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January 13, 2016

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Posted by Avram Grumer at 06:32 PM * 72 comments

I’ve been dithering for a while now over posting here about Hamilton, the smash Broadway musical rap hit about the Founding Father on the US$10 bill. I’m not sure I can come up with anything to say that improves on Sumana Harihareswara’s post last November.

I’ve been kinda obsessed with this thing since I downloaded the cast album shortly after Christmas (it was, at the time, only $2 on Google Play, but I guess that was some kind of special rate, and it’s now $19, so I’m not bothering to link), and listened to it pretty much non-stop for two weeks. Its grip on my brain is finally starting to loosen a bit; I’ve listened to the new Bowie album a couple of times.

If you haven’t heard any of the music, it’s easy to dismiss the show based on a casual description. “A rap musical about Alexander Hamilton” sounds like the kind of stuff you routinely see (done badly) on YouTube. But Miranda’s musical craftsmanship is top-notch, and the performances are great. The show makes use of multiple musical styles — not just rap and R&B, but British Invasion rock, and at one point a minuet — and the rap numbers draw upon multiple rap styles, with different styles corresponding to different personalities in the story.

It was, for a while, possible to listen to the whole cast album for free on NPR’s website, and I think it still is on Spotify, but I’ll have to rely on someone more familiar with Spotify to tell you how that works in the comments. The album gives you pretty much the whole story; the actual show is sold out for the foreseeable future (unless you get lucky in the Ham4Ham lottery).

I also have to give a shout-out to Chris Quinones, who got into Hamilton way, wa-a-a-y back when Lin-Manuel Miranda performed the opening number at the White House, like in 2009. (They’re both Hunter College High School alums, and both Nuyorican, so she’s been following his career since his first show, In the Heights.) Despite all the raves I was hearing, I didn’t really pay attention till she played the cast album while we were visiting her brother for the holidays. I think she was shocked at how deep I fell in.

Comments on Tweet less, blog more:
#1 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2016, 07:36 PM:

Oh, it's *not* all rap/hip-hop? I might actually be able* to listen to it, then. That would be good; my entire social circle has been raving about how wonderful it is, and I've been feeling very left out. What percentage of the total is rap, would you say?

*I am completely and utterly unable to listen to rap, regardless of content.

#2 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2016, 07:55 PM:

Hard to say, because a lot of the pieces are part rap, part other genres.

Because rapping is based on speed and verbal flashiness, it’s used in the show as a marker of intelligence and skill. The characters who rap the most are Hamilton himself, his sister-in-law Angelica Schuyler/Church, and the Marquis de Lafayette. So you get a number like “The Farmer Refuted” (based on a 1774 argument-in-print between Hamilton and Bishop Samuel Seabury) which has the form of a minuet, where Hamilton’s counter-argument is rap-like in form, punning off of Seabury’s words in a much faster rhythm, reminiscent of that scene in Amadeus where Mozart improvises a smarter, more complex piece of music around Salieri’s simple composition.

#3 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2016, 08:10 PM:

Thanks for the answer, Avram. From your description, I do think it will trigger my rap aversion, but I'll check it out when I get a chance. (The computer I'm on right now has no speakers.)

#4 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2016, 08:34 PM:

I also wrote about Hamilton earlier this November.

It is indeed still free to stream on Spotify. Here's a link that should take you there.

Note that you can only listen properly on Spotify in your web browser - the mobile app for Spotify doesn't allow you to listen to albums in order. If you happen to already have an Amazon Prime subscription, it's also streaming for free there.

#5 ::: Gement ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2016, 08:43 PM:

Mary, it may also depend on what falls within your perception of "rap." Some songs are much more what I think of as "spoken-through," and I don't know if hip-hop and R&B stylings are part of your button. Every song has a substrate of musical theater styling; it's a complete fusion.

I tried to make a list of important songs that might or might not work for you, but realized there's just not enough info, so I'll just say, the songs vary wildly, so consider listening to the album and just hitting skip as often as a song strikes you the wrong way.

And if that's just too much fatigue, the two most critically popular songs are "Wait For It" and "The Room Where It Happens." Every time I try to extend the list past there, it explodes again, so I'm stopping there.

