|Song from The Sound of Music|
|Writer||Oscar Hammerstein II|
"Do-Re-Mi" is a show tune from the 1959 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The Sound of Music. Within the story, it is used by Maria to teach the notes of the major musical scale to the Von Trapp children who learn to sing for the first time, even though their father has disallowed frivolity after their mother's death. Each syllable of the musical solfège system appears in the song's lyrics, sung on the pitch it names. Rodgers was helped in its creation by long-time arranger Trude Rittmann who devised the extended vocal sequence in the song. According to assistant conductor Peter Howard, the heart of the number – in which Maria assigns a musical tone to each child, like so many Swiss bell ringers – was devised in rehearsal by Rittmann (who was credited for choral arrangements) and choreographer Joe Layton. The fourteen note and tune lyric – 'when you know the notes to sing...' – were provided by Rodgers and Hammerstein; the rest, apparently, came from Rittmann. Howard: 'Rodgers allowed her to do whatever she liked. When we started doing the staging of it, Joe took over. He asked Trude for certain parts to be repeated, certain embellishments.'
In the stage version, Maria sings this song in the living room of Captain von Trapp's house, shortly after she introduces herself to the children. However, when Ernest Lehman adapted the stage script into a screenplay for the 1965 film adaptation, he moved the song to later on in the story. In the film, Maria and the children sing this song over a montage as they wander and frolic over Salzburg. Later on, in both the film and stage versions, a more intricate reprise of the song is sung in the style of a Bach cantata, showing the audience how versatile they were at multi-part choral singing.
The tune finished at #88 in AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs survey of the top tunes in American cinema in 2004.
(For the actual origins of the solfège, refer to Solfège.)
The lyrics teach the solfege syllables by linking them with English homophones (or near-homophones):
- Do refers to Doe, defined as the female of a deer or related animal, "a deer, a female deer."
- Re refers to Ray, defined as a thin line or narrow beam of light or other radiant energy, "a drop of golden sun."
- Mi refers to Me, the objective pronoun referring to the speaker, "a name I call myself."
- Fa refers to Far, defined as to or at the most distant or remote point, "a long long way to run".
- Sol (pronounced as So in the song and in popular culture) refers to Sew, to work with a needle and thread or with a sewing machine, "a needle pulling thread." ('So' is an often-used spoken alternate for the actual corresponding syllable in the solfege system, Sol.)
- La lacks a satisfactory homophone (see below), and the line needs to rhyme with 'Do' because at the end it is 'That will bring us back to 'Do'. (oh-oh-oh), so it is simply "a note to follow so"
- Ti refers to Tea, a popular hot beverage made by steeping tea leaves in boiling water, "a drink with jam and bread."
As the song concludes, "When you know the notes to sing, you can sing most anything'".
Author Douglas Adams noted in his article "Unfinished Business of the Century" that, while each line of the lyric takes the name of a note from the sol-fa scale, and gives its meaning, "La, a note to follow So..." does not fit that pattern and should be considered a placeholder. Adams humorously imagined that Oscar Hammerstein just wrote "A note to follow So" and thought he would have another look at it later, but could not come up with anything better.
In popular culture
In a scene on the Simpsons episode "Bart Gets an Elephant", Homer crashes into a deer statue and blurts out his famous D'oh!. An upset Lisa says "A deer!", while Marge says "A female deer!". A sequence in a comic book features Sideshow Bob and his brother Cecil singing songs based on musicals, with the lyrics changed to reflect Bob's fantasies of killing Bart Simpson, including a parody of "Do-Re-Mi".
A Japanese version of the song (Do-Re-Mi no Uta), performed by Eri Itoh and the Children's Choir of the Forest, was used as the first opening for Nippon Animation's 1991 anime TV series version of The Story of the Trapp Family Singers, Trapp Ikka Monogatari; however, it was replaced by another song later in the series' run and on all home video releases of the series.
- The alphabet song, which is used to learn the letters of the alphabet.
- Musical scale
- Trapp Family
- Ut queant laxis
- on YouTube