I really think this song works best if you hear it the first time not knowing it's coming. So I'm spoiler-cutting the entire entry. Once again, "Hamilton" refers to the character in the play, not the historical person, unless I say otherwise.



The song I wrote about in the previous post as writing my soul into a song was “Hurricane.” In the context of the play, it’s about an impending scandal. But it’s also the song that’s most directly about Hamilton as writer, and how he creates his life by writing it into existence. But it starts on a completely (well, or at least seemingly) different note and subject:

In the eye of a hurricane
There is quiet
For just a moment
A yellow sky

In the delicate, hushed melody (the peace in the eye of the hurricane) the first time they’re sung, I find them the most beautiful lines in the entire play. They’re so simple and so absolutely perfect. “A yellow sky”— just three words, but so evocative, beautiful and terrifying.

The verse makes me think of haiku in its deceptive simplicity. It seems easy but it isn’t. Simple and perfect is hard— often harder than complexity and cleverness. I wonder if Miranda also thought of haiku. It doesn’t have the right syllables, but it has the feel, the short lines, the short verse, the seasonal reference, the delicacy, the immense emotion hitting harder because it’s unspoken, and the themes of mortality and humanity’s helplessness before death and nature.

Tabi ni yande
yume wa kareno o
kakemeguru

Falling ill on a journey
my dreams go wandering
over withered fields

- Matsuo Basho

And then Hamilton puts himself back into the picture, no longer an onlooker but an actor, and an actor in a very specific way. The music becomes fiercer, determined, frantic, arrogant - he DID write his life into existence, of course he can do it again. That's what he does. That's who he is.

I wrote my way out

I wrote my way out of hell

I picked up a pen, I wrote my own deliverance


I literally did that. Exactly that. I wrote my way out of hell. I wrote letter after letter, one a day for six months until I won my own deliverance with a pen, like Hamilton, writing my way into America.

If anything defines me, it’s that. I write my way out. I write the life I want into existence. I don’t create new financial systems, but I wrote myself a very successful small business. I wrote my way into college. I wrote my way into grad school. I paid for grad school with writing. I wrote my way into television. As a therapist, I help people write the stories of their own lives. I am still trying to write my life back into existence, writing descriptions of my illness with just the right balance of detail and pithiness, clear and easy to read, in the hope of helping doctors see a narrative, a mystery with all the clues laid out, just waiting for the right detective to sort through the red herrings to find the solution.

I heard this song and it blew me away. I have never heard anything so much about me that I didn’t write myself. I believe that every work of art has its ideal reader— the person whom it speaks to as if it had been written just for them— and I am the ideal listener for “Hurricane.” Which is not to say that I am the only ideal listener. There could be lots of us. But I am one of them.

Of course, the irony of the song in context is that while writing his way out has always worked for Hamilton before, it’s disastrous here. “Wait for it, wait for it” reappears in chorus, now meaning both “audience, wait for the disaster you see coming” and “Hamilton, wait, don’t write a confession, if you wait it will blow over (like a hurricane) and your career won't die.”

It was the wrong thing to do (He’s never gon’ be president now!) but it was true to himself. To do anything else would have been out of character. Hamilton doesn’t burn letters, he writes more letters.

Once you die (and even in life, sometimes) you have no control over who tells your story. But the historical Hamilton wrote enough for Ron Chernow to have plenty of primary sources for his story. And then Miranda told his story, but also made it into Miranda’s own story, the story of a writer who needs words like he needs oxygen, who uses words like the man with a hammer who sees everything as a nail. And by doing that, he told my story too.

In an interview, Daveed Diggs said he'd never felt American until he played Thomas Jefferson. He was connecting with a completely different aspect of the play that I connected with, but what makes Hamilton an amazing work of art is its ability to do that in so many ways, to so many people, just like Miranda read a biography of Alexander Hamilton and thought, "He's an immigrant:" to make us see ourselves unexpectedly in a tale about people with whom we’d always been told we had nothing in common.
yatima: (Default)

From: [personal profile] yatima


It undid me because I realized how secretly sheepish I have been about being a green card holder, when in fact, it was a huge achievement getting here, and I've worked very hard ever since. A place where even orphan immigrants can leave their fingerprints.
yatima: (Default)

From: [personal profile] yatima


(If you let me know which organizations you think are most effective in helping people who have been trafficked, I will make a big-ass donation.) It's weird, right? Because I have white and class and Anglophone privilege and didn't suffer on anything like that scale. But it is this enormous and difficult choice I made and I grieve what I left behind at the same time as I acknowledge it was absolutely the right choice for me. And in Hamilton, Lin _gets_ all of that, the loss and fear and pain and also the love of the thing you're running from; and the thing you are running towards, which becomes your own in a different way than if you had been born here. He took that big complicated knot in my heart and made it beautiful.
laurashapiro: a woman sits at a kitchen table reading a book, cup of tea in hand. Table has a sliced apple and teapot. A cat looks on. (Default)