And "You'll Be Back" is pure Beatles, so check that one out.

No, really, I'm stopping.

#6 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2016, 08:50 PM:

Gement (5): Thanks. My problem with rap is the speaking-instead-of-singing*. I will check out your suggestions when I get a chance.

*Singing is qualitatively different than speaking, and rap vocals are the latter. (Yes, rap is music--I'm not trying to start that argument again--it's just not *singing*.)

#7 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2016, 09:22 PM:

Mary Aileen @1
Ha, I was apparently composing my write-up at the same time as everyone else. Might as well post it, though.

There are some pure Broadway/Pop/R&B songs and I list them below. Many of the other songs hover between hip-hop and traditional patter songs, with the intonation and patterns of emphasis being what makes it more rap than not. The familiar melodic touchstones of musical theater are never far away, though.

Anyway, here are some notes on individual tracks:

One of the show's most iconic songs is just a straight up soul number with traditional musical choral backing - Aaron Burr's Act One showstopper Wait for It. He and Alexander also get Dear Theodosia late in Act 1 which is also pure vocals. Leslie Odom Jr. delivers amazing vocals in all of his songs.

There are also King George's three songs: You'll Be Back, What Comes Next, and I Know Him. Really, they're all the same song - an amazing traditional piece of brit-pop fluff, purposefully devoid of modern influence.

Burn is one of the best breakup songs in the history of theater, with a gorgeous vocal that splits the difference between broadway, early torch songs, and blues.

As we move into the things that are mostly not rap: Hurricane is a generally melodic song that contains a twenty-second spoken-word monologue. Helpless is similar - it's basically a Beyonce number, but there is a spoken interlude near the end representing Hamiton's proposal/vows.

If you do enjoy Wait For It, the reprise starts at around 3:10 of The World Was Wide Enough and it is one of the most heartrending vocals in the entire show. Finally, there's Who Lives Who Dies Who Tells Your Story. It starts with a dialogue + Chorus section, but about a minute in it becomes Eliza's reprise of Burn, and I cry every time.

#8 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2016, 09:57 PM:

It's mostly not rap -- the purest rap is in the first few songs of both acts. It's most commonly hip hop in that there's plenty of melody. It's incredibly musically complex.

Just listen to it. If your aversion is triggered, stop.

#9 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2016, 10:09 PM:

Hmmm, looks like it's going to take me longer than I thought to try it out. Leah's Spotify link requires that you have an account, and I don't have time to set that up tonight.

But I will try it. Thanks to everyone for the answers and advice.

#10 ::: Gement ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2016, 10:11 PM:

I'm grimly amused that you mentioned the Bowie album broke the Hamliton earlock. It did for me, too, just after four months instead of two weeks.

My housemates haven't killed me. I'm not sure why.

#11 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2016, 10:46 PM:

It looks like the label's also uploaded all the songs to Youtube, which is where I listened to it the first time. (I don't use Spotify, so others that don't might want to check it out there-- no registration required.) I've since gone out and bought the double CD.

If you want a quick sense of the themes of the show, the two songs "Helpless" and "Satisfied" are a good taster. The same events, told from different points of view (and in different musical styles), and "who tells your story" makes quite a big difference. It's also one of the first tugs of the heartstrings in the show (and there are considerably more intense ones in the second act).

#12 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2016, 10:59 PM:

Also, those lyrics pages I’ve been linking to on have play buttons (that triangle in a circle next to the title of the song) that play the song for you. I think they’re embedded YouTube links.

#13 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2016, 01:32 AM:

Also not rap: It's Quiet Uptown, about learning to deal with grief. It's all kinds of heartbreaking, but it's not rap.

#14 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2016, 10:52 AM:

Here's my review of the show from when I saw it in November. I'll leave aside the squee-babble and just endorse it whole-heartedly. Like some, I had a bit of an initial wince at "rap musical?" only having experience with some rather unfortunate specimens of incomprehensible top-of-the-charts rap pieces, but that wince didn't survive contact with the performance. Even the fastest of the rap numbers (and as others have noted, only a few of the songs are pure rap style) were easy for me to follow. As an analogy, they functioned something like a cross between operatic recitative and Gilbert & Sullivan patter songs. And as a language geek, I love the intricate word-play.

