"Another Hundred People"
It's always mysterious to me how an orchestrator can tell stories by using musical instruments. It takes a special kind of ear and talent to emphasize emotion, time, and place using instrumentation to heighten the experience already created by the composer and lyricist. One of the most stimulating examples of this is the original orchestrations for "Another Hundred People" in the Stephen Sondheim musical Company.
Company is a musical about emotional detachment and trying to find a human connection against all odds amongst the throngs of people, highrises, and traffic jams of New York City. Jonathan Tunick takes Sondheim's already complex melodies and evokes the Big Apple through his deft use of orchestration. This is especially evident in "Another Hundred People." Listen carefully as you hear the woodwinds take on the millions of voices pushing their way through the crowds, or the brass section as is captures the cars beeping and whizzing by. The string section conjurs a melancholy loneliness and an emotional detachment, replicating uncertainty. Even the insitant triangle gives the piece an edge that highlights a neurosis that surfaces amongst the city's denizens.
In addition, "Another Hundred People" is a lyrically tongue-twisting marvel. The music starts out subdued, but unwilling to rest. The lyrics are sung by a twenty-something girl (Marta) as she drinks in the sights and sounds of Manahattan, noting that the people keep pouring in by bus, train and airplane. Everyone comes looking for a dream, but instead struggles to find a mere connection with someone...anyone! As the piece progresses, the intensity grows and it almost feels as though Marta is having a nervous breakdown, even as she celebrates the city for its crowds, filth, graffiti, and its isolating nature. New York must be wonderful or why would so many people keep coming in droves? Marta tries to come to terms with this contradiction, but ultimately is just overcome by the floods of new arrivals as she repeats the song's title again and again. The song packs in so much both emotionally and musically, it demands repeated listening to get its full effect. This is Sondheim at his sharpest and most astute, summing up the human condition in a mere two and a half minutes.