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#398923 - 11/14/01 01:21 PM Billy Joel
Samejame Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/01/01
Posts: 808
Loc: NL, Canada
Did anybody see the A & E special on Billy Joel on Sunday? He apparently has a new album of pieces for Solo Piano, written by him, but performed by another pianist (classical). The album is entitled pieces for Piano Solo Opus 1-10 - "Fantasies & Delusions". I missed the program, but did anybody see it, or hear the album. I hear they are quite nice pieces, if not technically challenging.

"A cynic knows the price of everything and the value of nothing" Oscar Wilde.

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#398924 - 11/14/01 04:35 PM Re: Billy Joel
Rick Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/01/01
Posts: 559
Loc: Chicago
I heard that they were technically challenging, but maybe I'm confused. I thought that's why he had a professional pianist record them. Regardless, he appears to be a pretty fine player himself. I saw the very last of the A & E special, where he performed "Piano Man". He's a great entertainer, and his voice sounds as good as ever. And he never looks at his hands as they're apparently ad-libbing all over the place!

#398925 - 11/16/01 07:26 PM Re: Billy Joel
PianoMuse Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/04/01
Posts: 902
Loc: Philly, PA
I heard some excerpts form the album..they don't sound too horrbly chalenging, though it may take a bit on the interpretation, but he writes classical very well, it was a pleasant suprise!
"Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music." ~Rachmaninoff

#398926 - 05/29/02 01:33 AM Re: Billy Joel
David Burton Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/28/01
Posts: 1759
Loc: Coxsackie, New York
I don't even know how I got Billy Joel's Fantasies & Delusions. I belong to many CD clubs and I guess one of them was offering it and I wasn't around to say stop and they just sent it to me anyway.

I usually loathe crossover, especially those who come from doing any pop music to doing what is usually erroneously called classical music. What really sets classical music apart from all other genres is that it is written down before it's performed, although it may have been "realized" on a musical instrument, usually a piano, before it was written down. The intent with classical music, at least for the last three hundred years or so, has been to consciously write music not for any particular moment in time but for immortality. I can find little other excuse for a successful pop music star to attempt writing classical music than to attempt this form of immortality, as if their commercial fame and profit, tied as it usually is to a particular place and time, is not enough for them.

Billy Joel just happens to be a close childhood friend of a close friend of mine, so a friend of a friend whom I haven't met yet. But my friend always said that Billy was first and foremost a classical pianist and had gone into pop music to make a living. Apparently since 1993 he's decided to return to his true love in hopes of continuing to make a living from his name recognition.

"Sir" Paul McCartney has tried to do the same thing, I guess, as if he needs the money. Certainly Billy has enough money too so maybe making a living isn't even an issue anymore. So how good is Billy's classical piano music?

Well, apparently many people find it pleasant, some say it makes good dinner music, which is to say it could be played very low behind what's really important. Others decry it as derivative; phony Chopin, Schumann, Rachmaninoff or the one example of phony Bach. One angry critic lambasted SONY for halting its production of Gyorgy Ligiti CD's while promoting this CD simply because the pop star's name recognition made it more saleable. The critic implied we were all missing something by not having Ligiti's stuff preserved.

Well I for one was surprised that Billy Joel's "serious" and yes they are "parlor piano genre" music were as good as they were. In fact everything is derivative of something, even if it's some natural sound. An ambiguous or accidental sound has no significance just because someone's name is attached to it as some composers have thought. Well, Billy Joel wrote better than average genre pop songs. None of them were particularly original, they were just well done. The same seems to be true here. And far from faulting Richard Joo's playing or that Billy would have another pianist play his music, Joo's performances are serious and well done and it is an honorable going back at least as far as Beethoven's time to have others play a composer's pieces, even their piano pieces when the composer was a noted pianist. As has been remarked, Billy Joel is no mean piano man himself.

