Yes, vocal selections of the musical Hamilton are now available in braille from the NLS Music Section!
Hamilton has become one of the most successful musicals in Broadway history. In 2016 it was named the Best New Musical. It was nominated for 16 Tony Awards in 13 categories – the highest number of nominations any single production has ever received, and Hamilton’s creator Lin-Manuel Miranda won the Pulitzer Prize in the category for Drama.
Musically, Miranda combined a great variety of styles including rap, hip-hop, show music, gospel, jazz and pop tunes. He also chose a highly diverse cast to interpret the story. Miranda based his score and libretto on the Hamilton biography written by Ron Chernow.
What does it take to make such an eclectic musical work available in braille? We asked transcriber Patrick Janson:
“I knew I would have to study the score of Hamilton intensely before I could even begin transcribing. Never before has a musical had such rapid interplay between characters and switches between rapping and singing. I acquired the CD and listened to it, likely, 80+ times. I knew it would be crucial to set the text phrases and rhyming in braille as closely as possible to how they are sung or rapped on the recording. I marked the score during each listen-through that didn’t take place in a moving vehicle. I will admit, I sang and rapped along every chance I got!
Once I was ready to dive in, I created a list of character abbreviations and tackled the vocal parts. Hamilton posed special challenges, one of them being that many characters were singing different parts simultaneously. I also needed to place the braille symbols for X-shaped note heads and their terminators in their proper places whenever rapping occurred.
For the transcription of the piano part I had to choose what would be shown in the solo outline. The purpose of a solo outline—the line of music representing the sung material, appearing above the piano part—is to understand the score and to allow the pianist to follow the vocal line. In a solo piece, it is easy and obvious. But in most of the songs in Hamilton, I had to choose which voice part to display in the solo outline, and often switched parts on the fly to avoid having measures of unhelpful rests.
Hamilton is a masterpiece, and it was an honor to produce the transcription. A true labor of love. I do feel it was a very special project.” –Patrick Janson, Braille Music Transcriber
Hamilton. Selections. By Lin-Manuel Miranda and Alex Lacamoire. Music score: Vocal lines with piano accompaniment; including chord symbols. 4 volumes in line by line and bar over bar formats (v.1, v.2, v.3, v.4). (BRM36785)
You may also like to check out the following digital talking books:
Miranda, Lin-Manuel, and Jeremy McCarter. Hamilton. The Revolution. (DB 84175)
Chernow, Ron. Alexander Hamilton. (DB 58364)
Freeman, Joanne B. (editor). Hamilton, Alexander, 1757-1804. Works. Selections. (DB 87092)
McDonald, Forrest. Alexander Hamilton. A Biography. (DB 26476)
Sedgwick, John. War of Two. Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, and the Duel that Stunned the Nation. (DB 93439)
Should you like to do more research, the Music Division at The Library of Congress holds various materials available for on-site consultation, including the first edition libretto of Hamilton (ML50.M6736), the vocal score (M1508 .M), and a recording (SDC 79425). You can also browse the available catalogs online at https://catalog.loc.gov and consider the Alexander Hamilton Resource Guide.
To check out Hamilton in braille, you can either download the file from BARD, or give us a call to request an embossed copy. Dial 1-800-424-8567, then press option 2 for the Music Section. You may also email us at [email protected] or visit our webpage. We’re looking forward to assist you.