I'm not usually a devoted fan-girl of musicals, but in my opinion this one deserves every scrap of hype it's getting.

#15 ::: LongStrider ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2016, 11:27 AM:

@#4 I can listen to albums in order on my Spotify mobile app (tablet android version in my case). I was in fact listening to Hamilton on my walk to work this morning. I currently have Spotify premium and can therefore listen offline, thanks to three free months for buying a chromecast, but I've listened to albums in order on the mobile app inside my house over my own wifi. They are interrupted by ads, but aren't shuffled, unless you hit the shuffle play button rather than picking the first song of the album and letting it autoplay.

I concur with the others saying that even if you think you have an aversion to rap and/or hip-hop, try it out. I would rank them as some of my least favorite genres of lyrical music and I am loving Hamilton. I have to be in the right mood to listen to the second half of act two, because that part's just one heartbreak after another.

#16 ::: Gement ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2016, 11:37 AM:

As a counterpoint to the reassurance that a lot of of it is not rap (which I understand the need for in luring in the dubious), I am delighted to note that it is being nominated for multiple rap and hip hop music awards.

It *is* rap. Rap is just so much bigger than most white people have been led to believe. I'm so glad this musical is breaking that cultural line in the sand.

#17 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2016, 12:58 PM:

This may be the first musical I buy the soundtrack for without seeing it. I'd like to see it, but full-price Broadway tickets are a stretch for my budget and this has only marked-up scalper tickets until, like, October.

But everything I've heard is so, so good. I feel like most Broadway plays are two good songs with eighty minutes of filler; this one looks like it's eighty minutes of good and two songs of filler.

And Hamilton, well, I just read a biography of him ("read the book for $8 or see the play for $200", I said before checking ticket prices) and he was a brilliant, talented, intriguing, flawed, hard-working man. If anyone ever needed more proof that duelling was stupid, there it is.

#18 ::: Stephen Granade ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2016, 02:13 PM:

I finally listened to it yesterday, thanks to it being available for streaming as part of Amazon Prime Music. Holy gee golly, this thing is as amazing as everyone told me it is.

Manuel's lyrical and compositional skills are stellar. As people have noted, the musical's really smart about how it deploys various musical styles, from representing Hamilton's logorrhea (dude wrote so much) as high-speed rap with killer flow to having King George III sing BritPop.

But it's also very much a musical, with callbacks, characters' leitmotifs, the thematic through-line of who tells your story. It puts me in mind of some of Sondheim's work in its formalism.

The very early song "Aaron Burr, Sir" is my humble suggestion for a sampler to decide if the musical is for you. The way that Manuel deploys the word "sir" in that song makes me grin ridiculously, and it keeps showing up in other songs after this initial one.

#19 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2016, 02:19 PM:

Stephen Granade @18:

I tend to think of the "sir" after "Aaron Burr" as a metrical patch, turning it into one of Manuel's more common rhythmic building blocks.

That's not denigrating Manuel's songwriting at all; it's a technique that goes back to Homeric epithets.

#20 ::: Stephen Granade ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2016, 02:41 PM:

abi @19:

Sure. The part where Hamilton talks about his fight being a "blur, sir", leading Burr to say "bursar" is delightful, though, and goes beyond keeping the beat.

The song also turns out to be a hell of a way to start Burr and Hamilton's arc, with Hamilton showing deference to Burr. (See also Burr's very first words to Hamilton, when Hamilton asks if he's Aaron Burr: "That depends. Who's asking." What a way to sum up that character in four words.)

#21 ::: Doug K ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2016, 02:41 PM:

thanks all for the reviews and suggestions. I have a mental block when it comes to rap, do not get any pleasure from listening to it. Maybe Hamilton can get past my shields.. worth a try.

apropos of nothing, there is a cold front moving in over Denver, creating strong gusty winds. The last of the autumn leaves are diving and swooping outside my window, like nighthawks..

#22 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2016, 02:44 PM:

Manuel says he had a notebook where he listed every rhyme for “Burr,” and crossed them off as he used them. His favorite was “Mercer” in “The Room Where it Happens.”