I guess what I'd like to say to Billy Joel is, "this is a good start." Few even great composers instantly find their own voice in their first ten opus numbers anyway. Some think Rachmaninoff might have, but they who claim this know little of Rachmaninoff's distinct Russian nationalist and internationalist schools in which much that seems new is in fact derivative of others like Liadov, Balikirev and even Tchaikovsky. What Billy Joel's piano music is really related to is the neo-romantic New England school of about 100 years ago to a half dozen composers that few knew of then and hardly anyone remembers today, composers whose music is little by little being resurrected by any renewed interest in pianos and piano music. We eager await Billy Joel's opus 11-20. If he continues to develop along romantic lines, I hope he has ample opportunities to return to the New England composers and to composers like Ferruccio Busoni and Alexander Scriabin. What Billy Joel, and for that matter, most modern musicians lack that most of the romantics had, is a personal acquaintance with matters that are really tragic. Which is why I happen to think that there are other ways of wedding the classical forms to other non-romantic thematic and emotional material. The late 18th century, before middle Beethoven, was about constrained style, emotional reticence, containing the most weighty of mental ideas into a graceful nuance. There are other fruitful sources of material too including pop music itself. The classical discipline involves wedding the material, any material, to a form in such a way as to produce something which a gifted performer can use as a vehicle to convey a universal emotion. Where McCartney fails in my opinion is in making much out of something that is essentially empty; the Liverpool Oratorio. But others have failed similarly in pop music itself. I have a particular loathing for Stephen Sandheim. I assume that if I heard the words sung in my own language with all their banality I would similarly loathe Mozart operas as some in fact do for the same reasons. Sandheim may be limited by the musical abilities, or lack of same, of those who wrote his tunes. No matter how obviously derivative a lot of Billy Joel's piano music might be, it was nevertheless not nearly as hollow sounding as I would have expected.

OK then, I say, keep at it Billy. Are you in fact William Joel or what is your real name, not your trademarked name? Maybe it's time to stand apart from your trademark and be who you really want to be. If someone can pass this along to him I'd be very grateful.
David Burton's Blog

#398927 - 05/29/02 04:04 AM Re: Billy Joel
.rvaga* Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/14/02
Posts: 2046
Loc: Portland, Oregon
Yeah, me too.

#398928 - 05/30/02 02:12 AM Re: Billy Joel
Tammy Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/23/02
Posts: 27
Loc: Victoria, Australia
Hi, I'm a new member to this group, and have been glued in front of the screen for the last few days since finding it! I love being able to read about so many pieces and composers, and how people work through problems, etc.
David, I was just wondering about your reference to Stephen Sandheim (Sondheim?). Do you not like his lyrics, and what about all the music he has written himself- Into The Woods, A Little Night Music, that sort of thing. Just curious what you meant. \:\)

#398929 - 05/30/02 08:48 AM Re: Billy Joel
David Burton Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/28/01
Posts: 1759
Loc: Coxsackie, New York
Those who live farther away from New York City are probably less aware of the degree to which Stephen Sondheim and his works are lionized almost to the detriment of himself, others or any competition he has had or might have in the musical theatre idiom. It might have been enough for me to take Richard Rodgersí word for it, that he was a particularly overrated young man in whom he (Rodgers) saw the eventual demise of the American musical theatre tradition as he (Rodgers) had known it.

Hardly anything can compare with the works of Richard Rodgers and Larry Hart in their day. Hartís lyrics were more than occasional conversation, there was always something piquant about them, something suggested, something behind everything, layers of meaning, all that which stretches the commonplace and makes it universal. This is a kind of genius compared with which Sondheim has been for the most part lacking. So many of his lyrics when frankly considered are mere everyday speech about things of little consequence so that the effect he seems consciously to be trying to achieve is the opposite of Hartís; to bring up to the level of art the merest trifle of commonplace conversation. It gets really boring after a while. I donít know how many evenings (New York parties) Iíve endured listening to Side by Side and A Little Night Music and Sunday in the Park. I donít know Into the Woods, heard of it but not heard it.

