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Original Parallels article from 2000 
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Young Hoofer
Young Hoofer

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Post Original Parallels article from 2000
I can't believe that in a matter of hours after finding this forum, I've tracked my ten-year-old piece down again. I'm going to paste it here in its entirety, both to make it accessible again, and to spark new discussions. I've matured as a writer since then (writing it today, I probably would have had all sorts of references to "F minor opening" and the like), but I'm surprisingly not embarrassed by something I did ten years ago.

Reading over it, I realize that I would be quite happy with even a return to the 1997 version, but for me, it is the 1987-1997 version that is the "one true version." It is "Les Mis." Incidentally, the run time on the US tour is listed as 2 hr. 50 min., so that's not a good sign. Anyway, the article... I only removed my decade-old bio.

Tracking the musical parallels and motifs in Les Misérables
by Kelly Dean Hansen
Article © 2000 Kelly Dean Hansen

This article first appeared in an earlier form as a series of posts at the official Les Misérables site's Le Café discussion forum.
As a musicologist who happens to love Les Mis, I have spent time analyzing the music of the show, specifically the recurrence of various themes and motifs known as "parallels." I have also tried to determine the meaning of these recurrences in some cases. To my surprise, it is the exception rather than the rule for musical themes not to be repeated. In fact, most of them are. The technique is so pervasive that it approaches the method used by Wagner when he introduced "Leitmotifs" into his operas. Hopefully this chart and analysis will help people to better appreciate the compositional process used in the musical. The analysis is largely based on the Complete Symphonic Recording, the only recording that reproduces the entire score. As a result, changes from 1997 may not be reflected.

Prologue

1. Prisoner's Work Song - This is of course one of the most important thematic and symbolic tunes in the score. It reappears in the first Paris scene as "Look Down," and in the first half of "The Confrontation." There is a more martial version of it associated with the students in Act II. It appears in numerous other places that will be mentioned as they occur.

2. Valjean's interview with Javert - This reappears in the second half of "The Confrontation" (the counterpoint passage) and the final meeting between the two before the suicide.

3. Valjean: "Freedom is mine..." - this is accompanied by music from "I Dreamed a Dream."

4. Valjean at the farm and the inn - This is the first appearance of the characteristic jumpy recitative-like music that is used throughout the musical. I will refer to this material as "recit." There is also the appearance of a rising theme that is only sung by Valjean and only in Act I at "Another door is closed to me" and "And now I know how freedom feels." This rising theme is usually sung in soliloquy and is similar to recitative. It occurs at other places in Act I that will be noted.

5. The Bishop's music - This is used as the basis for "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables," much later in the show.

6. Valjean's arrest - The first appearance of a very important motif, the "police music," that becomes most closely associated with Javert. It usually includes what I call the "responding phrase," a rising melody that is often sung by the accused or the addressed. In this first case with the constables, the "responding phrase" is sung by the bishop. There follows more of the bishop's music (anticipating "Empty Chairs.")

7. Valjean's soliloquy - An exact parallel to Javert's suicide, containing the same music and many corresponding text passages.

Act I

1. First appearance of the four-note descending figure that is so characteristic of much of the musical. This four-note figure usually signifies change or the passage of time.

2. "At the End of the Day" - This is not heavily reused, but portions of the song appear in the confrontation between Fantine and Bamatabois. "Fantine's arrest" before the arrival of Javert is based on "At the End of the Day." It is also used in "The Runaway Cart," but never shows up again after that.

3. "I Dreamed a Dream" - This is one of three melodies that I call "the sublime melodies." It recurs very frequently. Some places are: the very end of "The Confrontation"; before "The Bargain" when Valjean finds Cosette; extremely heavy and triumphant use in "One Day More," used by Marius, Cosette, Eponine, and all of the students.

4. "Lovely Ladies" - the main music appears, greatly altered, as "Turning." Fantine's transactions for her locket and her hair are to the recit. music.

5. Fantine's arrest - The first part is recitative, and then it is based on "At the End of the Day."; The "police music" is used at Javert's arrival - the responding phrase is sung by Bamatabois. Valjean's arrival uses the characteristic Act I "rising theme" from the prologue. Finally, his interview with Fantine is the first appearance of the introductory music to her death.

6. The Runaway Cart - New recit. followed by music from "At the End of the Day." Javert then sings to the "police music" and Valjean to the "rising theme" from the prologue. I should mention that in the montage of the rescue, after some "heroic" music that is not heard elsewhere, the familiar recit. is done in an instrumental version that is completed by Fauchelevent's only line.

7. "Who am I?" - This song is mostly based on new material. It is the first song to make extensive use of the descending four-note figure. It is the most prominent tune in "One Day More" and it also appears in "Valjean's Confession" to Marius. The introductory material is used by Valjean when Eponine delivers Marius' letter to Cosette.

8. "Come to Me" (Fantine's Death) - The introductory music, "Cosette, it's turned so cold..." is not used in "On My Own." It appeared at the end of Fantine's arrest and is also very prominent in the final scene at Valjean's death. The main music is the sublime melody which recurs so memorably as "On My Own" and in the final scene.

9. The Confrontation - This is largely music from the Prologue's "Work Song" and the first Javert/Valjean interview. Curiously the "police music" is not used, probably because it is a more personal scene, while the "police music" is more public.

