November 3rd, 2017 § 0 comments


I first saw Arnold Lobel’s picture books in the late 1990’s, when my first daughter was little.  The first one I ran across was OWL AT HOME, a collection of five or six little stories about an owl.  I liked them a lot – at any rate enough to seek out other books by Lobel.


Eventually I found Arnold Lobel’s FABLES at the public library.  At first the FABLES mostly just seemed eccentric.  I liked them, I liked the pictures and the vibe and the clarity of the writing, and I could sense a great depth and energy and MUSICALITY about them, but it took me quite a while to appreciate their full potential.



Here I must digress to mention that I have a love/hate relationship with musical drama.  On the love side, I have some kind of idiot savant talent for the form.  I usually more-or-less automatically do the right thing as a dramatic composer.  I get right up into the NOW of the story, and I can do no wrong.


Musical theatre can be loads of FUN and oh so musical.


Unfortunately, with musical theatre the bad stuff can also be really really bad.  The worst of it leaves me feeling like I need a shower to wash the treacle away.


So though I knew I was good at musical drama, and I knew I needed to become a better  Composer (with a Capital C) in order to write a certain play about a certain eccentric lady poet with a favorite number 7.4, I wasn’t chomping at the bit to find something to write.  Also, the assumption when you come across something with theatrical promise is that somehow I will adapt this story for the theatre.  I will grok the essence and then flesh it out into a story told theatrically.


Not so with these FABLES.  They had musical promise, but not obvious theatrical promise.  I set them aside.


A few years later, back home in Ann Arbor, I picked them up at the library again.  By that time I had a second daughter – I spent the better part of a decade buried beneath little girls – and I found myself stretched pretty thin entertaining the two of them.  One day I sat down at the piano with a little girl and just started improvising music along with the text of the FABLES exactly as they were written – verbatim. 


They worked.  Not only did they work, they came alive in a way that I am convinced would have delighted their author.  It was raining musical soup.  Really good musical soup.  And so I continued to sit at the piano, often with a little girl, with my brand new mini disc recorder turned on Record to slurp it all up.


After a while I convinced myself that I should finish one of the FABLES, mainly out of sheer curiosity, although it also a kind of “proof of concept”.  The first one I tackled was “THE FROGS AT THE RAINBOW’S END”, both because of the promising start I already had on it and because of its cautionary Moral – The highest hopes may lead to the greatest disappointments.


And I do have high hopes for my musical settings of Arnold Lobel’s settings.  I’ve written music for all twenty of them.  They are delightful, and in a sane universe they will be shared with the world in all their glory.  Let this post be a first gesture towards the realization of my high hopes.


I present to you my second pass at THE FROGS AT THE RAINBOW’S END, recorded on a 4-track cassette machine probably in 2003 or so.  Enjoy…


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