Tuesday, April 12, 2011

New Words

"New Words"
by Maury Yeston
from In the Beginning (1987)

Look up there,
High above us
In a sky of blackest silk.
See how round,
Like a cookie
See how white,
As white as milk.
Call it the moon, my son, say moon.
Sounds like your spoon, my son, can you say it?
New word today ...
Say moon.

Near the moon,
Brightly turning
See the shining sparks of light.
Each one new,
Each one burning
Through the darkness
Of the night.
We call them stars, my son, say stars.
That one is Mars, my son, can you say it?
New word today ... 
Say stars.

As they blink all around us
Playing starry-eyed games,
Who would think it astounds us
Simply naming their names.

Turn your eyes
From the skies now,
Turn around and look at me.
There's a light
In my eyes now,
And a word for
What you see.
We call it love, my son, say love.
So hard to say, my son, it gets harder.

New words today
We'll learn to say ...
Learn moon,
Learn stars,
Learn love.

Maury Yeston's musical In the Beginning (originally titled 1-2-3-4-5) was staged by the Manhattan Theatre Club in 1987 and 1988.  The company who leases the production rights (Music Theatre International) has this description of the musical:

"Let there be laughter!  The first five books of the Old Testament get a good-natured ribbing in this hysterical tribute to all of those ordinary, everyday people who didn't make it into the Bible.  Unremarkable though they may be, these hardy Biblical bystanders somehow survive calamity after calamity in outrageous fashion, inventing some useful and practical devices along the way (including the Life Saver - the candy, that is), escaping enslavement in ancient Egypt and helping a young man named Cain find his redemption."

I don't believe any commercial cast recordings of this Off-Broadway show exist, but a few of its songs survive in studio recordings, covered by a number of different Broadway performers.  They include this one, "New Words" (probably the most familiar to musical theatre fans) along with "Is Someone Out There?" and "You're There Too."  In "New Words," much like his "Getting Tall" (which was the subject of a previous blog post), Yeston uses short, simple phrases (in mostly monosyllabic words!) to paint a moving portrait of a parent teaching a child new words.  I've heard this song performed live many times and it rarely fails to touch the heart, particularly the line about love - "so hard to say, my son, it gets harder."

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