10. "Castle on a Cloud" - This is an entirely new song at this point. The most impressive reuse comes between Valjean and Cosette after Thénardier's aborted attack right before "One Day More." It is briefly used as the "travel music" right before "The Bargain". A wistful remembrance of the tune at the end of "Dawn of Anguish" was ruthlessly and inexplicably cut in the 1997 revisions.

11. Mme. Thénardier's arrival - This is largely the familiar recit., but at the end as intensity grows it has affinity to "At the End of the Day." Cosette of course sings some "Castle on a Cloud" fragments.

12. "Master of the House" - almost an entirely self-contained song. The introductory material and the main song are entirely new, and the only two reuses are an exact quotation of part of the music as "Beggar at the Feast" and of course in "One Day More." The waltz music is much more common as a motif for the Thénardiers. This song is largely a set piece, but a very impressive one.

13. "The Bargain" (before the Waltz) - Valjean comes to the tavern with Cosette singing "travel" music to "Castle on a Cloud" on La La La syllables. I understand that Valjean's new music added for the 10th anniversary changes when meeting her ("Hush now/Do not be afraid of me...") is the same as his counterpoint in this travel music. As he enters the tavern he sings the "rising figure" for the last time to "I found her wandering in the woods." He then sings to the "I Dreamed a Dream" music (appropriate as he is referring to Fantine) with interjections from the Thénardiers.

14. The Waltz of Treachery - It is associated with the Thénardiers when both of them are on stage; it is never used when Thénardier appears without his wife ("The Rue Plumet Attack" and "Dog Eat Dog"). I believe it appears on all occasions where they are together and becomes their main motivic representation. It is the only major theme of the musical in 3/4 time.

15. Transition to Paris 1832 - This was greatly altered in the 1997 revisions. Valjean and Cosette still sing to the waltz music, but the "travel" music is not reprised, and the waltz theme builds up intensity rather than drawing itself out, as before. Whether these are improvements is a topic I won't embark upon, but I miss the return of the "La la la" travel music...

16. Paris 1832 - "Look Down" - This of course uses the same material as the opening prisoner's chorus, but with much new material. Gavroche is the first to sing a melody that will later become associated with Eponine. The exchange between the crone and the young prostitute is new material, not used again, except when the beggars sing "see our children fed" shortly thereafter. Marius and Enjolras enter to the tune Gavroche sang before. As this becomes a tune associated with Eponine, I will call it "Eponine theme 1." After Marius and Enjolras discuss Lamarque, still to this music, Gavroche takes the theme again.

17. The Robbery - This is carried forward with a recitative-like material having an accompaniment of heavy repeated notes. It is interrupted by Marius and Eponine singing to "Eponine theme 1." This theme is primarily used from here on when Eponine interacts with Marius. The robbery music returns, and then comes...

18. One of the most dramatic uses of the four-note figure as Marius bumps into Cosette. This is, in my opinion, one of the greatest moments of genius in the score. What could be banal and trite is just subtle enough to work. "I didn't see you there, forgive me," by the way, is "I Dreamed a Dream" music. [Ed: Perhaps this subtly reinforces the immediate connection between Marius and Cosette by having Marius sing to a theme associated with Cosette's mother.]

19. Thénardier sings to the waltz theme as he attempts to rob Valjean. It builds intensity until...

20. Javert's arrival - this sounds new, but is really a variation of the "police music," as is confirmed with "Look upon this fine collection..." which is sung to what I have termed the "responding" phrase of the police music. Thénardier, appropriately, sings this responding phrase twice. The "police" music dominates until Javert is alone onstage.

21. "Stars" - This wonderful song is really an isolated number, one of three notable songs that were late additions (the others are in Act II, "Bring Him Home" and "Dog Eat Dog"). One would expect it to be associated with Javert all the time, but he is more often associated with the "police" music. This is actually very effective, as when material from "Stars" does return, at the end of the suicide, its effect is undeniable. After "Stars," Gavroche mocks Javert with - the police music! [Ed: Notably, "Stars," "Bring Him Home" and "Dog Eat Dog" are all private, highly personal expressions of each character's view of God. As such, it makes dramatic sense that the musical themes of these songs only recurs rarely and at critical moments such as the character's death.]

22. Eponine's Errand - This is the introduction of "Eponine theme 2." It has two parts. The first is the material starting with the a capella "Cosette; now I remember..." The second part begins with Marius' "Eponine, who was that girl..." I could call them two separate themes, but they usually occur together, and are used with great effectiveness when Eponine is on the barricade. The segment ends with a preview of "A Little Fall of Rain," which I term "Eponine theme 3."

23. The ABC Café - The students have several themes. The first I'll call the "organization theme," or "student theme 1," with which this scene begins. Tunes in the song itself are: first, the music with which the main portion of the song begins to "The time is near..." This music recurs at the end of the song with "Lamarque is dead..."; second, the music sung at "Marius, you're late..." and later by Enjolras at "Marius, you're no longer a child."; third, the tune sung by Enjolras at "It is time for us all to decide..." and by Marius at "Had you been there tonight..." These three elements are largely confined to this scene alone, except for the first, "The time is near..." which is alluded to on the barricade and becomes what I will later term "student theme 3." Before Enjolras' "Lamarque is dead...," the "organization theme," or "student theme 1" returns. This," the chorus (refrain) of "Red and Black," and some new themes become characteristic of the barricade scenes.