But Sondheimís not a total loss for me. I guess Iíd have to credit him with the melody to Send in the Clowns, even though the lightness of the lyrics doesnít pare well with the soulful anguish of the tune, again he seems to want to make larger (lyrics) what is more than just small. And of course Sondheim wrote the lyrics for West Side Story, music by Bernstein, and that has to stand as a great American musical.

One has always to remember that what one likes another might hate and it might be merely chemistry. Obviously Sondheim has done a lot of work over his lifetime, has contributed his talents to the musical theatre and is destined to become far more than a footnote in history. Nevertheless some of us probably wish for or prefer something else. And Sondheim isnít being singled out by me either. Iíve heard enough Andrew LLLLoyd Weber (what we jokingly call him around New York) to ask, can the man write a decent melody that anyone can remember well enough to sing?
David Burton's Blog

#398930 - 05/30/02 06:25 PM Re: Billy Joel
Alex Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/25/01
Posts: 116
Loc: Plano, tx
Well, I can't resist commenting here. As many of you know, I have a certain affinity to musical theatre. I have had a musical performed off-broadway, participated in the ASCAP musical theatre workshop. I also have had the opportunity to meet with Stephen Sondheim, talk with him and have him review my songs (very painful!). This I mention in interest of full disclosure since I do feel obligated to defend him. What the theatre professionals will tell you is that Mr. Sondheim is probably the greatest musical theatre lyricist who ever lived. He is recognized more for his lyrics than the music.

But with those wonderful lyrics, he also created a musical style that emulates speech. It creates interesting forms and meters and doesn't necessarily always ring easy on the ears. But, on stage it works beautiful. And that is the only thing that counts since a musical must hang together - the book, the lyrics the music and the staging. Clearly when he wants to, Stephen can write just a beautiful melody (Send in the Clowns, Not While I'm Around, Joanna).

Plus, I would discount any comments by Richard Rogers who was known as a bitter man and had clashes with Stephen during "Do I Hear a Waltz". Oscar Hammerstein was the Sondheim's neighbor when he was young and had a completely different opinion.

Now, the issue with Sondheim is that, deservedly so, he became almost larger than life. He also created a musical style that, although unique to him and him alone, because of his status became copied ad neuseum. This caused, in my opinion, a slowing of the development of American musical theatre and let the "hack-neyed" musicals of Andrew Lloyd Webber become front and center because of special effects and stolen Puccini. Now, we are starting to see old rules broken down and pop songs (which we as the boomer generation are most aligned to) come front and center. See shows like the Lion King and Mamma Mia (currently, bar none, the best musical out there today). In England, they've just opened a show based on 30 songs by Queen which looks pretty interesting.

I've gotten off-topic here but the main point is that Stephen Sondheim is more than a footnote in musical theatre history. He is a giant and will be recognized as such. The bottom line is that he can't be copied (try copying Lloyd Webber - not really that hard - but the cost of putting on a new musical today $10 - $15 million makes it almost impossible that someone can just start writing musicals and become famous). William Finn is not Sondheim and his shows made it more because of the timing and the influence of AIDS on the gay community.

This is not the place but I got to admit that I found the Billy Joel material quite awful.

#398931 - 05/31/02 12:14 AM Re: Billy Joel
David Burton Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/28/01
Posts: 1759
Loc: Coxsackie, New York
Originally posted by Alex:
This is not the place but I got to admit that I found the Billy Joel material quite awful.[/b]
Well, there you go, different strokes, etc. It is pointless to argue with the popularity of some things. Whatís out there is whatís out there and sometimes itís all thatís out there in any given artistic genre at any one time. One might wish that it were something other than it is. But it isnít. One may have a particular loathing for whatís out there, which for me has been for most of my life, and no I see no point whatever getting involved with the flow of the current artistic community in any attempt to set it right since to me it amounts largely to sycophants praising mediocrities, since these always predominate. Mediocrity is given by its creators sufficient hubris and ego to withstand the faintest pleadings of real talent.

