Fascinating Rhythm: Collaboration of George and Ira Gershwin

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9780413453815: Fascinating Rhythm: Collaboration of George and Ira Gershwin
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The 100th birthdays of George and Ira Gershwin (in 1898 and 1896, respectively) are being celebrated around the world. The centennials are the perfect occasion to reflect on the brothers' rich legacy to American theater music. "The Man I Love," "Fascinating Rhythm," "Someone to Watch Over Me," "A Foggy Day"--together they wrote 700 songs and dozens of shows that defined an age and revolutionized the musical theater. Essential to any consideration of their achievement is Deena Rosenberg's Fascinating Rhythm, the only book to closely examine the brothers'extraordinary collaboration.
First published in 1991, this pioneering work--which grew out of extensive interviews with Ira Gershwin and draws on much unpublished material from his archives--provides an interpretation and critical history of the Gershwin opus. Focusing on the major songs and shows and on the creative process that produced them, Rosenberg traces the development of the Gershwins' vocabulary, voice, subject, and viewpoint as they evolved from song to song. She illuminates how words and music work together in each song to create a small one-act play that encompasses a satisfying emotional and dramatic action.
Rosenberg also expertly places the Gershwins in their creative and social context, highlighting their innovations, their own growth as mature artists, and their relationship to their times. And she outlines Ira's productive career following the untimely death of his brother in 1937.
Filled with musical examples, Iyrics, and photographs, this rich portrait will fascinate any musical theater lover.
"Packed with terrific insights that will delight those who care about this music." --New York Times Book Review
Deena Rosenberg is the founding chair of the Musical Theatre Program, Tisch School of the Arts, New York University. A cultural and music historian, she is coauthor of The Music Makers and has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, High Fidelity, and other publications.

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From Kirkus Reviews:

A music historian with a fine interpretive ear for both music and language examines the collaboration of George and Ira Gershwin- -in what is not a biography but rather a nontechnical study of how the Gershwins' music, lyrics, and sense of drama are interrelated. With the help of in-depth interviews with Ira Gershwin, Rosenberg (Music Theater Program/NYU; The Brothers Gershwin, 1989- -not reviewed; coauthor, The Music Makers, 1978) traces the creative development of the major Gershwin songs and shows. After a short discussion of the brothers' upbringing and exceedingly different temperaments (``We never had much in common as kids,'' Ira recalled. ``I was always home reading...[George] would get into street fights and come home with black eyes''), she launches into a wide-ranging discussion of Rhapsody in Blue and ``The Man I Love,'' the breakthrough song in which the Gershwins first discovered their ``ability to make a song intrinsically dramatic.'' Next comes an examination of Lady, Be Good; here, Rosenberg cites one major reason why the brothers---especially at first---were so different from other collaborators: In the early days of musical comedy, stars were chosen and songs composed before the ``book'' (i.e., plotline, dialogue) was written, a separatist approach very much against the symbiotic Gershwin instinct. Other chapters study such shows as Oh, Kay! and Girl Crazy and explain such pivotal details as how George's ``blue'' notes affect the meaning of Ira's words. The chapter on Porgy and Bess is especially interesting. ``Above all,'' writes Rosenberg, ``Porgy and Bess is suffused with two [Gershwin] characteristics....The first is a depiction of deep loneliness....The second...is an appreciation of a diverse national character.'' Though at times too detailed for the general reader, Rosenberg's straightforward prose is a pleasure. Intriguing and insightful, casting new light on the Gershwin genius. (Black-and-white photographs; score samples.) -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Publishers Weekly:

The enduring appeal of the music of George and Ira Gershwin has spawned several biographies of the talented brothers who created more than 700 popular songs before George's untimely death at age 39 in 1937--Ira died in 1983 at age 87. But never before has the collaboration itself been the subject of such intelligent and fruitful scrutiny as in this intriguing study. Rosenberg, chair of the musical theater program of the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, has a gift for making scholarly points in accessible, albeit mundane language. Readers require no particular musical background in order to enjoy and respond to her original theories about the connections between George's music and Ira's lyrics. Points of comparison are frequently illustrated with side-by-side measures of music, and the striking thematic relationships between such songs as Embraceable You and The Man I Love are also compared dramatically to George's orchestral composition, including the well-known Rhapsody in Blue. This is a rich feast for music historians, musicians and connoisseurs of musical theater as well as inveterate hummers who like a Gershwin tune. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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