24. "Do You Hear the People Sing" - Carefully reserved until now and invariably effective, this the third of the truly "sublime" melodies. It is one of B&S's most wonderful inspirations, and although it is a simple march tune, it is masterfully constructed. The verse parts beginning in minor add effective contrast. In the show, the song does not come to a final cadence, but moves directly into "In My Life." In fact, the song never does come to a clear close until the end of the musical, which I find highly effective. It is perhaps the main theme in the barricades and is so important that I will not degrade it by calling it a "student theme."

25. "In My Life" - As Act I nears its close, interest is maintained by the introduction of much new music. The entire Rue Plumet sequence is to new music. "In My Life" is largely self-contained. The music sung by Marius, Cosette, and Eponine doesn't return. One portion does return, that sung by Valjean to Cosette: "Dear Cosette, you're such a lovely child..." It appears, effectively, when Valjean releases Javert at "You are wrong, and always have been wrong..."

26. "A Heart Full of Love" - the love music returns later on after Marius is rescued, with the masterful stroke of giving Eponine's interjections to Valjean. "He was never mine to keep" becomes "She was never mine to lose."

27. The Attack on Rue Plumet - basically all new material, although there is some affinity to the earlier "robbery" music and perhaps the variation of the "police music" used by Javert in that earlier scene, which also used the rapid repeated notes used by Thénardier here. Notice that Mme. Thénardier is not present and the waltz theme is not used! There is repetition within the scene, with Marius singing music that had been used by Thénardier and his gang. The actual music to the attack does not appear again, however.

28. Transition to the Finale of Act I - Here we finally return to familiar music to round out the act. First comes the old recit., with "My God, Cosette..." Then we finally hear "Castle on a Cloud" again, but Cosette starts with the second strain of that song with "That was my cry you heard, Papa." ("There is a lady all in white.") The main COAC music comes with "Three men I saw beyond the wall." "Must be Javert" is recit. again. It's been a while since we've heard the recitative music, and it seems rather refreshing here. One very curious recurrence is a "Red and Black" reference right before the beginning of the finale. [Ed: Perhaps this is a musical foreshadowing that the students' plot will dominate much of Act II.]

29. "One Day More" - The tour de force of the counterpoint of previous themes in this finale should not be underestimated. It is a supreme accomplishment; personally, I find it the most impressive structure of the entire musical.

The main thread is the oh so useful four-note figure. The two main themes of the finale are "Who am I?" used of course by Valjean, and "I Dreamed a Dream," used by Marius, Cosette, Eponine, and the students. This is a very radical and masterful transformation of that song from when Fantine sang it, particularly when it reaches its exhilarating climax, predictably, with the words "Do You Hear the People Sing?" "Who am I?" and the four-note figure are very skillfully woven into the "I Dreamed a Dream" fabric, and it is hard to tell which element really dominates, although I think it is "Who am I?" because of the steady presence of the four-note figure.

To add to this, we also have Javert singing to a version of the "police music" and the Thénardiers with their "Master of the House" interjections. The culmination, of course, is to the "Who am I?" music. This is a perfectly assembled, unbelievably integrated ensemble number that is a miracle of its kind, in my opinion, especially when everybody sings in counterpoint and then comes together.


Act II

The barricade scenes comprising much of Act 2 are among the richest in motifs, but also difficult to trace. I think I have worked it out to the best of my ability.

1. At the Barricade - The act begins with what I will call the "student" version of the opening of the musical. It is slightly more martial in character (more brass and winds) than what we hear in the "Look Down" scenes, but the music is largely the same. This is followed by a "busy" sounding fragment of "Do You Hear the People Sing." Then comes the first appearance of one of two fanfares used during the barricade scenes. I will call it "Fanfare I." It is based on student theme 1, or the "organization theme." The students sing to a new theme that is related to what Enjolras sang at the beginning and end of "The ABC Café." The music takes a different turn at Javert's words "I can find out the truth..." I will call both parts of this "student theme 3." At Eponine's entrance we have "Eponine theme 1" (the tune originally sung by Gavroche in "Look Down"). This theme continues until Eponine leaves the barricade.

2. At the Rue Plumet - When Eponine meets Valjean, the music is from "Who am I?" (actually the introduction to the main song that Valjean sang back then). Compare "I have a letter..." with "I am the master of hundreds of workers..." Valjean reads the letter to new music, but it shows up again at the end of his confession to Marius. This parallel seems highly appropriate. It was actually heard earlier during the bargain with the Thénardiers. ("Your feelings do you credit sir...")

3. "On My Own" - What really needs to be said? The introduction is new and is used neither at Fantine's death nor in the final scene, where different music is used ("Cosette, it's grown so cold...") I think that this song is the high emotional point of the show. It is exactly the same music as "Fantine's Death" (the main part anyway) but it distinguishes itself from that and from the Finale by its splendid climax, perhaps the finest in the show. It is partly due to this wonderful climax that Eponine is such a coveted role. At the analogous point earlier, Fantine dies, so it trails off - no climax. In the Finale, it also trails off at this point leading into the final reprise of "Do You Hear the People Sing?" Here, the music is allowed to build to awesome heights. Is there anybody for whom chills up the spine are absent for "The world is full of happiness that I have never KNOWN!!" And then, how beautiful the restraint of the closing after this glorious climaac. A waif in rags on a bare stage and such an impact. Marvelous. Yes, sublime.

