The World Will Never Be the Same: or You All Should Just Go Listen to Hamilton

Even if you're not a huge Broadway fan, you've probably heard about the musical based on the life of Alexander Hamilton, called simply - Hamilton.  Without giving a complete history lesson, I'll just say that it debuted off-Broadway a year ago, and in that short period of time, has moved on to Broadway, produced a cast recording, won a Grammy for that recording, and has basically overtaken the entire internet (or at least the fandom continent, where I tend to reside).

I first heard of Hamilton a couple of months ago, when a video from the show appeared on my tumblr dash one Saturday afternoon. It was a clip from "Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down)" a song that encompasses the Siege of Yorktown, which ended up being the final defeat of the British armies in the American Revolution. I surprised at first when I listened to the clip, because the musical style was not anything I was expecting from a Broadway show. I was raised on Rodgers and Hammerstein, Andrew Lloyd Webber and the likes... and this was not the sweet, tender Do-Re-Mi of the Sound of Music. It was hip-hip, raw, and there was a swear word*. (GASP) But some how it worked. It made me really excited, and I ran down stairs to show my sister, babbling something about the next generation of Broadway, and accessibility to youth and some other nonsense.  yeah.

But after that clip I didn't really pursue it much further, just bookmarking it in my brain as "yeah, I should get around to listening to that whole album soon." I did look up the creator though, cause that's important. Who writes a hip-hop musical about the First Secretary of the Treasury?
Photo Credit

This nerd.

As the wonderful story goes (its a story to win a librarian's heart) Lin Manuel Miranda was on vacation reading Ron Chernow's biography of Alexander Hamilton  and he thought "has anyone written a musical about this dude?" and since no one had, he did. Music, book, lyrics and all.Bless. 

I won't go more into Mr. Miranda's journey with Hamilton except to recommend that you watch this video of him performing an early prototype of his idea at the White House.  

So, it wasn't until last weekend when I finally got down to the business of giving the show a listen through. and let me tell you, I'm very sad about the two months I wasted getting around to it. My response to it was three-fold, so that's how I'm gonna outline the rest of this post, progressing in the order that I processed them. 

Intellectual Response 

As I  listened to the show from beginning to end over the course of a couple of days, there were a couple of moments of recognition of facts from history lessons. Like - Hamilton and Burr dueled. Lafayette was kind of a rockstar.  George Washington stepped down from office to set a precedent for a nation that would last beyond him. ...and that was about it. I knew pretty much nothing about Hamilton, what he did, what he stood for etc. I knew nothing about the grievances between Hamilton and Burr (and almost everyone else, the dude really got under peoples skin.) I looked into the historical accuracy of the play, and Mr. Miranda has done a good job of not straying.  
For the first time in forever, I found myself interested in the early history of our nation, so Ima take a page from my Grandfather's book and consider reading more biographies. Starting with Chernow's Hamilton. Obvi. (its in the mail right now!) 

my second response was an

Artistic Response

I'm a huge fan of movie scores, where the music is used to evoke emotion and paint pictures and set mood and  symbolize characters. I'll listen to good scores on repeat, finding fresh nuances every time (John Williams, I'm looking at you.) The music of Hamilton uses leitmotif heavily all throughout, so that by the time you meet Phillip in "Take a Break" you know that when his theme echoes "The Ten Duel Commandments", some bad ish is in his future. And you cry. (Just listen it it. you'll see)
Elsewise musically, there are musical puns left and right, (King George is just one big pun. Its fantastic) There's a magnificent instance of Bach inspired counterpoint when two characters are debating. (Farmer Refuted) The whole thing is musically flawless. 
And then there's the words. I took a poetry class in college and learned about the different types of rhymes and word play... but never have I ever encountered, much less  been able to use,  those techniques so brilliantly. Mr. Miranda's skill with words is not unlike that of the character he writes and plays. I have great respect for him.
side note here: the best way to the most out of the lyrics is to read through the annotations on Genius.

My third response was an

Emotional Response

My emotional range over the course of experiencing Hamilton was almost identical to my emotional response to Les Miserables. This is no coincidence. Mr. Miranda has cited Les Mis as being inspirational to him...  (I think it was the first one he ever saw? don't cite me on that) and the story is similar (Revolution. Students. Freedom. you get the gist) When I first listened to Les Mis and learned the story, I walked around with an ache in my chest for days. I'm still dealing with the Hamilton ache. 
There's also a certain longing feeling i get when experiencing a really good musical, especially when I've gone to great lengths to learn about creators and cast. Its like I want to be a part of them somehow, and know that I never will. It's part FOMO (fear of missing out) in that I think that if I were to go see the show it might salve that feeling. But its also part empathetic, in that even from just being a chorus member in the Opera workshops at school, I know a taste of the magic what its like to be part of a big and beautiful show (Thank you Mrs. Keck for that opportunity) and I WANT IT AGAIN. 

So that's caught us all up! I'm almost a week into my Hamilton obsession (it will be a full week on Sunday at 3:30pm) and while I may have overdosed early on in the week (its in my enneagram personality type to be overly obsessive) I'm leveling out to the point of healthy enjoyment now. (and I can already spit a good portion of the lyrics along with the cd in my car :D)  I hope that your interest has been piqued enough to go check out Hamilton for yourself! Let me know in the comments if you do, or if you already have! I might  be back in the future weeks with more Hamilton thoughts after I read the Chernow book, but we'll see. Until then, I have the honor to be

yr. obedient servant
s. pedes

*(P.S. Warning for those readers with kids. There are a handful of swears (five maybe?) scattered across the recording, not abrasively or unneccessarily, but they are there none the less. so be mindful of that if you want to listen with kids around.)  

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