sondheim and his phenomenal body of work. "Finishing the Hat" leads us into his magic and lets us glimpse him at work; "Look, I Made a Hat", continues the journey, not to any conclusion, but to a myriad of marvellous places, each an insight into ourselves. What more can a book do?
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It's Sondheim, talking about the genesis of his creations. Need I say more?
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The book, along with its companion, is fantastic and amazingly insightful. I was disappointed, however, to find that they arrived in a fairly beat-up condition, despite having been purchased new. The packaging used was not sturdy enough to handle being shipped, I guess. Still, a great purchase! Sondheim's genius is evident from page 1, and his insights into his own work and the work of others are always incredible.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x9f94a414) out of 5 stars 84 reviews
25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xb2f8ae9c) out of 5 stars If only Mozart had done this..... March 2 2012
By David Seaman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Some of us became aware of Stephen Sondheim for the genuis that he is in the early 70's. As a professor of music and theatre I've been teaching Sondheim's music and lyrics for 26 years. I've found that there is no subject about which must be taught that Stephen Sondheim has not written a song (or indeed and entire show) about. Starting in 1976 I began to tout praise for Sondheim's work with his musical "Pacific Overtures." When "Cats" took the Tony award over "Sunday In The Park With George" I told everyone, "Just wait and see." Six months later "Sunday" became the fifth musical in history to win The Pulitzer Pr5ize. When "Merrily We Roll Along" closed after 17 performances I said, "The audience is too stupid to understand it." The TV show "Lost" taught the public about time travel in storytelling and now "Merrily" has enjoyed a renaissance.
It reminded me of how, as a college student, I worked at the Harvard Coop and I overheard someone say to her friend, in that Boston accent, "I don't want Aht; I want postuhs." Well "Cats" is a big poster and it's taken until the 21st century but at last the theatre community (such that it is) and the public are finally recognizing the genuis that is Sondheim's words and music.
J.S. Bach wasn't known as a composer until fifty years after his death. Byt that time an estimated 50% of his music was lost.
Sondheim, from age 79 to 82 has written two massive books that match. The first is called "Finishing The Hat" and the second is called "Look, I Made a Hat" The titles are references to one of his finest songs from the score "Sunday In The Park With George" in which an artists is explaining how he is driven to work. Will his lover be waiting in the bed when the grass, the hat and the parasol have finally found their way? How the tug between art and life is constant and the hat is not at all a metaphor within the show; George is painting the millions of flecks of color to create the hat on the woman's head. On the title of these books, the metaphor is for all art in it's entirety- visiual arts, performiong arts, music, dance, theatre, literature, anything that drives us. The final lyric for this song is "Look I made a hat where there never was a hat." The lyric from this song is magical and the music soars. "Mapping out A Sky / what you feel like planning a sky / what you feel when voices that come through the windowe go / until they distance and die / until there's nothing but sky." To create art gives us a moment of feeling the way God must feel.
These two books take a hard look at every lyric Stephen Sondheim has ever written including the multitude of songs cut from productions (a total of 32 songs were cut from the show "Follies" and he has them all here) He tells us about writing, he defines form, how to rhyme, when to rhyme. Content Dictates Form. Less Is More. God is In The Details.
These three principles are consistent through all 36 pounds of reading. Anyone who is interested in lyric writing must read this, as Sondheim is, without question, the finest lyricist to have ever lived. He shows us how it is craft, not art and he shows us with copies of his papers and sketches and his love for words and puzzles. He discusses the lyrics of others, though much more liberally in the first volume - I would guess some Noel Coward fans got the feathers ruffled - and worse, to haver Sondheim proclaimn Dorothy Fields a master didn't please many of the old boys network. He was far more careful in his second books not to step on toes and came right out and said so. Mr. Sonmdheim is equally hard on his own writing and has no trouble beating himself up even when it seems unwarranted. (His very words to me, "Let's just disagree and leave it at that.")
The bottom line is every song writer would do well to study these books, to listen to his music and see how the lyrics fit on the music. We've all heard those lyrics that sound like a square peg in a circle, usually with four or five people as songwriting credits.
Stephen Sondheim has proven himself and the fact that he is regarded as a master and, from the age of 23 with "West Side Story" has made money by creating new styles. He invented "the Concept" musical ("Company") He created the only musical in history that plays like a movie with no applause breaks anywhere and no intermission, ("Passion")leaving the audience panting and trembling when the show at last ends on the i chord. Then we were aloud to appalud. It was like watching "Silence Of The Lambs."
Anyone at all who works in theatre needs to read these books. All copmposers; all actors; all critics and then just any person who has the interest of hearing the "how to's" and the back stage stories of the creation of history. Would it not have been wonderful to have Mozart words regarding the composition of his "Requiem"- all the mysteries involved there. Or, more exact, the words of J.S. Bach since his work is more similar to Sondheim. Sondheim has left all theatre composers behind and though Adam Guettel wait in the wings but in the past decade it's been a rare moment when one of Soindhe3im's musicals has not been back on Broadway and the elousive "Merrily We Roll Along' just played a limited engagement after winning the Olivier Prize for Besty Musical of the year in London about eleven yearfs ago.
In regard to theatre in gedneral and musical thewatre in particular (which has been completely redefined) these two books are the most important volumes to have ever been published.
"I chose and my world was shaken; so what? / The choice may have been mistaken; the choosing was not / You have to move on. / Anything you do / let it come from you / then it will be true / Give us more to see."
-"Move On" from "Sunday In The Park With George"
52 of 65 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xb2f8aef0) out of 5 stars Art Isn't Easy, Indeed Nov. 29 2011
By AC Willment - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a Sondheim fan (though not as monomaniacally worshipful as some) I have positive but not unmixed feelings about this book, as I did about the previous volume, Finishing the Hat. Overall I'd highly recommend both, in fact think they are invaluable for anyone interested at all in American musical theatre. But to the old expression that children, law, and sausage are three things one should not watch being made, I might add a fourth: art. As with the first book, I sometimes shook my head in dismay and wonderment, asking myself, "was that REALLY what you were thinking when you wrote ...?" I was so disappointed to find that the wittiest line in West Side Story was not an intentional play on words, but a compromise because SS couldn't drop an f-bomb. ("Krup you" is witty. The f-bomb wouldn't even have been funny.) The letdown in this volume was to find that the shooting-gallery setting in Assassins (my favourite of his works) was in the source material, not Sondheim's invention. In sum, if you approach the book believing that Sondheim really is God, and that art springs whole and perfect like Athena from Zeus's brow, expect to be disillusioned. Art is work, and work is often drudgery. (If you have ever even tried to write, though, you'll smile wryly and often laugh out loud.)

