A Look At Marc Shaiman's Musical Output
Spanish film music critic and reviewer Sergio Hardasmal’s latest composer overview focuses on Marc Shaiman. in The Musical World Of Marc Shaiman. The original Spanish edition of this book was released in 2020 but it has now been updated in a new edition in Spanish and translated into English for this new edition by Alex Massana. His enthusiasm and love for film music and Shaiman’s work shines throughout this new overview of the composer.
Hardasmal’s book packages Shaiman’s life well across bite-sized chapters that are organized chronologically and highlight specific scores, musicals, and other endeavors that Shaiman was occupied with in their respective times. The opening chapter jumps from the composer’s birth into his obsession to work for Bette Midler and the beginning of his association with Castle Rock. From there, Hardasmal explores different scores with overviews of specific tracks and sequences. It is in these moments that the book really shines best and provides a great overview for these various scores now located in one convenient place. It moves well to discuss each of Shaiman’s film scores, the hits and the misses, and moves somewhat smoothly into discussion of his Broadway endeavors as well bringing us up to the present day.
Now from an academic point of view, this work does suffer a bit from less peer-reviewed material and sources being used to bolster the research. It is very much a work that relies on Hardasmal’s own critical instincts with some occasional additional source providing some support to his analysis and discussion. His analysis is quite good though and the casual writing style help bring out his enthusiasm for his topic throughout. There are nice quotes and anecdotes that also will be of interest to Shaiman’s many fans. Sources are provided and even the chapters have endnotes which is a plus.
The biggest hurdle for English readers (I cannot speak to the original Spanish text) is that the syntax of the writing will be difficult to follow at times. Phrasing is awkward in many places and there are some odd verb/noun references that create some issues along the way. One can navigate around them, but it does prevent for a more fluid reading of what is here which feels like it needed another editorial pass. It is made all the more glaring due to the casual, conversational style adopted here as well. Additional pieces here are also helpful and include a selected filmography, discography (with indicators as to what country different albums are from!), and some of Shaiman’s various awards and nominations. That section will be a great overview and help to navigate his body of work. While there is no index, the chapter layout and table of contents make it quite easy to jump directly to discussion of any particular score or project.
Most likely, casual readers will be able to move past the writing/translation issues to delve into and appreciate the organization and thrust of what Hardasmal is doing here. Readers interested in some basic biographical information (it does not intend to be a biography after all) coupled with an analysis of Shaiman’s body of work will be able to navigate easily to the information they wish to explore and will find thoughtful discussion of this music. There are some great photos and original art work, including a stunning cover (!), that also add to its appeal. The softcover edition can be purchased for around $16 through sites like Amazon.com.