4. Building the Barricade - The second barricade scene begins with the "Look Down" music again, a bit more intense this time; then the chorus of "Red and Black" (student theme 2) in an instrumental version. Then comes student theme 3 again, the second part of which is now also clearly from Enjolras' music from "The ABC Café," as is the first part; it wasn't as recognizable when Javert sang it. Then comes the first entrance of the second fanfare, which is used before the army officer calls to the students at the barricade. This officer sings what I term the "students' fate" theme. This is followed by the chorus of "Damn their warnings; Damn their lies," etc., to the "Red and Black" refrain (student theme 2).

5. Javert's arrival - Javert enters to a repeated-note recitative that seems to be new. I term Enjolras' response "Have faith..." student theme 4 because we do hear it again. Javert's response, "I have overheard their plans..." I will call student theme 5, as Enjolras sings both of these tunes once more, but not together. Both of these "themes" (4 and 5) are quite ephemeral, and I almost hesitate to label them, but I do it for the sake of completeness. Theme 4 is heard when Enjolras thanks Valjean for his service, and theme 5 right before "Drink With Me."

6. "Little People" - I don't think anybody really misses the longer original London version, which was really a rather silly little song. The abridged version used here works perfectly for Gavroche when he exposes Javert. We don't even have to know that the original included a flea biting the bottom of the pope in Rome. Anyway, we hear "Little People" again, of course, at Gavroche's death. After the song, a bit of recitative ("Bravo, little Gavroche...") leads to the "police music." This is rather ironic, as the tables are now turned on Javert. Significantly, this time he sings the "responding phrase," as he is on the other end. This ironic use of the "police music" is really quite effective.

7. "A Little Fall of Rain" - First we hear "Eponine theme 2" with both of its strains in their entirety sung by Marius and Eponine. Then comes the fulfilment of "Eponine theme 3." I'm not sure why, but I'm moved to tears more by this scene than any other except for maybe Gavroche getting shot, which is almost too much to take. Although "A Heart Full of Love" is a fine duet, I think that this is the real love duet of the show. It's one-sided, but that's the beauty of it. With Eponine's death, her themes die as well, confirming their association with her. The students memorialize Eponine to the strains of the repeated note recitative that will return as "Dawn of Anguish."

Originally, her body was carried away to "Drink With Me" music which appeared before the song itself. In the revisions of 1997, this was changed to more of "A Little Fall of Rain." This is one of the few changes I really liked. The "preview" of "Drink With Me" didn't make much sense in the context, and lessened the effect of "Dawn of Anguish," because with the preceding repeated notes it was really an exact duplication of the music for that scene.

8. Valjean's arrival; Night of Anguish; First Attack - Valjean arrives to sequential recitative-like music which is later used when he asks to be able to "take care" of Javert. Before the first attack, the first fanfare, based on student theme 1 is heard, and the attack itself is accompanied by "Do You Hear the People Sing?" The ensuing dialogue between Valjean and Enjolras is a version of what I have termed "student theme 4," and then follows the sequential recitative from before the attack. When Valjean and Javert meet, it is the old recit. music beginning with "We meet again!" Javert sings to what appears to be derived from the "police music" at "Once a thief, forever a thief..." His phrases are similar to the end of the soliloquy music as well, such as "I'll escape now from that world..." At "You are wrong, and always have been wrong," the music is from "In My Life" ("Dear Cosette, you're such a lonely child..."), but the last few lines are similar to what was heard when Valjean read Marius' letter. This is another subtle, easy to miss theme sung only by Valjean and, at the confession, Marius. The tag sung by Enjolras after the "execution" is "student theme 5" ("Courfeyrac, you take the watch," earlier sung by Javert: "I have overheard their plans..." Symbolic, as Javert has just been "executed?"). Valjean's last words to Javert sound suspiciously like his interjections to the Thénardiers during "The Bargain."

9. "Drink With Me" - This is the first real "song" since "A Little Fall of Rain." It seems desperately needed at this point. The opening chords are, curiously, what is heard before Valjean's and Javert's soliloquies. "Drink With Me" returns, of course, in "Dawn of Anguish."

10. "Bring Him Home" - This is a largely falsetto aria for Valjean. It is unbelievably similar to the "Humming Chorus" from Puccini's Madama Butterfly. This is really the last major new tune to be introduced, and it shows up in its entirety as an instrumental piece during the tableau following the fall of the barricade, and also makes an appearance in the final scene.

11. "Dawn of Anguish" - This was originally identical to what was sung when Eponine was carried off, but then the "Drink With Me" fragment was replaced in the earlier music. The "Castle on a Cloud" fragment was really wistful and nostalgic here, and it is a real shame it was removed. (A chapter about Cosette at this point in the book makes it appropriate, too!)

12. Death of Gavroche - At this point of the show, I'm emotionally drained, but this still always brings an unbelievable lump to my throat. The "second" fanfare is now heard again, and a bit of "Do You Hear the People Sing" for the second attack; this is followed by the "organization" student theme 1, and then more DYHTPS fragments before Gavroche takes off to gather bullets. Who would have thought that the originally rather frivolous "Little People" could be used to such shatteringly tragic effect?