Buy this book especially for the section on Wise Guys/Bounce/Road Show. The Mizners and Sondheim were like Jack Twist and Ennis Del Mar: He just couldn't quit them. This lengthy section is a great detailed case study of how a musical gets put together, taken apart, put together again. Theatre is a collaborative art, perhaps the ultimate collaborative art, and collaboration invariably involves compromises, with other artists, with the material, with the audience. (At times reading this section is like being in a car collision: you can see it coming in slow motion, you know what's happening, and yet you can't stop the momentum. Ultimately the mountain laboured and brought forth a mouse: the cast recordings of Road Show and Bounce, like Saturday Night, are for Sondheim completists.)

If you're seriously interested in the art of creating musical theatre, you'd do well to seek out the source material Sondheim helpfully identifies, to gain greater insight into the process of shaping and reshaping a story as it changes media -- what changed, what didn't, how music interacted with the material. (This is especially the case with Passion. Same story, three utterly different takes.)

At the outset, Sondheim promises us that he will not discuss his love life. Thank you, Mr Sondheim: I, for one, am far less interested in sex, which anyone can do, than in Assassins, which only Sondheim could have done.
17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9f0131e0) out of 5 stars Reaching through the world of the hat Dec 5 2011
By Damien Slattery - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This second (and final) volume sees Sondheim amend some of the omissions in his last book, and of course is a study of his lyrical contributions from SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE to his most recent ROAD SHOW, with a litany of attendant side-notes that enhance and reveal his craft.

Other reviewers had noted that the greater part of this book examines the evolving developments of his WISE GUYS/BOUNCE/ROAD SHOW odyssey and this is devoid of any criticism of collaborators - a noble feat, considering the public spats and litigation that flowered this particular theatrical effort.

The essays in this book are less frequent than before, and his wonderful perceptions of the theatrical lyricists that colored his last endeavor are reduced to two minor articles in brief overview of some of the lesser-known practitioners like John La Touche and Hugh Martin. I could have done with more of these, as Sondheim has a natural facility for criticism. Other essays detail his views of his musical revivals and the tinkering that theatrical directors bring to them. "Critics and Their Uses" is a measured article that is less blasting than expected, considering the barrage of attack that he has been subjected to over the years. As the author is the winner of an Oscar, countless Tony awards and more significant achievements like the Pulitzer Prize, we are presented with a good and balanced article on the merit (or lack thereof) of winning and worth.

