“If music be the food of love, play on…” This lively production was set during the energetic 1920’s. This concept kicked off my process of writing Jazz music for the first time by giving me the opportunity to deeply research the music structure and style of greats such as James P. Johnson and Fats Waller. One of the most delightful music elements of this Shakespeare play in particular, is the amount of songs within it sung by the character Feste. In this production, Feste was a clown, a musician, and a traveler who existed outside of the time constraints of the play. To emphasize this, I wrote four songs for him that encompassed not only the feel of 1920’s Jazz (“I Am Gone Sir”) but also touches of singer/songwriters from today (“For the Rain”). I also used musical themes for particular characters: Olivia’s theme is dark, brooding, and provocative; uptight Malvolio’s theme is a twitterpated waltz after he is led to believe that he has a secret admirer, the twins Viola and Sebastian share a theme with Sebastian’s possessing a muscular bass line, and Sir Toby’s theme is fumbling and comical with flatulent low brass for when he stumbled into his scenes. The opening storm was also exciting to build with effects and musical instruments. During the storm a ship was ripped in half, Viola and Sebastian were plunged deep below the violent surface waters (listen for this beginning at :36), before being abruptly torn apart at the very end of the storm choreography sequence.
This beautifully heartbreaking play about a woman and her mother (living with dementia), combined shadow puppetry and whimsical storytelling. Vivienne, the main character, in her quest to occupy time during stress triggered, insomnia riddled nights, decides to craft a childlike creation myth that explores the origins of Alzheimer’s. The myth centers on two main characters: The White Egret and the Gray Mole. In her verdant forest, the White Egret seeks to protect her precious forest and the animals by burying all of their memories in a memory box for safe keeping. This seems like a perfect plan until a curious Gray Mole discovers the box of memories and delights in devouring the delicious morsels. For the music, I chose to give each animal a particular instrument and musical style. The White Egret was a graceful flute. The Gray Mole was a melancholy clarinet. Piccolos portrayed larks, low cellos the wolf, pizzicato strings for rabbits that hopped across the forest floor, and English horns sounded for frolicking deer. I wanted music for the White Egret to be bright, flowing, and idyllic at the beginning of the myth, but by the end she was saddened and beside herself at the loss of her beautiful forest friend. The music needed to embody and support that evolution.
This play of innocence, young love, and tragedy was set largely in a modern warehouse district where rusted things long forgotten and leftover scaffolding were permanent parts of the landscape. The set in general had a very industrial feel that enveloped this unfortunate story, and the music needed to also possess those elements. I used a combination of moody bass, cello, and beats (Top of Second Half), dark strings and distorted drums (End of First Half), fragile strings (End of Show), as well as piano and other modern and ethereal elements (Love Theme).
This ridiculous romp combined period restoration comedy with touches of modern elements throughout all areas of design. To achieve this blend in sound, I concocted the style of music for the show that I can only describe as Baroque Electronica. I achieved this by mixing the ornateness of Baroque music and traditional instruments of the period with electronic synths, heavy bass, and electric guitars. I also played with various themes for particular characters that drove us quickly from one scene to the next. Celimene’s theme included many electronic elements like modern drums and bass, as well as delicate strings. Frank’s theme was rough and aggressive, combining electric guitar and bass as well as frantic harpsichord runs. Clitander’s theme was to be fun, playful, and light. The Queen’s fanfare had a slight hip hop beat, while still embodying a royal melodic trumpeting fit for a queen. The bright and fun final cue of the show was comprised entirely of modern sounds, with an ornate twinkling synth mimicking Baroque musical runs.
My second show with Ron, this Chekhov was set in 1970s Russia. I opted to write simple piano and guitar for transition music as opposed to Russian disco (which I did use as scene underscore at one point, but that is another story fraught with joyous table dancing). The first guitar theme was the original piece to be played live during several scenes by Telegin (actor, Chris Henry). During the process of working with Chris as he learned the piece, he came up with an improvisation on the original theme that we really liked. Both versions of the theme were played live as well as recorded and integrated into transition music. The hollowed out, upstage piano was "played" by transmitting an audio signal, via a wireless in-ear monitor rig, to small speakers hidden beneath the lid. Yelena played her simple piano theme several times throughout the play; this same theme can be heard in the Top of Act III cue.
Written for and recorded by the Janus Trio, this piece is arranged for a harp, a flute, and a viola. The inspiration came from having the opening seven-note phrase knocking around in my head for weeks. I sat down with my music notation software, began with this simple phrase, and Unknown Unknown was the surprising result. It was fun to write and even more fun to record with three very talented women. Recording Engineer: Ken Goodwin
Nine Dragons included choreographed dance and movement pieces that were accompanied by both live and recorded music. Live instruments for the show were made out of found objects such as Coca-Cola bottles fashioned into a pan flute and large water cooler bottles used as drums. Other instruments included various percussion, finger cymbals, singing bowls, and wind instruments. The play portrayed the conflict between an isolated Polynesian tribe who did not know the meaning of war and a powerful East Asian tribe that brought war to their village for the first time. Nine ancient dragons of myth for both tribes, acted as mediators between the two clashing cultures. The opening music number includes musical elements of each tribe. The cave and scroll flying pieces are of the dragons' musical world.
Yale University's The Seagull was set in the present day. One major design concept for the show focused on the idea of having impressionistic representations of real things. The set's twisted trees were made of dark, welded metal and the lights were at times very saturated in color. I looked to the metallic elements of the set as inspiration for my use of industrial sounds, and the intense emotional quality of the lights for the ethereal piano and strings. I loved creating the opportunity to hear the visual design through aural elements within the show.
From Yale Rep's Romeo and Juliet, this cue is an improvised piece I recorded on the Cristal, a Baschet sound sculpture. It softly underscored Juliet's monologue as she spoke of what she might see, smell, and hear in the tomb if she were to wake up before Romeo came for her. "And shrieks like mandrakes torn out of the earth." This production emphasized the heat and tension of both the two families and the hot Italian climate. Throughout the show I played with creating subtle tension in the atmosphere surrounding the characters by adding in very soft ambient tracks to add an energy to the air. In contrast to those moments of aural tension, I was able to carve out stark silence by removing that subtle soundscape during particularly intense moments such as the deaths at the end of the play.
Set in the period of Shakespeare, the music also combined several music eras such as Baroque and Classical. Within the story, there are very distinct characters and groups from scene to scene. I gave several characters their own unique musical themes and instruments. These themes and instruments were often combined when two or more characters were in the same scene. One example was the musical combination of Falstaff and Prince Harry when they occupied the stage together. Strings and harpsichords portrayed Prince Harry; a silly flute and flatulent bassoon represented Falstaff.
This production of Salt Lake Shakes' Comedy of Errors was set in the Middle East, roughly around 500 AD. The idea for the show's music was that each transition was to be a piece of a larger musical theme for the entire show. As the show progressed, instruments and music lines were introduced as specific characters came and went within the story. Certain characters were more percussive in nature, others more melodic and light. At the top of the final scene, the audience was finally able to hear the show's musical theme in its entirety. Several of the scenes took place in an open-air market with a hot sun beating down overhead. This environment allowed me to play with the hustle and bustle of the marketplace including a rather raucous, and often comical, unseen goat herder that traveled throughout the market with the use of several onstage speakers.