13. The Final Battle - The "martial" version of the "Look Down" music is heard, followed by the second fanfare. The army officer again sings the "students' fate" theme, which is taken up by the students, who now know their fate themselves...DYHTPS fragments are heard as everybody is killed. Then follows the last appearance of the first fanfare and the final appearance of the "Red and Black" chorus (student theme 2), this time as a dirge. This culminates on a large dissonant chord.

14. Orchestral interlude - The entirety of "Bring Him Home" is reprised in an orchestral version. This accompanies the final view of the barricade, Javert's search, and Valjean's descent into the sewer with Marius. Thus end the barricade scenes, by far the most difficult ones in which to trace themes and motifs!

[Comment by Lindsey, webmaster of the excellent Rue Plumet site: One of my favorite uses of motifs in the show is during this orchestral interlude. Not only is "Bring Him Home" reprised, but a reprise of "Stars" overlaps it. The musical representation is brilliant - without even seeing what's happening on stage, we know that Valjean and Javert's paths are crossing again and where their motivation lies. Follow-up note by Kelly Dean Hansen: That's an interesting thing I missed. The "Stars" reprise refers to the prominent French Horn entrance at the end of the interlude that is to the tune of "Keeping watch in the night".]

15. The Sewers - "Dog Eat Dog" - I really think that this, and not "Master of the House" is the chance for the actor playing Thénardier to really shine. It is a credo of sorts - a credo of nihilism. The music, of course, is new, and while I don't call it a major theme, it really packs an impact if there is a Thénardier who wants to be more than a comic figure. It doesn't show up again, but segues into "Look Down" music as he escapes and Valjean emerges from the sewer. Like "Stars" and "Bring Him Home," it is a soliloquy-like song introduced to further define the character. The other two songs appear at their respective character's deaths. There is no place for a nostalgic return of this nihilistic song, though.

16. The encounter with Javert - What a great dramatic moment! The music is very old, from the first prisoners' chorus and Valjean's first interview with Javert, as well as "The Confrontation." The "Look Down" music occurs before the suicide, as Javert lets Valjean go. This music is great to hear again after all this time, and of course it is appropriate.

17. Javert's suicide - As the musical nears its end, a large number of themes from very early scenes begin to appear again. The barricade is gone, and so are most of the students' themes (DYHTPS excepted). Eponine's themes are gone. It's time to come back to familiar territory from a long time ago. We've seen the begining of this in Valjean's encounter with Javert carrying the lifeless Marius, and continues with the suicide. Out of all of the parallels, this is the most perfectly analogous of them all, with both text and music. Of course, it's the same music as in Valjean's "What have I done?" The lyrics of the two soliloquies have amazing parallels that sound incredibly natural in both places. The suicide has a tag of the "Stars" music, the only time we hear a reference to that song after Javert sings it, and I think that this is a really good way to use it.

18. "Turning" - The pattern of reprising music from early in the show continues with this radical transformation of "Lovely Ladies." Before, it talked of fallen girls. Now it talks of fallen boys.

19. "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables" - The long string of musical reprises from early on continues here. This is the most surprising of all reprises and parallels. It is the music originally sung by the Bishop. It's hard to see any connection between the Bishop and Marius' tribute to his fallen friends, but it is satisfying to hear this forgotten and poignant music again after such a long time. Marius, of course, adds some material to what the Bishop originally sang, but it is basically the same.

20. "Every Day" (Reprise of "A Heart Full of Love") The introductory music is new. Cosette and Marius sing their original music, but Eponine's lines are skillfully given to Valjean, and there is the textual parallel I mentioned before.

21. Valjean's Confession - The "letter" music returns, and here it is sung by Marius. He sings it first as he offers Valjean a home. Valjean, of course, sings to "Who am I?" complete with the four-note figure, but with new introductory material. The scene ends with the "letter music" again.

22. The Wedding - The chorale isn't anything really special, but it does make an effectively subtle reappearance in the final scene. It merges, of course, into the long absent waltz music. I don't really care that the musical writers kept the Thénardiers alive when Hugo killed Madame Thénardier. It makes a unified motif with the waltz only appearing when the couple appears together. Marius' interjection about Eponine is the same material as Valjean's interjections when the waltz was first heard, as are the other sections of near recitative. This is the last we hear of the waltz music. [Ed: MIDI file includes "Empty chairs at empty tables", "The Wedding" and "Beggars at the feast"]

23. Beggar at the Feast - A surprising return of "Master of the House," which seemed like an isolated set piece, to new words of course. The reprise here consists of one verse and chorus of the song. [Ed: MIDI file includes "Empty chairs at empty tables", "The Wedding" and "Beggars at the feast"]

24. Final Scene - New music!!! - and surprisingly so, with "Alone, I wait in the shadows..." The rising phrase "And show them grace" is derived from "I Dreamed a Dream."

Then comes the final reprise of "Bring Him Home," and this is followed by the final iteration of the "sublime melody." Here it is closer to its guise in Fantine's death than to "On My Own," but significantly, both characters who sing the glorious tune appear here. Fantine even sings her original introductory material - originally "Cosette, it's grown so cold...", now "Monsieur, I bless your name." Valjean's interjections are similar to what they were when Fantine sang this material at her arrest, but look at the contrast in context! A wisp of the Wedding Chorale is played as Marius and Cosette arrive, singing to what turns out to be the last new material.