#23 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2016, 02:58 PM:

Some fun for people who’ve already listened to the album: Hamilton apocrypha!

The show changed a bit on its way to Broadway, streamlining and refining a bit. The piece in the Broadway version, “One Last Time,” where Washington resigns, was originally called “One Last Ride,” and included Washington and Hamilton riding out to put down the Whiskey Rebellion. The Broadway version works better — “One Last Ride” suffers a bit from trying to hit two different emotional tones — but the current mess going on in Oregon kinda makes me wish the original had survived. You can here the original version here.

And YouTube has video of Miranda performing the rap of Hamilton insulting John Adams, of which only one line survives in the current play.

And an early draft of the show had a song about Ben Franklin. Miranda tweeted some fragments from it last July.

#24 ::: Sumana Harihareswara ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2016, 03:43 PM:

I'm so happy you liked my piece, Avram!

And I am curious about the particular ways in which Hamilton does or does not get past the rap aversion of various folks. For instance, I have listened to very little hip-hop in my life, and I'm considering what barriers stopped me from doing so in the past.* I love how Hamilton is meant for me (that is, understanding and enjoying it is not reliant on me having had experiences I haven't had), and how there's only one misogynistic line I can find.** The first time I listened, the fast rap bits were nearly incomprehensible to me, the aural equivalent of illegible, because I hadn't learned the skill of listening to and parsing them, because I hadn't yet looked at the lyrics visually as well (which helps), and the first King George song was the one that grabbed me and made me pay attention. But little snatches came through -- "Cabinet Battle #1" was, I think, pretty legible -- and then I tried listening again, and reading the lyrics, and understanding, and now I have asked friends for recommendations on other rap and hip-hop I might enjoy. (A friend said I should check out Kendrick Lamar and the older works of Notorious B.I.G.)

I wrote a post for about how Hamilton uses history in an earnest and anachronistic way. I wish I'd seen Abigail Nussbaum's post first!

For those who want more: I've been enjoying various Hamilton-related posts and discussion on MetaFilter.

* At some point years ago I overheard the insight that "I like everything but rap and country" can be a pretty racist and classist kind of elitism, and indeed it makes me think about how I thought my childhood public radio station played a huge eclectic variety of music, including jazz and blues and bluegrass and folk. But I don't think I heard them play hip-hop ever.

** "Raise a glass to freedom / something you will never have again" after Alexander's wedding.

#25 ::: Reuben Poling ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2016, 04:16 PM:

After months of stubborn resistance to all the Hamilton hype (because, I don't know, I hate fun things), I finally broke down because of sports. Someone on a basketball blog suggested that "My Shot" could be rewritten about the Golden State Warriors and I happened to have Spotify open. So I listened to it for the first time.

That was, oh, a few days before New Year's? I've probably listened to the whole thing 8-9 times since, plus however many plays of individual songs.

I think it's a revolutionary musical, in a sense. It's certainly not the first Broadway show to use hip-hop, but I think it's the first to really be immersed in the hip-hop tradition the way that Broadway musicals are in their own tradition. It references hip-hop's history constantly, with musical and lyrical shout-outs scattered through every single song, and more than that I think it just...exists in that universe, taking the rap lexicon as a given instead of a gimmick or an add-on. Miranda's casting breakdowns are a nice example.

"Hip-hop musical" sounds reductive for that reason (and also because it checks in with plenty of other genres). I really, really second the recommendation.

#26 ::: Reuben Poling ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2016, 04:18 PM:

also I had not seen/heard the John Adams diss track before and thank you, thank you for linking it.

#27 ::: Adrian ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2016, 05:31 PM:

That "sir" after "Aaron Burr," is about adjusting how it scans, but it's also about formality. About power." Maybe about class. Burr's "father commanded respect." I can't imagine Hamilton calling Burr "Aaron, even in the first act when they're friends. (Even at the end, when they hate each other, it's a thoroughly one sided "dear Alexander.") It's not like with Washington, who is Hamilton's boss and old enough to be his father. Burr is close to the same age and rank...just of good family and proud of it.

I also have a terrible time parsing rap. Having the lyrics in front of me while I listened the first time made everything come clear. It was really worth the investment of time and energy.

