Scoring for live theater can be a challenge.

One has to balance the needs of the script with both the needs of the director and the practical needs of the production. What kind of world is the director creating? What thematic elements are argued in the script via the characters? How long are the scene transitions, and does the director want any underscoring? What tone should the score take? What type of music should it even be?

The answers are never straight forward. You can have Shakespeare with modern music just as easilly as you can be required to create a pseudo-baroque score for a modern show. You can approach the music from a character standpoint or a topical one. The score itself can be satirical and full of references, or it can be simple and to the point.

The most important question for me, right now, is how do I show what I do, given the extremely esoteric nature of scoring for live theater? A piece of music might not necesarilly stand on its own without the context of the production.

For instance - below is a cue from a production of Major Barbara that I produced for the Dalton School. It doesn't make a lot of sense without me explaining the following: It's a transition from Act 3 scene 1 to scene 2. The show itself involves a Salvation Army member coming to grips with the frightening nature of a world absent of God, for all practical purposes. The piece is designed to underscore massive moving scenery, including a 9' cannon that is ridden onto the stage. And scene 2 of act 3 takes place in a munitions factory. So, here's the cue - it is based on a period-appropriate Salvation Army hymn called "When the Roll is Called up Yonder" as a satirical commentary about the death factory we are about to finish the show in.

 

Such is the barest suggestion of the process I give to just about everything I write for the theater. Scores are composed and designed (they're two different things) as part of an overall soundscape that often exists as yet another character in the play, commenting, filling in the space between scenes or acts, and sometimes poking fun.

Here's the Curtain Call cue from a production of Moby Dick: Rehearsed. A show whose score starts simply as a harmonium and builds in complexity as the actors (and hopefully the audience) become more involved in the piece. So, the Curtain Call music was designed as the biggest, most symphonic piece in the whole show. And here it is.

 

I don't just deal in synthetic orchestras, though. if the show calls for it, certainly, I can go all-out electronic, and I often have.

Here's "Galactic Defenders of the Geocentric Universe" - from
The Oedipus Chronicles. Created as a theme song to an imaginary children's adventure program, like Voltron or Transformers.

 

Below is the Curtain Call music from a show that was fully produced, yet never shown to an audience, called Chimping. It was a funny, but serious show about how technology takes over our lives, and how Christmas seems more and more to be an excuse to revel in rampant consumerism. So, I rewrote the lyrics to Rodgers and Hammerstein's "My Favorite Things" and produced it as a pseudo-Skinny Puppy track.

 

And finally, here's a piece that's almost all of the cues from a production of Charlotte's Web. It's not particularly recent, but it's a book I particularly like (how many children's books are almost entirely about death?) and so I have a fondness for this music, as it tells the story, musically, in about 6 minutes. The introduction of the farm, Wilbur, meeting Charlotte, the words in the web, going to the Fair, Templeton's fairground gluttony, Charlotte's death and the departure of the baby spiders, and the curtain call, which reprises Wilbur's theme as a more somber piece of music but full of hope and the memory of Charlotte.