So just how does anything become immortal? By lasting at least fifty years. Despite all attempts, if there be any consciously, to kill off classical music, one can feel pretty certain that in 300 years hence someone somewhere will still be playing Bach, Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms. One can be also just as certain that certain artistic dead ends will first become ďdatedĒ then ďobscureĒ then mere footnotes. Rodgers and Hart and Rodgers and Hammerstein ARE American musical theatre and Richard Rodgers, bitter and tired or not, was a REAL composer.

Itís quite obvious to me, if to no one else, that Sondheim and his devotees have placed an intellectual proposition before a natural universality. This is so common that it hardly bears mentioning as it has functioned in all the arts for the last hundred years or so, but so be it: if one has no talent one can fall back on system. There have even been those with talent who threw it away and fell back on system, people like Schoenberg, whose Verklšrte Nacht in fifty years will be about all that anyone wants to hear. I can tell fakery when I hear it and very often when I see it and thatís how Sondheim strikes me. But Iím not even sure what Andrew LLLLoyd Weber is trying to do. Obviously they both have had quite a run; tremendous popularity, even though in the long run it will have resulted in shrinking the audience for musical theatre. And the sums required now for production arenít completely whatís wrong although they contribute to the difficulties. Whatís really wrong is that real NATURAL talent is hardly ever fostered or recognized as such and the business is controlled by systematizers who lack talent or complete boobs who are only into the arts for their image, for some personal egotistical glory. Too bad that this often passes for popular acclaim. Itís not in fact talent that matters at all but connections.

Now certainly Billy Joelís attempts to make classical piano music were just caricatures, but they werenít completely lacking in SOME talent and give promise of better things if he keeps it up. Iíve certainly heard far worse, especially from people who set out to become great composers. Rest assured that todayís avant garde will become tomorrowís derriere. Far better to have natural talent and how rare to see and hear it.

Who has it and has manifested it since 1971? Stephen Schwartz!
David Burton's Blog

#398932 - 05/31/02 12:51 AM Re: Billy Joel
Rodion Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/06/01
Posts: 296
Loc: Salt Lake City
"may the schwartz be with you!"
Time is a great teacher, but unfortunately it kills all its pupils. - Hector Berlioz

#398933 - 05/31/02 12:56 AM Re: Billy Joel
JBryan Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/19/02
Posts: 9798
Loc: Oklahoma City
I always liked Billy Joel.
Better to light one small candle than to curse the %&#$@#! darkness.

#398934 - 05/31/02 09:02 AM Re: Billy Joel
Alex Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/25/01
Posts: 116
Loc: Plano, tx

It's obvious that you and I disagree on the merits of Sondheim and you are correct, no amount of discussion will change that. So, I won't. Let the next 50 years decide. (Wait, hasn't it almost been 50 years since West Side Story?)

And, we don't agree on Rogers. I would never make the statement that he is "real" composer as opposed to any of the other musical theatre giants. He's a giant, I admit (but not one of my favorites), but not THE giant.

Finally, interesting ending on Stephen Schwartz. Had he not disappeared after Godspell for about 20 years, I would be quite interested in what his total body of work would look like today.

#398935 - 05/31/02 05:33 PM Re: Billy Joel
Joy Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 550
Loc: Encinitas, CA
Hi Alex!

So nice to see you again!

I'm with you on Sondheim, by the way. I can't think of anyone who could turn a phrase as well with music since Gilbert and Sullivan. And his choice of storylines are fascinating. He keeps challenging himself in the process with difficult material.

Look at Sweeney Todd! I saw an absolutely first rate production of Sweeney Todd in NYC a few years ago. The perfect marriage of lyrics plus music with plot. The cast had precision timing, great example of how teamwork can make all the difference. Get one slacker and the whole production suffers, that's what it was like. I was enthralled.

