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Baker's Dozen

The Right Things: David McAlmont's Favourite Albums
The Quietus , October 1st, 2015 13:22

As McAlmont And Butler mark the 20th anniversary of The Sound Of... with a deluxe reissue and a run of tour dates, David McAlmont pens us his own Baker's Dozen, moving through his 13 most formative albums


The Sound Of Music Original Broadway Cast Recording
I was about five years old in a council house in Croydon, Surrey. My mother bought a record for my sister and me. It introduced me to the names Rodgers and Hammerstein. I could tell that there was something special about it. It wasn't the voices that held my attention. It was the music.

Something about the songs persisted and beguiled us. My sister and I listened again and again. It readied us for the main event: when mum took us to the cinema and we heard Julie Andrews sing for the first time. We barely ever considered the Original Broadway Cast Recording thereafter.

I didn't then, but now I think that those songs are some of the greatest ever composed in any genre. I also believe that 'Do-Re-Mi' is the single most important moment in musicals, if not in my life. The song takes an ancient code first notated by Guido d'Arezzo in the 5th century. Paulus Diaconus of the Lombards developed Guido's findings in the 8th century. Then, somehow in the ensuing centuries, those antique findings snaked their way to the British Isles, via France, where they were codified into the tonic sol-fa by Sarah Ann Glover. Rodgers and Hammerstein were hip to 'the secret'. With the song 'Do-Re-Mi', they revealed it to millions. "Do re mi", etc, are not Hammerstein's fanciful onomatopoeia; they are iterations of musical codes that stretch back to antiquity. When one of the children says, "But it doesn't mean anything", Maria replies: "So we put in words. One word for every note." The first time I heard that, I became a lyricist.