Letters


THE GIFT

Michael Feingold deserves commendation for his astute comments on the insensitive and clueless treatment given "I Am Going to Like It Here" in the current, rewritten version of Flower Drum Song now playing on Broadway ["Red, Misread, and Blue," October 23-29].

However, he perpetuates the misconception that Oscar Hammerstein invented the verse form used in the lyric: the pantoum, a Malayan poetic style in which the second and fourth lines of each strophe are repeated as the first and third lines of the next.

Ravel used the form in a musical fashion in the second movement of his Piano Trio, which he, in fact, designated as "Pantoum." It seems likely that this is where Hammerstein first learned of the form, and it also seems likely that he first heard the trio thanks to Stephen Sondheim. According to Meryle Secrest's Sondheim biography, at age 13 Sondheim gave Hammerstein a recording of the trio as a birthday present. (This was many years before the writing of Flower Drum Song.) Although Hammerstein was not yet actively instructing Sondheim, what Hammerstein learned from this present perhaps gave him the idea for yet another lyric he would write some years later: "If you become a teacher, by your pupils you'll be taught."

Alan Gomberg
Manhattan

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