It was performed in a theater-in-the-round, with no stage gimmicks, props, or Las Vegas/David Copperfield lighting effects, no stupid costumes or poor choreography, just period settings, the audience, the stage with trap door for the barber's victims, the players and the work laid bare. Pure magic.

Lloyd Webber is an entirely other story. Turgid loud music, and much emoting over nothing. You think you'll see something wonderful, but you leave hungry, bored and bereft of $$ (a gyp!!!) for wasting two+ hours of your life in the theatre. I go to the theatre to be enriched. It wasn't even fun! I found myself wishing I had gone to Juilliard's auditorium to catch a FREE performance of something timeless!

I've been away from the Forums due to work and other things. I'm also on the Board of Directors of Seagate Concerts, a nonprofit group that showcases local professional musicians. This is a shameless plug, but I make no money doing this, I'm simply sharing my love of music with you and everyone here. And hey, you are on Plano's Board . A brotherhood of sorts, eh?

Here is Seagate's Website. Please visit!


If you go directly to this page, you can hear selected live performances from past concerts:


Hear a unique arrangement performed on a freshly tuned C6 Yamaha. Click on:

Bill Mays, solo jazz piano
"Aldridge - For Me There's No More Love, For You There's No More Pumpkin Pie"

And check out Aleck Karis's piano work. His duet with cellist Charles Curtis is superb. He recently performed a concert at Carnegie Recital Hall and garnered wonderful reviews from the NY Times.

Ack, I'm babbling!



#398936 - 05/31/02 06:06 PM Re: Billy Joel
Bernard Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/06/01
Posts: 3857
Loc: North Groton, NH
Naive question: Why does it cost 10-15 million to stage a musical? That's an exorbitant amount of money, where does it all go?
"Hunger for growth will come to you in the form of a problem." -- unknown

#398937 - 05/31/02 11:58 PM Re: Billy Joel
David Burton Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/28/01
Posts: 1759
Loc: Coxsackie, New York
Originally posted by Bernard:
Naive question: Why does it cost 10-15 million to stage a musical? That's an exorbitant amount of money, where does it all go?[/b]
up their noses.
David Burton's Blog

#398938 - 06/01/02 02:03 AM Re: Billy Joel
JBryan Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/19/02
Posts: 9798
Loc: Oklahoma City
\:D Home run, David \:D
Better to light one small candle than to curse the %&#$@#! darkness.

#398939 - 06/01/02 02:08 AM Re: Billy Joel
Happy Birthday Derick Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/03/02
Posts: 3290
Loc: New York
I have to agree with Alex and Joy on Sondheim. The man is a musical genious. His melodies are far more complex than anything Richard Rogers ever wrote IMHO. His greatest skill, however, is how he precisely fits the lyrics to the melody. From the catchy Something's Coming to the incredibly complex Pretty Women.

With a few exceptions, I never liked a Sondheim song the first time I heard it. I wouldn't begin to appreciate his songs until hearing it perhaps 10 times.

Rogers and Hart wrote catchy songs with catchy lyrics. Same with Andrew Lloyd Weber. I liked 'em the first time, hated them the 10th. Nothing any of them wrote broke any new ground. When listening to their compositions I can't help but get the feeling they wrote them in 5 minutes. But, I could see Sondheim pining away for 6 months on one verse.

Sondheim said so himself:

Bit by bit, putting it together.
Piece by piece, working out the
vision night and day.
All it takes is time and perseverance
With a little luck along the way...

Why are Rogers & Hart, and ALW so popular? Sondheim says:

All they ever want is repetition,
all they really like is what they know.

Sondheim has never used the old I, VI, IV, V chord progression, but Richard Rogers certainly has. And ALW has his standard chord progression that can be found in almost every one of his songs.

Still, I'd rather own the rights to anything Rogers or ALW wrote as I'd be on my way to buying a house in Beverly Hills right next to Ozzy much quicker than if I owned the rights to a Sondheim song.

