Most people, I assume, are aware of Strunk & White's Elements of Style
. It's hard to get through high school without being exposed to it. Now, at long last, that classic grammar and style guide has been put to music. Composer Nico Muhly created an operatic song cycle based on the book. He calls it "The Elements of Style: Nine Songs," and it was performed last month
at the New York Public Library. When I first heard about this I thought it was some kind of early April Fool's Day joke. But no. It's quite real. The songs have titles such as "Be Obscure Clearly!", "Overly Over," and "Hyphens." A Newsweek reviewer
who attended the event wrote that:
Unfortunately, the operatic style of the piece rendered the lyrics all but unintelligible to this listener—in ironic contrast to the simplifying ethos of "Elements"—though that may be more the fault of the acoustics of the library venue, which was, after all, designed for silence.
Maybe Muhly can make a name for himself by putting all kinds of different reference works to music. What about Oxford English Dictionary: The Musical
, or Love Songs Inspired by Roget's Thesaurus