Lin Manuel Miranda is the 37 year old american actor, playwright, and composer responsible for the american broadway musical, Hamilton. He has written for the disney movie Moana, has starred in the broadway musical In The Heights, he is set to star in the upcoming disney movie Mary Poppins Returns, and his awards include a Pulitzer, 2 Grammys, an Emmy, a MacArthur Fellowship, and three Tonys! But before he became one of the most well known people in the music world Miranda was born in New York City and raised in the neighborhood of Inwood, the son of Luz Towns, a clinical psychologist, and Luis A. Miranda, Jr.
, a Democratic Party consultant who advised New York City mayor Ed Koch. Miranda has one older sister, Luz, who is the Chief Financial Officer of the MirRam Group. During childhood and his teens, he spent at least one month each year with his grandparents in Vega Alta, Puerto Rico. He is of mostly Puerto Rican descent. The name “Lin-Manuel” was inspired by a poem about the Vietnam War, Nana roja para mi hijo Lin Manuel, by the Puerto Rican writer José Manuel Torres Santiago. When Manuel was a kid he wrote jingles for fun, After attending Hunter College Elementary School and Hunter College High School, Miranda graduated from Wesleyan University in 2002. During his time there, he co-founded a hip hop comedy troupe called Freestyle Love Supreme.
He wrote the earliest draft of In the Heights in 1999, his sophomore year of college. After the show was accepted by Second Stage, Wesleyan’s student theater company, Miranda added freestyle rap and salsa numbers. After Second Stage premiered it in 1999, Miranda wrote and directed several other musicals at Wesleyan and acted in many other productions, ranging from musicals to Shakespeare. He received the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from Wesleyan University in 2015.
In 2008, while on vacation, Miranda read Ron Chernow’s biography of Alexander Hamilton and, inspired by the book, wrote a rap about Hamilton that he performed for the White House Evening of Poetry, Music, and the Spoken Word, on May 12, 2009, accompanied by Alex Lacamoire. Miranda later said he spent a year writing the Hamilton song ” My Shot “, revising it countless times for every verse to reflect Alexander Hamilton’s intellect. By 2012, Miranda was performing an extended set of pieces, based on the life of Hamilton, referred to as the Hamilton Mixtape; the New York Times called it “an obvious game changer”. Hamilton, a musical based on the Hamilton Mixtape, premiered off-Broadway at The Public Theater in January 2015, directed by Thomas Kail.
Miranda wrote the book and score and starred as the title character. The show was a massive success and was sold out for more than two months in advance. Now Manuel wrote all the songs for Hamilton, but he also did the arrangements when they were incorporated into sheet music. The first song we will talk about is one of my favorite songs in Hamilton, the Room Where it Happens. This song is about Aaron Burr finding out about the Compromise of 1790. This song is wonderful because we learn that Alexander Hamilton made a compromise with Thomas Jefferson and James Madison that in exchange for Alexander getting to implement his banking system, Thomas and James would get to choose the nation’s capital.
As the song goes on, we see Burr become more and more frustrated over their decision and we learn what actually went down leading up the compromise. And we get to see Burr, who has been a quiet and calm character the whole musical, lose his composure and begins to act wildly and sporadically as we learn his true intentions are, wanting to be in the Room where It happens, referring to his desire to be in a position of power and status. This piece is just all over the place, jazz, showtime, rap, hip-hop, dixieland, and even a banjo making an appearance in this piece, with each style of music being for a different character. Jazz for Burr, hip-hop for Hamilton, Dixieland for Jefferson, and the showtime also for Burr. This song is all about Burr finding out that his motto, “Talk less, smile more,” is not working for him, but it works for Hamilton so he becomes enraged, which inevitably leads him down his role as an antagonist, and I would not have this song any other way. The voice parts for this piece are for 3 main vocals and backup vocals or a four-part choir. The instruments used here range from drums, piano, and guitar to trumpets, trombones, and a banjo. This song starts slow and in a showtime like sound.
But as the song goes on, it speeds up and rises in volume, until it becomes a full blown incredibly loud jazz number that ends with the boom of a gunshot, foreshadowing Burr’s duel with Hamilton. A great end. Here is the sheet music, but be forwarned a lot of these songs are see without having to pay. https://www.sheetmusicplus.com/title/the-room-where-it-happens-digital-sheet-music/20212240 The next song will be the most recognizable song in Hamilton, My Shot. This song is near perfect, probably because it took Manuel a full year to write! This song plays when Hamilton first meets his real life friends and musical friends Lafayette, Hercules Mulligan, and John Laurens. This song is all about Hamilton blowing everyone away with his insane intelligence and oratory prowess.
This song could mean a multitude of things, the shots that they are drinking, Hamilton not throwing away “his shot” of building a legacy, or it could be seen as a foreshadow of his fatal duel with Aaron Burr, where he “Throws away” his shot. Any way you see this song, it is impossible to not acknowledge the amount of effort, time, and skill was put into this song. This song full on embraces the rap/hip-hop vibe that the musical is known for.
Not only are we introduced to Hamilton’s motivations, but we also learn more about his friends and the friendship that is instantly created among them. I love this song for its incredible word choice, vocals, instruments used, and that it embodies the entire musical in seven words: “I am not throwing away my Shot.” This song was made for four main vocal parts and a backup vocal or SATB from what I hear when I listen to it.
The instruments used in this are nowhere near as much as in The Room Where it Happens. The only instruments that I hear are the piano, guitar, and drums. This song is fast and overwhelming the whole way through. From Alexander introducing himself, to his friends talking about their dreams, there is a decrease of speed when Hamilton has an inner monologue about dying and his aspirations of becoming remembered no matter what. The song then starts to speed up until Hamilton just burst out with the best verses in the entire song, and some of the best verses in the entire musical.
The song stays fast until the end, where they end with the boom of a gunshot, again foreshadowing Hamilton’s duel with Burr. This song was important to Manuel when he was writing it. As he said himself, “Hamilton’s so much smarter than me. This is the song where Hamilton comes into the room and blows everyone away with the strength of his oratory. So every couplet has to be amazing.” And considering that it took him a whole year to make it, I think that he did one heck of a job.