Don't worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you'll have to ram them down people's throats.

#398940 - 06/01/02 09:46 AM Re: Billy Joel
Alex Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/25/01
Posts: 116
Loc: Plano, tx

Let me give you a serious answer to that question. The money goes in a thousand different directions. Much of it, quite frankly, is dictated by the unions in NYC.

FIrst, you have to have a hall, a large broadway hall is very expensive. Typically for a full-length musical, you need to have at least 1200+ seats, an exceptionally large stage and a pit. Not cheap.

Next comes the blood and guts, the technicians, stage managers, lighting specialists, etc. etc. The union dictates everyone one of these, their assistants and the minimums. There are a lot more than you really need - but that's NY.

You need to ge a director, choreographer, set design, set construction (very important today as we expect the sets to be something incredible - the sets alone usually run $5million or more), music director, orchestrator, conductor, dance writer (takes the songs and adapts them to allow additional choreography,as well as scene changes).

You need rehearsal venues. You want to find a tier I star to headline the production (not cheap). You need to do auditions and find a cast (payment dictated by the union). You need to hire musicians (number and price dictated by, of course, the union).

Then there is the need to find a producer, executive producer, marketing personnel, etc. The authors also are getting paid during this period (book writer, composer, lyricist). Let's not forget the choreographer and the million plus assistants required. Costumes and costume designers aren't cheap. And, they're not cheap to buy.

You need to remember that all of these people make their living full-time this way and live in NYC. That should let you guess the salary structure - probably about 6 months or so before an official Broadway opening.

Then, typically, you do an out of town review first. Then everything gets revised. Therfore more money to the orchestrators, set designers, etc. etc.

Plus all the expenses over several months.

This is just a quick thumbnail sketch. I've missed a lot off the top of my head, let's just say it adds up if you are talking about a top tier full-blown musical

Off-Broadway is a little better. A small show can be launched for around $5million today.

It's a bunch. That's why we are seeing more and more revivals as producers want to ensure their investments are profitable.

This whole thing really sucks (sorry about the language). It makes it really difficult for a new writing team. However, if you're a name, like Paul Simon, you can put up some of you're own money, raise a lot more and put on a piece of ... well you get the drift. As started on this thread, I'm sure Billy Joel would have no problem getting a musical launched on Broadway with or without any of his own money.

On the other hand, I have heard some absolutely brilliant composer teams who just can't get anything going. It's a shame, but that the fact of today's life.

Joy, good to hear from you again.


#398941 - 06/03/02 02:36 AM Re: Billy Joel
Tammy Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/23/02
Posts: 27
Loc: Victoria, Australia
I agree Derick, the more times I hear a Sondheim song, I more it grows on me and I appreciate it more. The more I hear Rogers & Llyod Webber, the I less I appreciate them and tire of the sound \:\)

#398942 - 06/04/02 11:36 AM Re: Billy Joel
Joy Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 550
Loc: Encinitas, CA

Thanks for taking the time to fill us all in on the toil behind the mounting of a Broadway (and off-Broadway and beyond) musical.

Anyone catch the Tony's? I always enjoy watching them. Live performances! Always heads over heels above all the other award shows combined.

It was nice to have Bernadette Peters and Gregory Hines remind us of the many wonderful melodies and subsequent smiles many shows have produced over the years. Obviously Peters relishes singing Sondheim, every note, every word. Her eyes twinkled as she delivered.

Just last night, Max was listening to a timeless jazz piano arrangement of "My Favorite Things." He couldn't believe it blossomed from a Rodgers "Sound of Music" standard.

Now I'm dying of curiosity about "Urinetown the Musical." Intriguing title.

Oh, and to get back on topic, I like Billy Joel too, especially "Big Man On Mulberry Street." Kewl. Haven't heard his classical stuff yet.

"...You may be right, I may be crazy....BUT it just may be a looooo-na-tic you're lookin' for...."





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