Hamilton is the first piece of popular culture that my daughter, 11, has brought into the house. How many hours of Hamilton have I listened to? Stella has memorized about forty-five minutes' worth, so let me just say, a lot.
Hamilton is brilliant. It is a massively complex many-layered work of art. The core of the work is the text. And the text is a poem. It is a poem as I am confident most of you know, is about the "The ten-dollar founding father without a father." For those of you who read this newsletter who are not American: Alexander Hamilton's portrait is on our ten dollar bill.
Hamilton is in the oldest literary tradition, that of the history poem. The Iliad and the Odyssey by the Greek poet Homer, written about 2500 years ago, is the history poem of all history poems. Hamilton brings the history poem into our own time. The poem is written in the poetic style of hip hop, set to music and performed. Homer's work was also originally set to music. Here is someone's idea about how, roughly, the Iliad and the Odyssey would have sounded sung by the blind poet, Homer.
The author of Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda, performed the opening song at the White House in 2009, when his idea seems to have been that he was writing a hip hop album, not making a Broadway Musical. There is a directness in this performance that I find very moving. I hope you find it direct, and powerful, too. In that first version of what became the opening song of the musical -- the song "Alexander Hamilton" -- Lin-Manuel Miranda sings all of the parts. In fact, Miranda ended up imagining this first song as sung by many people and so I want you to watch this version, also performed at the White House. I've started the clip at around nine minutes. The first nine minutes President Obama is talking.
Online, you can find the lyrics to "Alexander Hamilton" published two ways: as a single text the way Lin-Manual Miranda performed at the White House in 2009, and broken up into parts for specific characters to sing, as in the second White House performance.
I want you to write a story in the form of a song or songs. Choose something from history or make up the story entirely from your imagination. Lin-Manuel Miranda took years and years to finish his whole play. So, being practical, I'd like you to write one song that tells a story but that is part of larger story that you have in your head.
Use any style. It doesn't have to be hip hop. You may send us your story poem just as words -- submit it as a poem -- or if you sing it then submit your recording or video in the music section of the submission web page, and also please include with that submission a copy of the words.
Until next week!
Leave a Reply