GROSS: The Sondheim song that’s closest to comic rap is, in my opinion, “Not Getting Married,” which is done…
MIRANDA: (Rapping) Is everybody here? Because if everybody’s here, I’d like to thank you all for coming to the wedding.
GROSS: Do more, do more.
MIRANDA: (Rapping) I’d appreciate your going even more. I mean, you must have lots of better things to do, and not a word of it to Paul. Remember Paul, you know, the man I’m going to marry? But I’m not because I’d never ruin anyone as wonderful as he is. Thank you all for the gifts and the flowers. Thanks to you all for the cards and the showers. Don’t tell Paul, but I’m not getting married today.
GROSS: Anyone who could do that song has an incredible tongue.
GROSS: It’s so tricky. It’s so fast, and the words are so – just kind of, like, dense and funny and rhymey (ph). And so, obviously, you know that song by heart more or less. And have you thought about that song a lot in terms of intricate rhyme schemes and what the human voice is capable of without totally tripping up?
MIRANDA: Well, I think about that – honestly, I think about that song more when people ask me, how did you think rap was going to work on Broadway? And I go, nothing in my show is faster than “Getting Married Today” in “Company.”
MIRANDA: So I don’t know what you’re talking about. There’s so much precedent for the work in both, quote, unquote, “hip-hop” and not in terms of patter for the stage. But, you know, what’s amazing about “Getting Married Today” is it’s also in a master class in making a lyric easy. There are consonants on which you waste air. H – there’s no H’s in that because if you say ha, you’ve lost half the air in your lungs. So it’s very T’s and P’s. (Rapping) Thank you all. Is everybody here? Because if everybody’s here, I’d like to thank you all for coming to the wedding.
It’s more about breath control than being – it’s not a tongue twister. It’s very consciously not a tongue twister. It’s about being able to say it in one continuous breath and getting out of the way and choosing words that do not require any extra air or any extra tongue or jaw work. So it’s actually not about trying to making it hard. It’s about making it easy.
GROSS: So did you learn that intuitively or did Sondheim tell you that that was his intention to stay away from as many H’s as possible and to keep it to things that could easily be said?
MIRANDA: I think I read about that in a conversation he had at some point, but I also knew that intuitively because of the hip-hop artists I liked who rapped fast. You know, they’re not trying to make something that’s hard for them to perform every night. They’re trying to make something that sounds impressive and is a joy to deliver every night. I’m trying to think of, like, a really specific early-’90s example. Queen Latifah – (rapping) Snatch ya stature. Your broken looks more like a fracture. Catch that rapper. Latifah will be back to crush ya.
That’s Queen Latifah in 1992, and it’s fast. There’s Queen Latifah’s “U.N.I.T.Y.” She goes (rapping) there’s plenty of people out there with triggers ready to pull it. Why you trying to jump in front of the bullet, young lady?
No H’s. So you learn intuitively that, like, the writer is trying to make something that flows easily off the tongue.
GROSS: So did the writer of Alexander Hamilton try to avoid H’s in writing the lyrics?
MIRANDA: Well, you will observe that Hamilton is not in any of the fast rapping that happens onstage, right? George Washington goes, Hamilton and then – he goes (rapping) sir, he knows what to do in a trench, ingenuitive (ph) and fluent in French, I mean.
So we’re not hampering anyone with Hamilton.
GROSS: Well, Lin-Manuel Miranda, it’s just been wonderful to talk with you. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Thank you so very much.
MIRANDA: Likewise. The joy is mine.
GROSS: Lin-Manuel Miranda created the musical “Hamilton” and originated the title role. The London production just opened to rave reviews. His grandmother died yesterday. We send our condolences. Our interview was recorded last January. Today’s broadcast was part of our holiday week series featuring some of our favorite interviews of the year. After we take a short break, film critic David Edelstein will tell us what’s on his 10-best list. This is FRESH AIR.