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[[image- black & white photograph of Richard Adler]] 
Richard Adler (Pajama Game, Damn Yankees) is composer for the upcoming Music Is.
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rehearsal next September.
 
"I dictate my compositions to a musical secretary in my apartment," says Adler, who's lanky and black-haired. "I may hum them or pick them out on the piano - I can do that. I give him all three lines of each chord, the melody, the inner line or harmony, and the bass. He goes home and writes it properly on staff paper, then comes back and plays it.

"The biggest drawback to my not playing the piano," Adler says jokingly, "is that I can never sit down at a party and play a medley of my songs."

Stephen Sondheim, whose glittering credits include lyrics for West Side Story, and music and lyrics for A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, A Little Night Music, and the current Pacific Overtures, writes in pencil on legal pads. He likes to begin each project with long discussions with the book writer and director, during which he takes notes. Tackling each song, he tries first to think of at least a working title, a theme that establishes what needs to be written. 

"If I'm writing the music," he says, "I may try to get a 'vamp' first, a musical atmosphere, an accompaniment, a pulse, a melodic idea."

To come across well, lyrics need to be underwritten, he believes, kept as simple as possible, because in the audience's consciousness they are in competition with so many other theatrical elements - music, costumes, scenery, lights and performers. The composer should "stage" his musical numbers as he writes, decide which characters will be in them and where they'll be standing.  The director may change your staging, Sondheim acknowledges, but you have to give him something to start with.

Finally, the last word of a song should have an open, not a closed, sound. The cleverest choice of word is worthless if the singer can't open up his voice and really sing it.

Though Richard Rodgers does much of his composing in an office, where he presides banker-like at the piano, he also may write in less formal dress at his apartment or his country place in Connecticut. The legend is accurate - he does create his warming melodies and swirling waltzes rapidly. But after thinking about each one for a long time," he relates. "I know so much before I start to write notes. I'm steeped in the story, the characters, the color and the mood. Sometimes roles have been cast and I even know the singers, their vocal range and their best notes. I do a lot of 'work' just sitting at this round table with a lyric sheet in front of me. When I feel I'm prepared, it does come fast." 

The score for Rex is Rodgers' first in five years. It's set in the court of King Henry VIII, and coincidentally is being produced by Richard Adler. Rodgers has written 16 songs, in association for the first time with lyricist Sheldon Harnick (Fiddler on the Roof, Fiorello).

"I make a full manuscript" (all chords fully written), Rodgers advises, "not just a lead sheet" (single notes), "and play it for myself. Then we get everybody in here to sit back and listen. For Rex, Jay Blackton, our conductor, played the songs on the piano, and Sheldon Harnick, who has a great voice, sang them.

"I make changes as we do this. 'Let's try it this way,' I may say. Others on the production team make comments."

Are any visitors permitted to attend these fascinating-sounding sessions?

"Never," says Rodgers, impatient again. "We have to be free-wheeling, able to say exactly what we feel without being self-conscious. Having an outsider around when a song is getting its final shaping would be like having somebody watch you make love."

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