Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



This study presents an analytical approach to three works by American musical theater composer-lyricist Stephen Sondheim: Sunday in the Park with George, Into the Woods, and Assassins—each of which Sondheim developed largely at the Playwrights Horizons theater in New York. Using an eclectic, neo-Schenkerian approach that draws upon recent work by pop-rock and stage music analysts, it examines the intersection of melodic and harmonic events with dramatic occurrences in the text to determine how Sondheim heightens dramatic narrative within each song analyzed. Sondheim’s work has been a fixture of the upper echelon of the Broadway musical for over half a century. Countless authors have devoted their time to Sondheim’s work, yet relatively few works of music scholarship are dedicated solely to Sondheim, and very little of this is strictly analytical in nature. This study seeks to contribute to filling of analytical void in Sondheim research. Since each musical score so brilliantly parallels the tone and setting of each show, Sondheim’s fourteen musicals have very little in common with respect to surface musical style. Even within a single show, the composer’s polystylistic approach to composition makes it difficult to pin down a singular “Sondheim style.” The analytical approach in this study focuses on selected songs’ deep-level musical structures and their interaction with dramatic events onstage, demonstrating that what makes Sondheim unique lies not in his melodies, form, harmony, or accompaniment patterns by themselves, but in how those elements integrate with one another and serve the dramatic narrative.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Perry, Jeffrey



Included in

Music Commons