#28 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2016, 05:34 PM:

One particular musical-theater easter egg that also acts as a punch in the gut relative to current events: the bit where Burr tells the Excitable Geniuses (in "My Shot," I think it is -- I wasn't watching the player, so I don't always remember which bit is in which song title) they need to be "carefully taught".

That means something entirely deeper if you've seen South Pacific. Or even just Mandy Patinkin's wrenching rendition of the relevant song.

#29 ::: Gement ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2016, 06:19 PM:

Stephen Granade @18: The LesMisgasm of compounding motifs in Non-Stop is better than coffee at waking me up. All the musical theater dirty tricks. All of them.

Avram @23: One more apocryphal cut from the show at the Public! Congratulations, a more lengthy statement from Angelica on Hamilton publishing the Reynolds Pamphlet.

Congratulations song recording

Sumana Harihareswara @24: I'm really looking forward to seeing what this show does for word density in the next generation of musical theater. Sondheim pushed it, but there's an article on 538 documenting how thoroughly Hamilton has smashed it. And raising an audience that can keep up will lead to a generation of composers that write presuming that pace. It will be interesting to see if there's a long term shift toward providing more librettos to audiences as a basic accommodation for people who have a harder time hearing lyrics.

#30 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2016, 06:29 PM:

Sumana Harihareswara @24

I am curious about the particular ways in which Hamilton does or does not get past the rap aversion of various folks.

For me, it has to do with hearing comprehension. There are a lot of musical genres that I simply don't enjoy listening to because I can't follow the vocals. Many of the louder or more percussion-heavy sub-genres of rock fall in this category. Pretty much anything sung by a very high soprano voice.

I have some sort of weird neurological audio comprehension problem that sometimes gives me difficulties even in parsing regular speech under certain circumstances. (For example, I have a very hard time with speaker phones. And some day ask me to tell you about all my secret tricks in linguistics field methods class!) Certain types of non-vocal background sound, certain styles of vocal performance, and the lack of a context for interpolation can mean that I miss core aspects of certain vocal musical works. If the non-vocal aspects hit my sweet spot, I can still enjoy them. Maybe.

Most of the rap that I've encountered has fallen in the category of performance that relies heavily on language virtuosity for its effect but that--for the above reason--I have extreme difficulty in processing sufficiently to appreciate that virtuosity.

So why did Hamilton work for me? (Especially given that I didn't listen to the album before seeing the performance?) 1) The performers all used very clear enunciation; 2) The instrumentation didn't overpower the voices; 3) I reviewed the plot summary for the musical in detail (the one on Wikipedia) so I had a solid background for interpreting what was going on; 4) Miranda's lyrics may surprise and delight you, but they don't jerk you around. They're just that good that every word is precisely and exactly the word it should be, so my ability to anticipate what I was supposed to be hearing wasn't undermined.

Elliott Mason @28

carefully taught

Yeah, there were a good number of call-outs like that one. I know I didn't catch them all, but I caught enough to really appreciate the playful musical literacy of the work.

#31 ::: Ista ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2016, 06:38 PM:

oh, I am glad to see this, delurking just to say so! I've been obsessed since Christmas, bought the album for a long drive and now use it to get out the door for long runs.

I don't see that anyone has mentioned the Tuesday night crossover between Hamilton and the SOTU on twitter—it's no secret that Obama is a huge fan of the show and Tuesday afternoon, he retweeted a White House video with the words "One last time." For what spun out of that, check out #ham4sotu on twitter or there's a storify of some of the best.

#32 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2016, 07:07 PM:

I just listened to "Aaron Burr, Sir" (as recommended by Stephen Granade in #18):

The first part just parsed as dialogue to me, so that was fine. Then it segued into singing, also fine. Then Laurens came in and I had to bail almost immediately--something about the intonations of his words was fingernails on a blackboard annoying. ::shudder::

I'll try some of the other suggestions in this thread a little later, but so far I'm not thrilled.

#33 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2016, 07:11 PM:

Sumana @24, and that one misogynistic line is ironic, undermined by the later story events! His wife doesn’t keep him from sleeping around (only giving him him hell after he publicizes the fact), and the only times we see her cajoling him it’s to try and pull him away from work, to relax and enjoy life with his family. If anything is taking away Hamilton’s freedom, it’s his own manic desire for a legacy.

