My inaugural post was about my preparations for After the Quake with the Walking Shadow Theatre Company, a play for which I am writing and performing a solo cello score (opening May 6th). I’ve come a long way in about 2 weeks and naturally, some of my original plans have been left by the wayside, like so many boom boxes and buckets. I was working on developing a rather bizarre fusion of guitar/cello/koto by modifying a cello and strumming it with a guitar pick, but it was like hiking up a mountain with a backpack full of unnecessary anvils. It wasn’t long before I got my priorities straight and ditched the metaphorical ballast, and now I’m doing my best to think simple, although in this case ‘simple’ still has its distinct difficulties (the lesser of two anvils).
(if you’ve ever worked with a looper, you know that they’re infernal machines designed specifically to torture musicians by only playing back their mistakes)
Luckily, I’ve had a wonderfully economic time composing – where I’d expected to use about 30% of the ideas I wrote down, it’s been more like 55%. I’ve also had an enormously productive first couple of rehearsals with the cast. I was absolutely terrified the first day when I walked in, sat down, and showed them my material for the first time, but everybody has been so constructive and tactful with their feedback that all terror was quickly dissolved.
I’ve never had to get so much work done in so little time, but I’m glad I didn’t have more ‘figured out’ that first rehearsal, because (theoretically) that music wouldn’t have been as appropriate as the music I write in response to this specifically amazing group of actors. On the flip side of that, some of the music I brought to that first rehearsal has already influenced the way scenes are playing out and how characters develop/behave, which is a sensation very similar to the communication between improvising musicians. It’s a pleasant sensation.
Our director, Amy Rummenie, invites creativity at every turn and I get the impression that she trusts every individual staff/cast member to get their job done, and to do it uniquely and appropriately – and so far that’s all I’ve seen.
The first minute of the next clip underscores a monologue by a giant frog (who may or may not be imaginary) as he describes an ambiguously malevolent giant worm that lives under Tokyo and ingests negative energy (with enriched/revoiced harmonies).
‘Frog’ beseeches Katagiri, a seemingly everyday man and unlikely hero, to stand by his side and do battle with said worm (the last 2 minutes of the track underscores this monologue, although it is quite a bit different than what will be in the score, but still captures the essence of the scene). The “¡horn call harmonics!” sound to me like different duos of brass instruments depending on the range and timbre (notated in bass cleff where one touches the string to create the harmonic – not the actual pitch). I definitely stole this idea from the opening of Mahler’s 1st symphony, and I’m only vaguely playing what’s written, as in all the examples.
And here’s Katagiri’s theme as he strolls through Kabukicho – the roughest neighborhood of Tokyo. What a badass. The other two tracks in the que are ideas I think perfectly describe Katagiri when he’s befuddled, which is really whenever anybody’s talking to him.
This is a fun little jaunty bit that plays under the cute family scenes – it’s just a celloey bastardization of Schubert’s Trout quintet, mvt. 4 which I’ve whittled down to an oscillation between two chords. It’s kinda’ lame as far as harmony is concerned but the process of building up a longer loop makes for a very awkward beginning to the scene, so I think this serves to set the tone most effectively and economically.
More posts later, and make sure to put the performance dates (May 6-21) on your calendar! You’re going to want to see this show. Twice. And it’s coming up fast.
Post-show discussions are May 13 and 20, and there’s nothing the cast/crew (especially me) would enjoy more than some great questions, so bring ’em if you’ve got ’em. And make reservations soon because seating is very limited!