From: [personal profile] laurashapiro


Yes, that's the song I thought you meant. (: I'm so glad you've found something to fall in love with right now, something that speaks to you so deeply.
laurashapiro: a woman sits at a kitchen table reading a book, cup of tea in hand. Table has a sliced apple and teapot. A cat looks on. (Default)

From: [personal profile] laurashapiro


Hey, that's great! Very useful to have your therapist thoroughly on the same page like that.
brainwane: The last page of the zine (cat)

From: [personal profile] brainwane


I am so delighted and grateful to read this.

May I know more about the part of your life where you wrote a letter a day for six months to achieve your deliverance?
brainwane: My smiling face, including a small gold bindi (Default)

From: [personal profile] brainwane


Wow. My goodness. Thank you so much for sharing this story with me. And my commendations on your achievement!

owlectomy: A squashed panda sewing a squashed panda (Default)

From: [personal profile] owlectomy


"Hurricane" is so good that it feels like it actually gave me closure to those years when I was trying and trying and trying, convinced that I could write my way out of hell if only I could try harder. I couldn't; I was like Hamilton, there was one thing I knew how to do and if it didn't work I had nowhere to go but down.

I so badly needed that kind of fundamental understanding, which all the "I still think it's a really good novel, it just didn't work out this time" pep talks couldn't give me.
dhampyresa: (Default)

From: [personal profile] dhampyresa


The one line in Hamilton that most gets to me is "I never thought I'd live past twenty".
dhampyresa: (Default)

From: [personal profile] dhampyresa


I also never expected to live past twenty (like you for personal, not social, reasons).

That's why.
Yep.
jjhunter: Closeup of monarch butterfly (butterfly closeup)

From: [personal profile] jjhunter


I very much have been enjoying your Hamilton posts, and hope to come back at some point and enthuse meta with you when it won't be cutting further into sleep time.

But yes - this song. So many of these songs, but 'Hurricane' in particular - I wrote my way out of my own mind's hell and I keep writing ways out (and the growing core hoard of what I've written shows me how to get out when the words won't come fresh).

From: [identity profile] egelantier.livejournal.com


thank you. i don't really connect with this musical on any level, but this was a beautiful post, and i went to listen to the song with it in mind, and i get what you're saying, and yes, in its sense it's glorious. more in what you write about yourself than in whatever is going on within a musical, but, yes. art is art is art.

(and you will write yourself into an amazing happily ever after, too; i'm absolutely sure of it.)

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com


Yeah, I do think it's really an absolutely love it or hate it/meh work. I think it either REALLY speaks to you or it doesn't at all - and if it does speak to you, it does so in a very specific way. I have at least two friends that I know of who identify with Aaron Burr (again, the character rather than the historic figure.)

Re; your wishes: I sure hope so.

From: [identity profile] lady-ganesh.livejournal.com


I get (musical) Burr a lot more than I would've thought I would. He's working so hard and doing everything the way he's supposed to do, and Hamilton throws away the fucking book and goddamn it.

From: [identity profile] naomikritzer.livejournal.com


I love that song. I think you are a more perfect audience for it than I am, but the idea that Hamilton saved himself by writing is tremendously powerful to me (I think it is for every writer).

Also, this line:

They passed a plate around
Total strangers
Moved to kindness by my story


From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com


It's like the writer's anthem.

And I love the very writerly trick of placing it in such an ironic context, as Hamilton's use of writing, for the first time in his life, is not helpful but ruinous. I assume that in historical context the Reynolds Pamphlets were a bafflingly self-destructive act for such a bright man, so what I think Miranda is doing is explaining them by pulling out the big guns, artistically speaking, to give the audience a completely satisfying answer: people will do what's most themselves, even if it destroys themselves.

From: [identity profile] naomikritzer.livejournal.com


My very first pro sale was a short story that got 1000% better when I realized (after critique) that the problem was that the character failed in his task because of his weakness, and it would be a much more interesting story if he failed because of his strengths.

Hamilton is first saved, then destroyed, by his courage and his writing. (I mean, okay, you could argue that he was destroyed by his impulsivity and bad judgment in sleeping with Mrs. Reynolds in the first place, or that he was destroyed by his weakness in succombing to blackmail instead of confessing to Eliza at the time. But it's really the Reynolds Pamphlet that sets the final tragedies in motion.)

He's an absolutely amazing tragic hero. And so is Burr, for that matter.

