When Julie Andrews sang about “The Sound of Music,” she probably wasn’t thinking about Aerosmith. But licks from those rockers — as well as Boston and the Steve Miller Band, to name a few — have made it onto the latest recording of songs from the tuner.
“The Hills Are Alive,” the first album by the Brooklyn Rundfunk Orkestrata (BRO), also mashes “Do Re Mi” with the Jackson Five’s “ABC,” makes “The Lonely Goatherd” sound like a Led Zeppelin number and goes the R&B route with “Climb Ev’ry Mountain.”
It all sounds like unusual liberty taken with a title managed by the Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization, which has earned a rep for tightly controlling rights to the creatives’ musical theater canon.
But such wacky experiments are not unheard of. Doug Elkins’ modern dance take on “Sound of Music,” “Fraulein Maria,” has been performed multiple times since its premiere in 2006. That same year, Gwen Stefani included “Wind It Up,” which samples “Goatherd,” on her second solo album.
“As long as people don’t make fun of it, and do things like this with affection, the property can withstand it,” says Theodore S. Chapin, head of the R&H Org. “It’s one way to keep the songs alive.”
BRO founder Peter Kiesewalter, also the man behind the contempo opera revisions of the East Village Opera Co., says the musical recontextualizations (which occasionally include new melodies and additional lyrics) are inspired by the themes of the songs and the ways they match song styles created in the years since the musical’s 1959 preem.
“I’m just looking at the songs from another 50 years of music history,” Kiesewalter says.
As possibly the most iconic title in a legendary canon, “Sound of Music” is in no danger of falling by the cultural wayside. But Chapin says projects like “Hills Are Alive” can nonetheless boost demand for a property.
He cites, for instance, a 1980s PBS special about Rodgers and Hammerstein. “The next year, across the board, business went up.”