The Borrowers is a show based on the popular children's book series by the same name about the little people who live under your floor boards and borrow all your stuff. The show was set in the Victorian era and we found some really interesting research about the intricate music boxes that were made during the period. The notion of this small device with such minute mechanical detail seemed to fit well with the Clock Family of borrowers. We found a couple of really great tracks from the Magic Whispers and we received permission from them to use their songs as inspiration to create several songs of our own for various scenes in the play. Here are a few examples of the sounds we created.
This play by Tom Stoppard explores the story of Shakespeare's Hamlet from the point of view of its two smallest characters: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. The concept we were going with on this production was to treat it like an episode of The Twilight Zone. In our case R&G are just a couple of guys in the modern world who one day find themselves in the middle of Hamlet along a timeline over which they have no control. Aron Accurso composed a simple tune for the traveling performers troupe to play live in the show and I was able to take that tune and create some versions of this that fit into the modern Twilight Zone concept. A particular feature of many of the music tracks was the sound of the coin flipping which symbolized the role of fate in the story.
This production of Hedda Gabler used an adaptation by the Director, Preston Lane. In began by researching some composers suggested by the director. Along the way I discovered a song by Lamb called Gorecki, named after the 20th Century composer. The song was a contemporary techno song but contained samples from a Gorecki symphony and had a really interesting feel. Somehow it felt right and seemed to hit on some of the concepts we were shooting for of making the story meaningful to a contemporary audience. The music set up a battle between the vocalists and the music which I found a compelling metaphor to the battle facing Hedda. We decided we couldn't use the vocals in the track because the english lyrics would be too distracting. Instead I found a recording of the Norwegian singer Sissel and managed to create a hybrid of the two that used the Norwegian vocals against the Lamb techno track. This was a risky choice but it paid off. The music worked really well in the show and made for some really powerful moments in the play.
The idea we had for this production of Art was that the white painting represented the sum of all color. In a similar way, the three characters in the play, while quirky on their own, create something very beautiful through their relationship together. I was drawn to the music of Steve Reich, in particular his Music for Mallet Instruments, Organ, and Voice, because of all the little bits of music that build together to create a sound very different from the individual parts. I created my own arrangements of Reich's composition featuring small phrases that allowed the audience to hear these small parts build up. The mallet instruments also helped to set up a convention throughout the show that allowed us to bring the characters in and out of their asides to the audience. The timing took a lot of rehearsal to get all the various production elements to line up with the tight precision of the music but in the end it was quite effective.
A few years back, in anticipation of the amateur performance rights being eventually released, R&H Theatricals invited three colleges and three high schools to produce Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom of the Opera as an experiment to see how practical it would be for schools to produce the show. Elon University was one of the school's invited to participate and I was brought in as a guest sound designer on the show. The original production relies on some click tracks and while we went in to the project assuming we would not use them, it became evident that some of them were necessary. We conducted a recording session for each of the click track songs so we would have all the elements in case we needed them. In the end we managed to sing all the songs live but had to use a click track for some of the orchestration. Here is the recording we made for the title song featuring Matt Shingledecker and Katie Emerson.
This play, based on the novel by Ernest Gaines, tells the story of a young black man who is executed for a crime he did not commit. There were two big challenges we identified in the play. One was the fact that the play begins after the inciting event of the story had already happened. In scene 1, Jefferson is already in jail. What happened in the courtroom at his trial where his own attorney compared him to a hog as a defense strategy was a focal point of the plot. We felt that this was something we wanted to address. The audience needed to hear what that attorney said in order to understand Jefferson's behavior. We decided to create a prologue to the play using a monologue from the book. We recorded the actor and composed some music and played it as a voiceover while the audience watched Jefferson sitting center stage listening to the words that were spoken. The other challenge is in the end of the play when the script called for us to stage a mock execution in the electric chair. How do you stage something like this in a way that helps the audience feel the true depth of what was happening while still communicating the redeeming message of the story? Sound played a key role in this scene and I've included the soundtrack here.