Gement @29, that Angelica song, wow!

#34 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2016, 09:01 PM:

Further report: Okay, "Wait for It" works for me. It's not a song I'm going to want to listen to repeatedly, but it doesn't repel me, either.

#35 ::: Adrian ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2016, 09:10 PM:

Another nifty thing about this is the fannishness of it. Several comments above mentioned how LMM is being fannish about history and musicals, how he interacts with fans. But we connect with each other, too. More than usual, it seems. When I stopped reading this thread earlier this evening, I saw a tweet asking which Hamilton song was least memorable. I looked up the list, made a guess, and got earwormed with something I was *not* going to sing in public.

As soon as I put my phone away and left the subway, I heard somebody sing about guns and ships, and the balance shifting. Then I walked past the site of the Boston Massacre and heard somebody singing his name was Alexander Hamilton, and there were a million things he hadn't done, but just you wait. I wasn't sure if I should applaud or join in. (In mittens, no one can hear me clap.)

#36 ::: Stephen Granade ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2016, 08:45 AM:

Speaking of Hamilton being in conversation with other things (and my goodness is it in conversation with other things like South Pacific and 1776), I love how "One Last Time", the song where Washington decides not to run for president again, is totally the "Yes We Can" song.

#37 ::: Rymenhild ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2016, 01:12 PM:

It comes around again, too. Yes, "One Last Time" is a play on's take on Barack Obama's words as a presidential candidate. But this weekend, the Barack Obama twitter account (which is not run by Obama these days) quoted the Hamilton rewrite (which was referencing remixing Obama) in order to refer to the final State of the Union address. And then the American politics/Hamilton fandoms took up the conversation with #Ham4SOTU.

I think I've lost count of the layers of meta in there.

#38 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2016, 03:54 PM:

Thank you all for this thread, which got me to listen to a couple of the songs on Youtube, and then to go buy the album. It's amazing.

#39 ::: clew ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2016, 06:37 PM:

"speed and verbal flashiness, it’s used in the show as a marker of intelligence and skill" --- Hamilton makes me think that Lord Byron's poetry would rap well, but I can't find anyone on YouTube doing it! Not even the raunchy poems!

#40 ::: clew ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2016, 07:06 PM:

Ha, one hit: Baba Brinkman (YouTube, TEDx) summarizing the development of polysyllabic rhyme for serious content. In English, he says, this is unique to rap: Samuel Butler invented it in the satire Hudibras, Byron used it but was never serious straight, and Tolkien !!:)!! uses it in a serious poem played for humor.

#41 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2016, 08:59 PM:

Clew, #40: Interesting! Listening to that made me realize that Ogden Nash used some polysyllabic rhyme, but (again) only in humorous work, and frequently only in short fragments.

#42 ::: Doug ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2016, 05:23 AM:

So very happy to see Hamilton making more light!

#43 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2016, 12:55 PM:

I've noticed that traditional connection between polysyllabic rhyme and humorous intent, too. (One example that comes immediately to mind is Diana Gallagher's "A Reconsideration Of Anatomical Docking Maneuvers In A Zero-Gravity Environment" which combines a superficially technical and scientific approach with tongue-in-cheek humor that is signally in substantial part by multi-syllabic rhyme.

#44 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2016, 12:56 PM:

Rap presumably did it first, but the Mighty Mighty Bosstones were doing it in 1993:

"There was a girl
And I don't know her name either
She gave me love and I swore I'd never leave her"

I've always thought they were a smarter band than people gave them credit for.

#45 ::: Pfusand ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2016, 01:32 PM:

So... this is like rhyming "sooner or later" with "accelerator"?

#46 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2016, 06:02 PM:

Sting did it in "Wrapped Around Your Finger", to great positive effect. And that's 1983.

#47 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 18, 2016, 09:21 PM:

I did not realize that has a whole page of Hamilton Apocrypha. Not all of ’em have music. There’s “Ten Things One Thing,” an earlier version of the final duel, which rewinds mid-song to give us a ten-step countdown from Hamilton’s point of view, in addition to Burr’s.

