Thanks to my friend Nicholas Brown (who works in the music collection at the Library of Congress), I had some time with some treasures on Friday at the Library of Congress.
Nick had loaded a cart with things to show me (and inadvertently launched some research ideas for me).
We started off with a fragment of a manuscript by Mozart. In other words, I held in my hands a piece of music in Mozart’s own hand!
Nick then brought out a large box labeled “The Sound of Music,” and for the next few minutes I traced part of the song-writing process for the song ‘My favorite things,’ holding in my hands page after page of Oscar Hammerstein II revisions of lyrics.
Before we were done, I’d held in my hands hand-written letters from Jackie Kennedy to Leonard Bernstein; the original fair copy of a Bernstein symphony (with the first page in his own hand); the fair copy of the Brahms violin concerto (with revisions in Brahms’ own hand); and Jerome Kern’s original piano score to Showboat (see photo).
The LOC musical theatre specialist brought over lyric files from Jonathan Larson’s Rent. I held the very sheet on which Larson did the math that led to the lyric “five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes.” He had done the math down to the seconds.
I’m SO grateful to Nick for a delightful visit!