Patriotic Assembly Song of the Week "This Is My Country"
Musician of the Week Alan Menken
Monday Listening Example: "Under the Sea" from "The Little Mermaid", 1989
Alan Menken is a multi-award winning composer who is best known for his work with Disney Animation studios.
Menken was born as Alan Irwin Menken on July 22, 1949 in Manhattan.
Alan’s parents, Judith and Norman Menken, were very supportive of his musical abilities. In fact, his dad was described as a boogie woogie piano playing dentist. His mother was an actress, dancer, and playwright. His home was always filled with creativity.
Menken’s first job with Walt Disney Studios was working on the music for “The Little Mermaid”. The song “Under the Sea” from “The Little Mermaid” is in a style of music called calypso. Calypso music originated in Trinidad, in the Caribbean Islands, where the mermaid Ariel lives. Calypso music also features steel drums, which can play both rhythm and melody. In the film, seashells were used for drums Menken's tropical sounding music helped to set the scene and make the film believable. Today’s listening example is “Under the Sea” from “The Little Mermaid”.
Tuesday Listening Example: "Zero to Hero" from "Hercules"
It was always assumed that Alan Menken would become a dentist, like nearly every male in his family; however, he wanted to write music and play instruments!
Menken, like many children, was a child with ADHD. This made studying, and even practicing the piano, which he loved, a very difficult task. However, he overcame that to write his first composition, “Bouree”, at the age of 9.
In 1971, Alan graduated from New York University with a degree in Musicology.
The word “musicology” literally means the “study of music”. Music, of course means music and “ology” is a suffix meaning “the study of”.
Alan Menken worked with David Zippel on the movie “Hercules” in 1997. It is the 35th animated film produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios. This song is about becoming a somebody (an important person) from being a nobody (an unimportant person). In this film's case, Hercules eventually went from being a nobody/zero to a somebody/hero.
Wednesday Listening Example: "Newsies" medley
Even though Alan Menken was an excellent musician, he wasn't famous right away. He started out playing the piano for other singers. He would write songs, and get to perform them sometimes, but nothing ever really caught on. Until he met Howard Ashman.
Howard Ashman was a playwright (someone who takes a book or story and turns it into a play). He chose Menken to write the music for a play he was working on titled “God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater”.
Ashman and Menken went on to write the wildly popular “Little Shop of Horrors.” This was just the beginning of the amazing work these two would do together.
In 1992, Menken wrote the music for the live action Disney film, “Newsies”. It wasn’t until Disney made “Newsies” into a Broadway musical, that Menken received the Tony Award for Best Score. Today’s listening example is a medley of songs from “Newsies”. When a group of people are singing, that is called a chorus. Even though the soloists are amazing, sometimes, the most exciting parts of the show are sung by the chorus.
Thursday Listening Example: "Colors of the Wind" from "Pocahontas"
In 1989, Alan Menken and Howard Ashman were hired by Walt Disney Studios to write the music and lyrics for “The Little Mermaid”.
The Little Mermaid was a huge success and signaled a new Disney era called the Disney Renaissance. The film gave them their first Oscar win: Best Song for the song "Under the Sea". Menken also won the 1989 Oscar for Best Score. The film gave them their first Oscar win: Best Song for the song "Under the Sea". Menken also won the 1989 Oscar for Best Score.
Today’s listening example is “Colors of the Wind” from Disney’s “Pocahontas”. This song is considered a pop ballad. One of the elements of music is called form. This refers to the way songs are constructed. Ballads are in the form called AABA. The A sections have the same music. The B section is different music. In pop songs, the B section is often referred to as the Bridge because it creates a contrasting link between the A sections. As you watch the song video, listen for the repeating A sections and the contrasting bridge section.
FRIDAY Music Example: "That's How You Know (When You're In Love)
Alan Menken went on to work for Disney for over 20 years.
He began working with Tim Rice in 1991, on “Aladdin.”
He has written the music for most of the live action Disney movies that have recently been released as well.
Today’s listening example is “That’s How You Know” from Disney’s live action film “Enchanted”. While the song only lasts about four minutes, there is a lot packed into the scene. Keep in mind that in filming a spectacular scene like this one, all the singing is actually done in a recording studio then added to the film. It takes a lot of teamwork to create the entertainment that Disney Studios provides us, and Alan Menken has been an important part of that team for two decades. Just think, what would Disney films be like without the music and songs to enhance them?