(The other big writer anthem: Non-Stop. I love Burr's mix of admiration and disgust. That's the song I played for Molly when I was thinking that she'd really like Hamilton, and she's now obsessed.)

From: [identity profile] adrian-turtle.livejournal.com


In the play, the Reynolds affair looks like it comes from Hamilton's strengths. Why is he alone in NYC in the first place, missing his family, vulnerable to being seduced? He had a straight choice between a month of intensive political writing, and a month of family time. And then in the moment...he slides from pity to lust, and our bastard orphan is easily moved to pity.

From: [identity profile] a2zmom.livejournal.com


This is such a lovely post. To have a song speak to you in that way is a wonderful thing.


(And I am completely bummed that is it impossible to get tickets. A new block went on sale a few days ago - within 5 minutes, they were all gone and a lot of them are being bought by robo programs and then resold at outrageous prices. It's horrible.)

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com


I've made a pact with a friend that when it comes to LA, we will sleep on the sidewalk to get tickets. Assuming that's possible.

From: [identity profile] a2zmom.livejournal.com


That might be your only choice.

I'm hoping it brings some attention to the way tickets are scalped in general.

From: [identity profile] tibicina.livejournal.com


I believe if you're willing to buy the entire Pantages season, then you don't need to do that. (The rest of the season also looks interesting, but possibly not if you don't generally like musicals.) But at least currently, they're not being sold separately.

From: [identity profile] lady-ganesh.livejournal.com


I'm sorry I haven't been checking in with you enough to give my sympathy about all the stuff going on with your health, but "Hurricane" is such an amazing piece of work, and I'm glad it's resonating with you.

("Wait for it" is also Burr, waiting his turn, the right time to strike.)

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com


Burr's own "Wait For It" is also an extraordinary song. I love how it just stops - the words, the music, everything - making the audience wait it, wait for the crescendo. It's the sort of move that only a great artist would see and pull off, inevitable and perfect rather (or as well as) predictable and obvious.

I also love the repetition of the things that don't discriminate, but take and take and take - love, death, life - and squirming into the middle is Hamilton, who takes and takes and takes but (by omission of the "doesn't discriminate") just takes for himself, the personal thorn in Burr's side that he could maybe do something about rather than a vast, impersonal force that you can do nothing but wait for.

I see a lot of Sondheim influence in that song. He's also a master of repetition, using the same phrase in different contexts until it suddenly punches you in the gut.

One that immediately comes to mind is "The Ladies Who Lunch."

Here's to the… starting off each verse, with its variations getting darker and darker:

Here's to the ladies who lunch.

And the first line that's going to repeat with variations… but he's going to make you wait for it:

Everybody laugh.
Lounging in their caftans and planning a brunch.
On their own behalf.


Caft/behalf is one of those all-time genius rhymes. It's almost too clever, but that suits the character. She's always the smartest in the room, and it got her absolutely nowhere.

And then the next toast:

And here's to the girls who play smart-
Aren't they a gas?


This time, no command to everybody, though the audience might be waiting for it; the first verse set up an expectation that it would be repeated. But it isn't.

Third toast:

And here's to the girls who play wife-
Aren't they too much?


Again, no "everybody." I think at this point the audience decides that's not going to repeat and forgets about it.

Fourth toast, the most bitter:

And here's to the girls who just watch-
Aren't they the best?
When they get depressed
It's a bottle of scotch,
Plus a little jest.


Final toast:

So here's to the girls on the go-
Everybody tries.


And the "everybody" is repeating at last, just so it can do this:

Look into their eyes and you'll see what they know.
Everybody dies.


There's the huge, unstoppable forces beneath all the trendy, surface-y things the ladies are clutching, trying to hide behind, trying to cover their eyes with. And it concludes:

A toast to that invincible bunch.
The dinosaur surviving the crunch.
Let's hear it for the ladies who lunch-
Everybody rise!
Rise!
Rise! Rise! Rise! Rise! Rise! Rise! Rise!
Rise!


…I need a Hamilton icon. I already have lots of Sondheim icons. Anyone want to make me an icon of "I wrote my way out?"

From: [identity profile] tibicina.livejournal.com


Have you read Sondheim's collected lyrics with his commentary? http://www.amazon.com/Hat-Box-Collected-Stephen-Sondheim/dp/0307957721/

His analysis of his own lyrics is fascinating, particularly where he's critical of them. (Also, seeing the things which were cut or changed allows a deeper understanding of how shows get constructed.)

From: [identity profile] http://users.livejournal.com/_swallow/


this analysis is lovely-- thank you for sharing it!
lokifan: black Converse against a black background (Default)

From: [personal profile] lokifan


This is a lovely post ♥ And yes, "a yellow sky" is such a gorgeous line.
.

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