William Finn, A New Brain, “I’d Rather Be Sailing”
It was after his release from the hospital, having battled a serious neurological disorder, that composer-lyricist William Finn began composing what was to become A New Brain. Made up of 36 separate musical numbers, the finished show premiered at New York’s Lincoln Center in 1998. Like his well-known trilogy of related shows that preceded this one (In Trousers, March of the Falsettos, Falsettoland), A New Brain is a chamber-scale musical and through-composed, enabling characters to be revealed in depth solely through music and lyrics. The variety of Finn’s writing is evident everywhere, whether his songs are exuding sharp wit or deeply touching the heart.
The show’s central character is Gordon, a young songwriter for a television show. A collapse while having lunch in a restaurant sends him to the hospital (he turns out to have a malformation in his brain that will require life-threatening surgery). His boyfriend Roger introduces himself to the audience on the way to the hospital, eager to return to Gordon after enjoying the serenity and calm of his sailing trip. “I’d Rather Be Sailing” exemplifies the sweetness and affecting sincerity that have always characterized the ballads in Finn shows.