Gestalt in the room where it happened

For Father's Day I received Hamilton: the Revolution, the brilliant book about the brilliant musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda.  Besides the complete text of the script — annotated by the author/lyricist/composer/star/overall-freaking-genius — there are brief articles about different aspects of creating this modern masterpiece.

One of them discusses Miranda's admiration for other Broadway greats and how he's learned from them.  (STEAL FROM THE BEST)  John Weidman, who wrote the book for Pacific Overtures and Assassins, has known the composer since the latter was in high school with his daughter, and it was to Weidman that Miranda turned for advice about turning the vast scope of Alexander Hamilton's life into a musical.

In an email exchange excerpted in the book [p. 173], Miranda says that the more research he does, the "more daunting the project becomes":

"I have three songs written, and I'm at a crossroads... Do you recommend writing about the sections of Hamilton's life that are most attractive personally, and writing the connective tissue later, if I find that there are large, Buick-sized holes in the storytelling?"

Astute readers will recognize that the other option would be to try to structure the whole work before writing the songs, which might be a viable plan but which to the experienced Lichtenbergian smacks too much of the King of Hearts Fallacy to be appealing.

Weidman's reply is a perfect description of GESTALT and why it's important to the artist:

"Absolutely… Let your imagination go to the places where it naturally wants to go and turn it loose.  Each song then gets added to the other ones, each created from… a place of pure enthusiasm and at some point as the songs accumulate — and this is key — the songs themselves to start to become the 'research.' Inevitably, they'll start to suggest patterns, what's missing.  But it won't be what's missing from some documentary-like take on Hamilton's life.  It'll be what's missing from why you were so taken with his life and why you needed to write about it.  Does that make sense?"

Indeed it does.  Notice that key phrase: they'll start to suggest patterns, what's missing.  And I think it's lovely that Weidman points out that the missing pieces will spring from what is necessary for Miranda to complete his work of art.

And we all know how that turned out.