Book of Mormon CD

Soundtrack

The NPR.org site has ended its free streaming of the Broadway musical, The Book of Mormon. The music is available on iTunes currently (for $). This is a parody of the Mormon religion in the form of a tale of missionaries visiting Uganda. The story, music, and lyrics were a collaboration by the creators of South Park (Trey Parker and Matt Stone), who partnered with Avenue Q writer (Robert Lopez). Choreography was by Corey Nicholaw.

If you can stomach the four-letter words and good natured jibes (at religion and other musicals, like Lion King), the lyrics are funny and smart. The music is infectious (I’ve listened to the entire recording about 10 times). On multiple listens of the soundtrack, I grow more astonished about with Josh Gad’s (Elder Cunningham) vocal variety. Also believable in their roles, Nikki M. James (Nabulungi) and Andrew Rannells (Elder Price).┬áThe success of the music to feel emotionally uplifting while at the same time the content is potentially horrifying and blasphemous, speaks to the well-crafted composition of the songs and writing of the story.

Book of Mormon has been criticized by Mormons as possibly increasing the public’s misunderstanding of a religion that believers feel has been misrepresented in the media. In addition, it has been criticized as making light of real social issues such as AIDS and poverty, as well as playing on racial stereotypes. They are valid concerns. But if someone had created a straightforward portrayal of these subjects, the audience would be far smaller. This musical appears to be more about entertainment than at attempt at social change.

Design Analysis

I’m a design student (User Experience and Graphic Design) and so have been thinking about the cd cover design a lot. Two aspects that are immediately striking for me are:

  1. Use of negative space: Typically I’d expect to see the outline of the white shirt on white background. But the designer has eliminated that delineation interestingly. I still recognize that the person is wearing a shirt. It’s possible this way to see the whole as both a realistic or abstract composition.
  2. Playing with the idea of subject: I’m also interested by where the designer chose to cut off the person’s head (figuratively). I can still clearly imagine what the non-visible parts of the missionary’s head would look like (sort of like Donny Osmand hair-wise). Also the person’s eyes are the first part of the head you cannot see. Typically I would look at a person’s eyes first so this choice in cropping feels unusual and surprising.
  3. Strong horizontal movement balanced by vertical line: This is a composition tactic I see repeatedly in design and art. Cognitively I don’t think it’s the first thing I notice but it’s a very clear form of organizing the composition.