Compositions & Musical Works

The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze and Other Stories illustrated the musical rhythm of Saroyan’s writing style (the story “1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8” is a fine example of this), and you can see that his early artwork contains marks reminiscent of sheet music. Although Saroyan didn’t play any instruments (other than noodling on a harmonica), he was a music lover, playing his pianola regularly in his San Francisco homes. He also surrounded himself with musician friends, including Artie Shaw, Alan Hovhaness, and his cousin Ross Bagdassarian (stage name David Seville, who created Alvin and the Chipmunks).

Collaborating with professional composers, Saroyan wrote the lyrics to many songs, including “Come On-A My House,” made popular by Rosemary Clooney in 1951. The story goes, Saroyan and Bagdassarian were driving cross-country making up new lyrics to old Armenian folk songs, and ended up with “Come On-A My House,” which is presented here in four forms: the original napkin that Saroyan wrote the lyrics on, early typed lyrics, preliminary sheet music, and finally the recording featuring the voices of Saroyan and Bagdassarian.

He also had a close relationship with Alan Hovhaness, who wrote the music for Saroyan’s play, Jim Dandy, as well as homages to their Armenian roots in “Girakgi Picnic” and “Bari Bari.” In all the examples below, Saroyan wrote the lyrics that others then performed and recorded.

Come On a My House

Words and music by Ross Bagdasarian and William Saroyan
Recorded 1951 by Bagdasarian / Saroyan
Other versions were recorded, the most famous by Rosemary Clooney in 1951.

Read this article to learn more.

original_lyrics_napkin
Original Lyrics Napkin
(Click image to view)
original_lyrics_draft
Original Lyrics Draft
(Click image to view)
come on a my house original score Page 1
Original Score
(Click image to view)

Girakgi Picnic

Lyrics by William Saroyan, Music by Alan Hovhaness, 1941
Not commercially recorded until 2018 by Hasmik Harutyunyan and Aleksan Harutyunyan
girakgi-picnic_score.jpg
Original Score
(Click image to view)

Girakgi Picnic - First Recording

Lyrics by William Saroyan, Music by Alan Hovhaness, 1941
Recorded in Armenia by Hasmik Harutyunyan and Aleksan Harutyunyan
Giragki Picnic is an homage to Armenia, recorded by Hasmik Harutyunyan and Aleksan Harutyunyan in Armenia. This CD was commissioned by Charles Janigian and designed by The Renaissance Cultural and Intellectual Foundation.

Oh! Beauty!

Words and music by Ross Bagdasarian and William Saroyan
Recorded by Jack Smith, 1951
Other versions were recorded
oh_beauty_score.jpg
Original Score
(Click image to view)

A Little Closer Please

Lyrics by William Saroyan, Music by Paul Bowles
Recorded by William Sharp and Steven Blier, 1989
 

a-little-closer-please.jpg
Original Score
(Click image to view)

Bari Bari

Lyrics by William Saroyan, Music by Alan Hovhaness, 1941
Not commercially recorded until 2018 by Hasmik Harutyunyan and Aleksan Harutyunyan
bari-bari.jpg
Original Score
(Click image to view)
Score duplicated by permission of Stanford Libraries, from the collection “William Saroyan Papers, 1926-1981”

Eat, Eat, Eat

Words and music by William Saroyan
Recorded by Danny Kaye in 1951
 

*This is a small sample of digitized artifacts from Forever Saroyan’s collection. Please contact us at to learn how to access our complete collection.

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