Finally, we get the last reprise of the sublime melody, which dominates until the end. At "Come with me, where chains will never bind you..." it becomes almost transfigured. Where Eponine had come to her intense climax, the music fades into a wisp at the clinching "To love another person is to see the face of God." It merges into the final chorus of the other "sublime" melody, "Do You Hear the People Sing?" As I said before, the very end of the show is the only time this wonderful song comes to a full, final cadence, and what a cadence it is!
Although it is certainly possible to thoroughly enjoy this masterpiece of musical theater without noticing all of these connections in the music, I find that it greatly enhances the experience to realize where they occur. For me, it was satisfying to hear "In My Life" music when Javert was released by Valjean and to realize where it came from. Hopefully my work here will be of use to serious Les Mis fans and help them to realize what a carefully constructed masterpiece it really is.


Mon Nov 15, 2010 8:24 am
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Post Re: Original Parallels article from 2000
Thanks for sharing! It's really interesting to see the music actually analysed thematically.


Tue Nov 16, 2010 1:13 am
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Post Re: Original Parallels article from 2000
As I read along, parts of this started to become familiar. It's possible I did read it when it was originally posted at Le Cafe. Come to think of it, my interest in this musical took a nosedive shortly after I fulfilled my dream of seeing it on Broadway in '97 (a LOT of major changes/developments in my life came about during that time) to about 1999. Interest began to pick up again when the 3rd national tour held an extended Los Angeles engagement from December, 1999 to February, 2000. It was at that point that I resumed posting at Le Cafe. I definitely recall posting a review there of the last two times I saw it on Broadway, which was in August, 2002 and January, 2003.

Sorry about that. I'm obsessive about details, hehe.

At any rate, the '87 version preserved on the CSR is the best to me, as well. Although I'm perfectly OK with the '97 orchestrations, I wasn't too thrilled with the minor cuts to the material but the addition of the well scene made up for that. It wasn't until the overtime cuts that it really began to bother me.

I agree that the worst is the butchery to "Come to Me" and the COAC reprise at the barricade. The cuts to "In My life," "Master of the House," the oboe solo, and the shortened instrumental to "On My Own" were awful too. Nothing will top the absolutely ridiculously sped-up tempo though.


hansenkd wrote:
1. Prisoner's Work Song - This is of course one of the most important thematic and symbolic tunes in the score. It reappears in the first Paris scene as "Look Down," and in the first half of "The Confrontation." There is a more martial version of it associated with the students in Act II. It appears in numerous other places that will be mentioned as they occur.


This is the one scene where I feel the sounds from the DX-7 became iconic and the only thing I disliked about the '97 orchestral changes. The orchestration itself was left untouched and the updated keyboard patches sounded beautiful everywhere else but I really missed the old 'growling' synth at the top of the show (and at the confrontation, "Look Down," and final face-off). I thought the change was permanent and I was truly elated when they brought it back shortly after the show closed on Broadway. The DX-7 sounds (or ones that sound pretty much identical to them) are currently still in use in the London production and I can't tell you how awesome it was to see the show there this past September; there is something almost magical about hearing those iconic sounds played right there while watching the show live.

Also, interestingly, that 'growling' synth sound is used as a mini Eponine theme of sorts. It makes an appearance as she sings "Every word that he says is a dagger in me" but doesn't really stand out until she reaches "...anywhere. Where he is. If he asked, I'd be his" at which point it trails off into a "prettier" and not quite as harsh, brief three-note melody evoking a bittersweetness. It then makes a notable appearance during the second half of "On My Own" (beginning at "And I know it's only in my mind" and ending at "there's a way for us").

I know some people think that specific synth sound dates the show. Personally, I love it and it's one of those distinctly "Les Mis" things, if you know what I mean.


hansenkd wrote:
3. Valjean: "Freedom is mine..." - this is accompanied by music from "I Dreamed a Dream."


Isn't it to the melody of "On My Own"? I always interpreted the melody's use only during moments involving Valjean, Fantine, and Eponine as a subtle unification of the three, which cumulates at the finale to the same melody.

Although I do definitely hear shadings of a IDAD in Valjean's vocal line.

Wow! There is so much to comment on but it's nearly 3:30 a.m. and I've got to drag myself out of bed early. I'll leave the rest of my response for tomorrow.

This has been an extremely interesting read and I enjoyed it immensely. To have a post of this length about something related to the music/composition of the score--an area I feel is generally not discussed enough in the fandom--is truly exciting.

Thank you so much!

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Tue Nov 16, 2010 4:33 am
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Young Hoofer
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Post Re: Original Parallels article from 2000
Quique wrote:

hansenkd wrote:
3. Valjean: "Freedom is mine..." - this is accompanied by music from "I Dreamed a Dream."


Isn't it to the melody of "On My Own"? I always interpreted the melody's use only during moments involving Valjean, Fantine, and Eponine as a subtle unification of the three, which cumulates at the finale to the same melody.

Although I do definitely hear shadings of a IDAD in Valjean's vocal line.


Yes, it is "On My Own." An obvious error that nobody ever caught. I wonder if I just mistyped it. The dirty secret is that I really composed this quite rapidly, almost on the fly, directly into the message boxes at Le Cafe. I did do some revisions, but obviously missed this symbolically significant mistake. Obviously I was focusing more on themes and motifs than I was on instrumentation, but it is interesting that the oboe is used here. It's also used in the intro. to "On My Own," and of course it is later associated with the lead character's most Messianic moment...