It also lists “Button!”, Stephen Colbert’s song about Button Gwinnett from Miranda’s appearance on The Late Show.

#48 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2016, 02:19 PM:

There's something I've been ruminating about regarding Hamilton -- something that doesn't in any way take away from the delight I have in the work. I was debating whether to do this as a post on my own blog, but I'm not sure I want to make that big a deal out of it.

It's this: in the midst of examining the question of "who tells your story", and "who controls the narrative", and recognizing the agency of the women who are portrayed in this work, and opening one's eyes to new understandings that come from taking an intersectional perspective on history...

In the midst of all that, I keep coming back to thinking about not just "who tells your story" but "whose story gets told?"

Within this particular historic and social context, and within this particular artistic and performative context, it also matters whose stories get chosen to be told. Whose stories can be told in particular ways, in particular contexts, and to particular types of reception.

A historian selects a particular subject for study ... no, let's take a step farther back. Our age and context privileges particular people as historians. A historian selects a particular subject for study. A publisher chooses to promote a particular biography outside the siloed academic book market. A talented artist takes note of a particular publication and is inspired by it. Every step along the way contains both those questions, yoked in harness: who tells the story and whose story gets told?

That's pretty much the extent of my ruminations. I'm a bit worried that even bringing it up will seem like criticism: don't step outside the safe and narrow unless you're going to be perfectly perfect in every way. But it's a lens that I can't help but bring to every piece of history and historic interpretation that I consume. My own amateur historical research is very much focused on the question of "whose story gets told?" and it's not something I can dial down very easily.

#49 ::: Rymenhild ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2016, 02:36 PM:

Those of you considering the use of rhyme in hip-hop might be interested in David Caplan's 2012 Virginia Quarterly Review article, "The Art of the Rhymed Insult".

#50 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2016, 12:54 AM:

Delighted to see this here! I got hooked last fall when my AO3 Yuletide match included a prompt for a Hamilton fic, and I have been mainlining the songs via YouTube ever since.

It is such a smart show. Adrian at #35 is completely right about how fannish it is, and how fannish Lin-Manuel Miranda is about history. (Oh, and the show also prompted me to go find "In the Heights," Lin-Manuel's earlier hit musical, which is highly enjoyable. For folks who don't do the rap thing, it might be just the ticket.)

It's been stuck in my head a lot, and many people I know are finding the lyrics useful shorthand in conversation. Useful culture is like that, yah? A net to catch meaning and allusion in, a lens to perceive and compare.

There's a tshirt on the way. It says, "My thoughts have been replaced by Hamilton lyrics." It's good for a snort of recognition, but it would be more accurate to say that my thoughts have been deepened by Hamilton lyrics.

I love this musical so much. When it comes to Chicago, a friend of mine and I are planning to take the train down and see it.

#51 ::: Sumana Harihareswara ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2016, 11:20 AM:

I am in a mixed marriage (I am a Hamildame and my spouse is not a Hamildude, waiting as he is to see it live before listening to the album). We recently enjoyed a visit to the New-York Historical Society museum, where you can see:

* a letter from Angelica Schuyler Church just after the duel, saying that Alexander has been shot by "that wretch Burr"
* an original printing of the Reynolds pamphlet, including the appendix with all the relevant letters, opened to one where Maria Reynolds begs Alexander, "for heaven sake keep me not In suspince Let me know yor Intention Either by a Line or by Catline."
* a bust of Alexander separating facing portraits of Aaron Burr and of his daughter Theodosia Burr

(The museum is currently also displaying a bunch of New York-area computing history stuff, including some lovely old IBM artifacts, and art and memorabilia from the history of comics in New York City. Even my non-Hamildude spouse had a great time.)

#52 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2016, 08:25 AM:

I wonder what a Catline is in that context.

#53 ::: Craft (Alchemy) ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2016, 08:42 AM:

Elliott @52: I have access to the OED via work, which offers no cites whatsoever for either "catline" or "cat-line". My suspicion is that it's either an original orthographic or transcription error for "calling", which would finish the sentence sensibly.

#54 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2016, 08:44 AM:

Her letters in general were not known for being paragons of orthography and spelling.

