Though published vocal scores of Broadway musicals imply sole musical authorship the archives reveal a more complex picture. Five case studies illustrate different approaches to the compositional process in the 1940s and 1950s: Richard Rodgers, who produced fair copies in piano-vocal score for each of his songs; Cole Porter, who regularly used an amanuensis but sometimes produced fair copies; Frank Loesser, who initially used an amanuensis but later in his career produced detailed fragments of music for his arrangers to turn into performance scores; Frederick Loewe, who worked closely with an arranger to produce fair copies; and Robert Wright and George Forrest, who went through a complicated process of selecting and adapting the work of composers of art music such as Borodin and Rachmaninov. Detailed study of the available manuscripts makes clear that score production was nearly always a collaborative activity on Broadway, whether it involved amanuenses, copyists, arrangers, or orchestrators. Although in each of these cases the named composer retains an authorial role, in practical terms the archives reveal them to be “collaborators” rather than “authors,” working as a member of a team to create each performance score. As such, their aims were to facilitate performance events rather than to produce fixed works.
“I'll Never Know Exactly Who Did What”: Broadway Composers as Musical Collaborators
DOMINIC McHUGH is Lecturer in Musicology and Director of Performance at the University of Sheffield. His publications include the books Loverly: The Life and Times of “My Fair Lady” (Oxford University Press, 2012) and Alan Jay Lerner: A Lyricist's Letters (Oxford University Press, 2014); chapters in The Routledge Companion to Music and Visual Culture (2013), The Oxford Handbook of the British Musical (forthcoming), and The Palgrave Handbook of Musical Theatre Producers (forthcoming); and articles in New Theatre Quarterly and the Wagner Journal.
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Dominic McHugh; “I'll Never Know Exactly Who Did What”: Broadway Composers as Musical Collaborators. Journal of the American Musicological Society 1 December 2015; 68 (3): 605–652. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/jams.2015.68.3.605
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