Quique wrote:
This has been an extremely interesting read and I enjoyed it immensely. To have a post of this length about something related to the music/composition of the score--an area I feel is generally not discussed enough in the fandom--is truly exciting.

Thank you so much!


Thank you! I greatly appreciate it. I'm just so grateful that I was able to unearth it again, as I thought it was lost forever. In light of the cuts, much of the analysis is ruined, of course. Regarding the cut of the COAC reminiscence at the barricade...I remember reading something about people not understanding what the hell it was doing there in the first place, how it seemed out of place. It's not out of place if you READ THE BOOK! I never, ever warmed to the new transition to "Look Down". And I agree with you. I'd have preferred for them to have just closed the show in 2000/2001 and never have instated the cuts. The run only went a couple more years anyway, after all. The problem is that the cuts became permanent with any and all later revivals and tours. Had they never been made for the sake of overtime, that might not have been the case. And the TAC is an excuse. Obviously a concert version is going to be different from a stage version. And, as has been said, I also really hate the orchestral cuts. Imagine if they cut the huge interlude between the scenes of Act II in Madama Butterfly. Some of the best music in the opera, and Puccini wasn't exactly known for writing purely orchestral music. Or, hey, how about this! Let's cut "Siegfried's Rhine Journey" and "Siegfried's Death," both HUGE orchestral passages that are the most iconic sections of the score, from Götterdämmerung! I feel the same way about the oboe solo reprise (with horn counterpoint on "Stars") of "Bring Him Home." It's ham-fisted, and it shows a lack of understanding. I wonder if Boublil and Schönberg only went along with it because they had no choice. And I wonder if any of the PTB ever come read stuff at places like this.

You know, when you really think about it, the orchestral musicians actually deserved the damn overtime anyway. Not only did they lose that income, they eventually lost many of their shining moments.

There IS, however, one lyric change that I would make permanent in all productions. I would remove all the "Jesus" profanities from "MOTH," as they do in the school version. Yes, the rhymes are clever, and yes, he is a profane man, but we get the idea, and it's made explicit in "Dog Eat Dog." The reason I would remove them is audience alienation. I have been personally acquainted with several people who soured on the whole show because these profanities offended them so. It's not just that they're there. It's that they are ejaculated with such gusto that it really is blasphemy and people really are sensitive to that. Many parents who would otherwise take their age-appropriate kids to see Les Mis, particularly practicing Christians, do not do so because they are there. I know that this is true. I would remove them for good. Nothing would be lost.


Tue Nov 16, 2010 7:00 am
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Post Re: Original Parallels article from 2000
First round of cuts was tolerable, as you said. Anything after just messed with tempos and that delicate timing in "Come to Me" and "What Have I Done?" Thankfully, despite everything that has been cut, I still found myself immensely enjoying the show in London back in September. Not that I didn't notice the alterations but they at least tamed what seemed like a race to the finale a couple of years ago.

I often focus on the the instrumentation, yes, and I apologize if my response was off-topic. I should have made it clear that I was discussing something related but different. It totally seems as if I'm claiming the authors intended a second or two of grunge sounds to = an Eponine theme! LOL. I've had no formal music lessons or training (I've got one heck of a pair of musical ears though :D) and my word choice reflects that...sometimes. :oops:

I come from a pretty religious family but still find it difficult to relate to your feelings on the use of "Jesus" profanities within the show. Their use isn't at all important to me and their removal would only concern me if the new lyrics turned out to sound like rubbish. However, we all have our own ideal version of the show in mind and I respect the reasoning behind yours. I can't help but wonder why those [in my humble opinion] brief instances of understandable use of profanities take precedence over the much more prominent Christian themes the show is packed with? Do people feel the profanities reflect the authors' intentions and motivations?

Would "Dog Eats Dog" need to be removed or altered as well? What about "Lovely Ladies"? I hope this doesn't seem like an interrogation, heh. Not my intention and you don't have to respond if you don't want to.

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Wed Nov 17, 2010 2:38 am
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Post Re: Original Parallels article from 2000
Quique, why would you apologize for anything? I certainly don't mind discussing instrumentation--it's a major aspect of the musical fabric after all, and I love noting things like a possibly symbolic use of the oboe, as I did above. I was just noting that the focus of the article was on actual musical substance rather than its orchestral clothing, but discussion of one only enhances discussion of the other, don't you think?

The reason I think the "Jesus" profanities are more offensive than anything in the show is that uttering the Lord's name in vain--and doing it with such verve and gusto--really is intensely shocking and disturbing to a lot of people. Again, it's the WAY the name is uttered that really takes one aback. This is blasphemy, and yes, I realize that it's Thénardier blaspheming and not the authors, but for sensitive ears, it can really be jarring--especially how many times it is repeated.

Nothing else you cite would conceivably constitute blasphemy. "Dog Eat Dog" is nihilistic, not blasphemous, and the worst thing he says there is essentially a quote of Nietzsche. Denying the existence of God is somehow not as offensive as mocking the name of God, if you know what I mean. "Lovely Ladies" is vulgar, but not profane. That's the difference. Even the school edition keeps a lot of the innuendo in "Lovely Ladies," but it removes the "Jesus" utterances. And we really don't need them to understand Thénardier's character. It's crystal clear, and "Dog Eat Dog" makes it even more so. I just know that the frequent repetitions at the clinching lines of stanzas in the song, and the exuberant way in which they are uttered, make a great many listeners uncomfortable. I have first hand experience with that in introducing certain people to the music of the show. For most, the redemptive themes far outweigh the profanity, but it still causes discomfort.

