Stephen Sondheim I Know Things Now

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Based on a series of Brothers Grimm fairy tales, Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods (1987) focuses on fairy tale characters such as Cinderella, Jack and Little Red Riding Hood’s wish of life fulfillment. Numerous fairy tales are intertwined with one new tale in attempt to carry the childhood stories into an adult realm without ridding of their child-based sensibilities. (Knapp, 2009.) Little Red’s song, “I know things now” is performed after she escapes the wolf’s belly. It is a reflection song on what she has learnt from the experience of speaking to strangers. Sondheim cleverly integrates musical devises such as key, modulation, pitch, accompaniment, dynamics, motif and rhythm alongside language and literary devices to contribute to the development and growth of the character and story.

Three discovery songs consist within act one whereby the characters reflect upon the hurdles they have faced and what they have learnt as outcome. (Rosen, 2010). During Little Red’s song, “I Know Things Now”, she learns the difference between “good and nice”, which all children come to learn with time. Red learns that a man (or wolf as Sondheim depicts him) may act nice when they want something from you. Little Red’s melodic theme, as per Figure 1, is repetitive, catchy and similar to a schoolyard. As simple and childlike as it seems, it is a transformation of what her ‘Mother said’ motif as per Figure 2, which has now been planted as a memory far in the distant. (Rosen, 2010). She has finally absorbed what she was informed and applied it as per her own realizations and conclusions. Through the use of this varied motif, Sondheim is showing the audience that she has finally absorbed what she was informed and applied it as per her own realizati...

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...sion, the solo song I Know Things Now by leading composer Stephen Sondheim is a definitive example of integration of musical and dramatic devises to develop the character as well as plot. The integral key of C Major and common time signature portray the simplicity of the character, however then delves into the confusion and heightened stakes with a range of accidentals and modulations as she describes descending the wolf’s stomach. Adopted from Hammerstein, Sondheim uses repetitious lyrics in order to allow the audience to understand and absorb completely. He uses literary devises to give voice to what Red has learnt from her adventure and in turn uses the song as an enabling therapy to progress the plotline by giving the cape to the Baker. Thus, Sondheim integrates a range of musical and dramatic devises to develop the character and thus correspondingly the story.
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