"Do-Re-Mi"
Song
Released1959 in The Sound of Music
GenreShowtune
Composer(s)Richard Rodgers
Lyricist(s)Oscar Hammerstein II

"Do-Re-Mi" is a show tune from the 1959 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The Sound of Music. Each syllable of the musical solfège system appears in the song's lyrics, sung on the pitch it names. Rodgers was helped in its creation by long-time arranger Trude Rittmann who devised the extended vocal sequence in the song.

The tune finished at #88 in AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs survey of the top tunes in American cinema in 2004.[1]

Background

Within the story of The Sound of Music, it is used by the governess Maria to teach the solfège of the major musical scale to the Von Trapp children, who learn to sing for the first time. According to assistant conductor Peter Howard, the heart of the number – in which governess Maria assigns a musical tone to each child, like so many Swiss bell ringers – was devised in rehearsal by Rittmann (who was credited for choral arrangements) and choreographer Joe Layton. The fourteen note and tune lyric – 'when you know the notes to sing...' – were provided by Rodgers and Hammerstein; the rest, apparently, came from Rittmann. According to Howard, "Rodgers allowed her to do whatever she liked. When we started doing the staging of it, Joe took over. He asked Trude for certain parts to be repeated, certain embellishments."[2]

In the stage version, Maria sings the song in the living room of Captain von Trapp's house shortly after she introduces herself to the children.[3] However, when Ernest Lehman adapted the stage script into a screenplay for the 1965 film adaptation, he moved the song to later on in the story. In the film, Maria and the children sing this song over a montage as they wander and frolic over Salzburg.[4]

Word meanings

(For the actual origins of the solfège, refer to Solfège.)

The lyrics teach the solfège syllables by linking them with English homophones (or near-homophones):

  1. Doe: a deer, a female deer, alludes to the first solfège syllable, do.
  2. Ray: a drop of golden sun [i.e., a narrow beam of light or other radiant energy], alludes to the second solfège syllable, re.
  3. Me: a name I call myself [i.e., the objective first-person pronoun], alludes to the third solfège syllable, mi.
  4. Far: a long long way to run, alludes to the fourth solfège syllable, fa.
  5. Sew: [the verb form] a needle pulling thread, alludes to the fifth solfège syllable, sol.
  6. La: a note to follow so[l] and represents the sixth solfège syllable, la.
  7. Tea: a drink with jam and bread [i.e., the popular hot beverage made by steeping tea leaves in boiling water], alludes to the seventh solfège syllable, ti.

As the song concludes, "When you know the notes to sing, you can sing most anything."[5]

Author Douglas Adams noted in his article "Unfinished Business of the Century" that, while each line of the lyric takes the name of a note from the solfège scale, and gives its meaning, "La, a note to follow So..." does not fit that pattern and should be considered a placeholder. Adams humorously imagined that Oscar Hammerstein just wrote "a note to follow So" and thought he would have another look at it later, but could not come up with anything better.[6]

Foreign language versions

Since the song features wordplay with English words that sound like the solfège syllables, foreign versions of the song do not translate the English lyrics. Instead, they use the local solfège and associate each syllable with a meaning in the native language. In most countries, the note B is represented by si instead of ti.[7]

Austrian version with letters

When The Sound of Music was translated to German in 2005 for the Vienna Volksoper, the song Do-Re-Mi was rewritten as C wie Cellophanpapier.[8] The solfège syllables were replaced with the letters C through H,[a] and the mnemonics were words that began with each letter. However, when the musical finally premiered in its setting of Salzburg in 2011, it was performed with a German version of Do-Re-Mi that kept the solfège.[9][10]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ H is German letter notation for the English note B.

References

  1. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs". American Film Institute. Retrieved 6 May 2022.
  2. ^ Suskin, Steven (2009). The sound of Broadway music: a book of orchestrators.
  3. ^ "Visions and Voices: The Sound of Music: The Plot". University of Southern California. Retrieved 6 May 2022.
  4. ^ "Sound of Music – The film locations". SalzburgerLand. Retrieved 6 May 2022.
  5. ^ "The Sound of Music" (PDF). Secureservercdn.net. Retrieved 19 March 2022.
  6. ^ Adams, Douglas: Unfinished Business of the Century - h2g2 - Unfinished Business of the Century h2g2, Sep. 1999]
  7. ^ "How music theory works in different countries". Classic FM. Retrieved 6 May 2022.
  8. ^ "C wie Cellophanpapier" (PDF). Volksoper Wien. Der Song heißt im Original „Do-Re-Mi“, da dort die sog. Solmisationssilben (Do-Re-Mi-Fa-So-LaTi-Do) verwendet werden. Diese bezeichnen die Tonstufen. In der deutschsprachigen Übersetzung werden hingegen die deutschen Notennamen (c-d-e-f-g-a-h-c) verwendet.
  9. ^ Salzburger Landestheater: Trailer "The Sound of Music" on YouTube
  10. ^ "The Sound of Music" - A Musical Is Coming Home - Salzburger Landestheater on YouTube