Who knows? Maybe one reason I like the German version of this song so much (my favorite on the entire Vienna recording), is that it only contains one of them. Weirdly, the rhyme it uses is the one for "Beggars at the Feast." (Croesus=Krösus")


Wed Nov 17, 2010 7:06 am
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Post Re: Original Parallels article from 2000
B4 I finish reading it [or b4 it disappears due to technical glitches], I will save a copy of this very detailed assessment.

Another good piece [on symmetry] has gone missing after recent updating, I believe.

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Wed Nov 17, 2010 9:50 am
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Post Re: Original Parallels article from 2000
I understand what you mean about MOTH being offensive, but in my mind it is only one of the points of blasphemy in the show (consider in AHFOL, Marius' line "Oh G_d, for shame, I do not even know your name", and the whore's line "G_d I'm weary, sick enough to drop"), and therefore doesn't put me off the play. In fact I actually find Dog eats Dog more offensive (when I am listening and singing along those lines always make me cringe and I don't sing along with them), but I understand that it is the viewpoint of a particular character and accept as part of the story.

The problem is if you refuse to go and see anything that has blasphemy in, there are very few works which fit this criteria, which the whole world seems to accept as a common part of language and not as a swear word. I find the argument that parents won't take their kids to see LM because it has blasphemy a very poor one, as they are therefore providing a very narrow range of entertainment for their children, unless they use different criteria to judge separate works. I would just let them know that what Thenardier says is not OK if the issue is brought up, but I can't see a more effective way of showing what Thenardier is like.


Wed Nov 17, 2010 11:23 am
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Young Hoofer
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Post Re: Original Parallels article from 2000
Again, I find the "Jesus" examples worse than the ones you cite for several reasons. They are interjected violently and, essentially, as epithets. The other examples really are not, especially the AHFOL one. They are repeated over and over again. And the school edition doesn't edit things like your examples. It does edit out the "Jesus" interjections. There's a reason for that. Generally, uttering "Jesus!" as an interjection is considered more offensive than uttering "God" as a passing word of emphasis...


Wed Nov 17, 2010 1:46 pm
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Post Re: Original Parallels article from 2000
I'm not saying they're not more offensive (since there are so many cases and much emphasis in the one song), just that you can't have a sliding scale of blasphemousness. It is either blasphemy or not, and all the cases I cited above are blasphemy. It is hypocritical to condemn MOTH for blasphemy and not to do so in any of the other cases.


Wed Nov 17, 2010 5:59 pm
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Young Hoofer
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Post Re: Original Parallels article from 2000
I'm just saying that if I were to choose lyric to permanently edit, that would be it, for the reasons I give. They may not be more "blasphemous," but they're more jarring and disturbing.

Now, would love to get back to discussing my old article. :-)


Wed Nov 17, 2010 6:02 pm
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Young Hoofer
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Post Re: Original Parallels article from 2000
It would be interesting to do a similar article on the 1980 French production, as many motifs were connected through similar words, so some connexions would be clearer. For instance, almost all recurrences of the "On My Own" theme ("La Misere") all had the word "misere" in them for the most part, except in the end where "misere" is contrasted perfectly with "lumiere."

FANTINE
La misère n’est mère de personne
La misère est pourtant sœur des hommes
Mais personne sur terre n’en veut pour fille
Comme bâtarde née dans un cachot de la Bastille

La misère enfante la détresse
Bien des vices et toutes les faiblesses
La misère lâche la bête en l’homme
Et la mésange alors en chienne errante se transforme

VALJEAN
J’enverrai chercher votre fillette ;
Déchargée du fardeau de vos dettes
Vous pourrez être à nouveau heureuse
Vous qui n’avez pour Dieu pas cessé d’être vertueuse

Oui, je viens pour emmener Cosette
J’ai sur moi de quoi payer ses dettes
Je représente ici sa pauvre mère
Dont Dieu a décidé d’abréger enfin les misères

Je ferai ce qu’elle n’a pas pu faire
J’essaierai pour elle d’être bon père
Vos bienfaits vont trouver récompense
Faites-moi sur l’heure le compte de vos dépenses

MARIUS
La misère a la mort dans la tête
Ses victoires, pour nous, sont des défaites
Elle affame le corps pour tuer l’âme
Et, du plus courageux des hommes, crucifie l’enthousiasme

La misère étouffe l’espérance
Au printemps, son hiver recommence
Et le cœur, transi de solitude,
Finit par ne plus battre tristement que par habitude

ÉPONINE ET MARIUS
La misère, comme une fille publique,
Dans la rue enfante la République.
À l’épreuve du tréfonds de l’abîme
D’où les faibles sortent infâmes et d’où les forts sortent sublimes

VALJEAN
La lumière est dans le cœur des hommes
Mais s’épuise de brûler pour personne
Aimez-vous pour vaincre les ténèbres
Tant qu’il y aura partout orgueil, ignorance et misère

La lumière, au matin de justice,
Puisse enfin décapiter nos vices
Dans un monde où Dieu pourrait se plaire
S’il décidait un jour de redescendre sur la terre.


Fri Jun 29, 2012 1:27 am
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