Some of the more obscure lyrics that Sondheim has written for friends and aborted projects are documented, and as the accompanying music is unknown, the reader has a chance to guess the tunes dictated by Sondheim's rhythmical meters and hear their own inner music. Also included are a little selection of his earliest (non-professional) work, and these are presented as an incentive to aspiring writers.

The epilogue is a rather moving piece recounting the toll that advancing years has had on his creative powers, and is a personal favorite of mine, as it reveals a little of the man behind one of the great geniuses this modern age has produced.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9f0136fc) out of 5 stars Look, I Made a Hat Dec 29 2011
By Brendan Moody - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
In terms of structure this second volume of Stephen Sondheim's collected lyrics is much like his first: after a one-paragraph summary of the show and an introductory note on its development from a concept to a full production, we get the lyrics, including cut songs and alternate versions, surrounded by just enough plot summary that the songs make sense and interspersed with annotations on the logic behind the songs, the stories behind them, the successes and failures (in Sondheim's eyes) of a line, a verse, a whole lyric. Short essays on general musical-theater themes appear in boxouts at intervals throughout. A few photos, all black-and-white, are nice enough but pale in comparison to the other images: reduced pages that show the original handwritten workings for various songs, with alternate readings crowding each other out. They aren't always fully legible, but the general insight into the evolution of a song is invaluable. On a larger level, the annotations and essays reveal aspects of the construction of a musical that even devotees of the form might not have considered. Sondheim's non-fiction voice, incisive, witty, and self-deprecating, is always entertaining.

What sets Look, I Made a Hat apart from volume one, Finishing the Hat, is that the included content is a little different. Where the earlier book featured thirteen full shows, including early classics like Gypsy and the extraordinary successes of the 1970s, this one covers only five. The reason it's nonetheless the same approximate length as the first book is that (1) one show (known variously as Wise Guys, Bounce, and Road Show) is presented in four versions and (2) there's a large selection of additional lyrics: pieces from unproduced shows, contributions to shows by others, songs from movies, songs for television, and a miscellany of commissioned songs, occasional songs, and early songs. The boxouts in this volume are a little different too: in volume one they dealt most with his judgments of other lyricists, while here they expand to cover general topics such as revivals, awards, and critics (about whom Sondheim writes thoughtfully, with the sensitive ambivalence one often sees in artists confronting those who are at once allies and enemies). The annotations seems less frequent and a little less intriguing than in volume one, though that might be just my impression.

Although the shows here are fewer and less familiar than those in the first volume (and one, Passion, is, as Sondheim points out, especially difficult to appreciate without the music), there are compensations. The evolution of Wise Guys/Bounce/Road Show offers an especially powerful glimpse into the complexities of shaping a musical at both micro and macro levels; readers familiar with the music from one or another version of the show can observe how it appears and reappears in different contexts over time. The sections on other musicals, movies, and television give Sondheim fans who know only his basic discography the chance to discover songs they've missed and seek out recordings to get the full effect, and the final chapter is a treasure trove of curiosities, like birthday songs for Hal Prince and Arthur Laurents that expertly parody their collaborations with Sondheim. The selection of early lyrics is fascinating, though one wonders if the aspiring lyricists Sondheim hopes to encourage with this juvenilia will instead be overwhelmed by the basic competence of songs written in his teens and early twenties.

A book of collected lyrics is, of course, not an investment for the most casual fans. Many cast recordings include lyrics in their booklets, and despite their occasional inaccuracies, websites can clarify the odd imperfectly-heard line. But for the enthusiast, nothing can equal a continuous format that allows you to read (or sing) along with familiar tunes and appreciate the flow of lyrics that, freed from the music, reveal the elegant simplicity of their craft better than ever before. These beautifully-designed books, enriched by the lyricist's memories and his opinions on the history and the art of musical theater, are the ideal presentation of the legacy of one of the twentieth century's major lyricists.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9f013714) out of 5 stars Putting it together, expanding, fulfilling and completing it March 18 2014
By Allen Smalling - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This slipcased edition of Stephen Sondheim's collected lyrics in two separate volumes (FINISHING THE HAT and LOOK, I MADE A HAT) has many things going for it: (1) It was written entirely by Sondheim and includes not only the lyrics to all his shows (produced and unproduced) including TV but also lyrics "of occasion" such as those for Harold Prince's 80th birthday; (2) great collateral material such as cast shots, candids and bits of vintage typescript and musical score; (3) the master has quite a lot to say about the process of lyric writing, play production and also his favorite contributors to the Broadway of bygone days such as Irving Berlin and Cole Porter; and (4) buying these two volumes together in the HAT BOX set is much cheaper than buying them alone. If you think you'd like one, you'd probably like both, so buy HAT BOX, which at present adds less than $21 to the cost of either one. Strong recommendation.