#55 ::: Sumana Harihareswara ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2016, 09:54 AM:

Here I was inventing a sort of trained messenger-cat service, or a "language of flowers"-style protocol involving giving someone else cats of particular colors and breeds, or a custom where you send someone a completely empty envelope to convey that you want nothing to do with them anymore and we call it a "catline" for arcane reasons.

I reluctantly agree that "calling" makes a lot more sense. Thank you.

#56 ::: Craft (Alchemy) ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2016, 10:22 AM:

"Catline" to me sounded like some obscure piece of rigging on a tall ship, but I like all those ideas better, especially the idea of a society where one presents one's social circle with significantly patterned cats ...

A black cat: Luck has crossed your path.
A cat with white socks: Tread carefully.
A white cat with blue eyes: I am deaf to your protestations.

#57 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2016, 10:54 AM:

A calico: My feelings are mixed.

It would be a bit hard on the cats, though.

#58 ::: Cadbury Moose ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2016, 11:08 AM:

A marmalade cat: You're toast.

#59 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2016, 11:27 AM:

Tiger-striped ("mackerel tabby", I'm told by Wikipedia): You're not getting the lady.

#60 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2016, 12:20 PM:

A Japanese bobtail calico (the model for the Maneki Neko) -- Good fortune is coming to you. (We have one of these, and she's an absolute treasure.)

Male calico -- you do not understand. (We have one of those, too, and Karen's writing a book about him.)

#61 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2016, 01:33 PM:

"Catline" might well be a name (Cateline, a variant of Catherine) but with additional deliberate word-play in using "line" rather than "letter" or "note"? If there were some person by that name who might have acted as a go-between, the sentence would make perfect sense.

#62 ::: Sumana Harihareswara ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2016, 01:39 PM:

Mary Aileen: What if, instead of giving the cat, it's more like a singing telegram? The customer pays the florist/cat librarian to send a "catline" -- which is to say, the messenger takes the specified cat out, goes over to the recipient's door, and displays the cat to the recipient for long enough for them to get the message and perhaps order a reply. Then the messenger and cat return to their office.

Since this would still be kind of hard on the cats, perhaps later generations would substitute cat-themed greeting cards, messengers dressed in fursuits, and, when possible, shapeshifting messengers who could portray any cat breed.

#63 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2016, 01:44 PM:

Further musing following my #57: Because it's hard on the cats, who don't want to keep changing homes, and it can be tough to find one with the appropriate markings as needed, cat figurines became popular as substitutes for live cats. And talented individuals would paint or sketch a cat instead; this is why young ladies were supposed to learn watercolors.

Oh, hey, the figurines or paintings could add meaning by the cat's expression as well as its color! Grumpy Cat is the last vestige of this old, almost forgotten custom. It all makes sense now.

Now I want to see a line of Catline figurines.

#64 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2016, 01:46 PM:

Sumana (who posted #62 while I was composing #63): I like those ideas.

#65 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2016, 02:40 PM:

So you use little stuffed cats instead of live ones. Or figurines and paintings, as Mary Aileen suggests.

I do like the idea of an empty envelope meaning "I want nothing more to do with you"!

#66 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2016, 03:18 PM:

Sandy B, I am ashamed of myself for how long it took me to get that, but here: have this Internet.

#67 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2016, 04:26 PM:

Mixed messages come in a box from Erwin S's Catline Service.

#68 ::: Sumana Harihareswara ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2016, 09:53 AM:

abi, Sandy B., ahahahahahaha!

#69 ::: Sumana Harihareswara ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2016, 07:40 AM:

Several Hamilton fanvids in Festivids this year -- "Lose Yourself", "I Gotta Feeling", and "Comedy Tragedy History" especially struck me.

#70 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2016, 08:44 AM:

Tom Whitmore: another book about a male calico: "Cats Are Not Peas" by Laura Gould. One of my favorite "it's actually more complicated than that" science books.

#71 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2016, 09:40 AM:

Shrinking the Cat is another nonfiction book with an interesting look at domestication and genes (cats are one of the four species profiled. The other three are corn/maize, apples, and silkworms).

#72 ::: Sumana Harihareswara ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2016, 10:27 AM:

Oh, and "Bang Bang" is a ton of fun, too.

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