Composing Music for Slung Low Theatre

This month it was my turn to write the ‘New Thoughts’ article for the Slung Low website, entitled ‘Why Music’.

You can read the whole post here.

In the article I cover a few basic, practical reasons for including music in a Slung Low show.

Slung Low makes installation and site-specific theatre. It’s anything but conventional, but it’s primary purpose is for ‘a good story, well told’. Whenever music will enable us to do this, that’s when we use it.

Go read the article. Then come back here. I’ll be waiting. 🙂

What did you think?

In researching the article, I discovered a notable lack of writing online, either in regular articles or blog posts, about this particular topic, and the wider subject of the general use of sound in modern and contemporary theatre.

I found an online transcript of Kurt Weill’s ‘The Alchemy of Music’, a little academic but a good read nonetheless. It’s quite dated now (written in 1936) but it really does situate the use of music in theatre in its historical context. If you like that sort of thing.

So I put the call out on Twitter, which I’ve discovered to be an amazing resource (especially when one has over a thousand followers. Mwahahaha…) for filtering the wheat from the chaff of the internet way faster and more thorough than any other method I know.

What came back were a few fascinating articles courtesy of @nickkeenan:

From Paul Rekk on Que J’ai Reve: Plaza Suite/Trust

From the third paragraph down he covers:

  • the use of pop music and referentialism,
  • the difference of interpretation the audience may have from the director in using well-known music
  • using music as ‘filler’ for set changes without it having relevant meaning to the play itself,
  • aesthetics and subjectivism.

He also references Greg Allen and his list of 25 Rules for Creating Good Theater on the Neo-Futurists’ site, citing especially:

Rule #21: Include music. There’s nothing better for introducing new music to people than having it accompany stage action. Take the opportunity to re-contextualize known music through performance.”

Cool. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

@nickkeenan also pointed out to me his own post on The Generation Gap:

What I’ve noticed about the older generation of theater artists (and audiences) is that they don’t warm up as quickly to things like sonic underscore or more than a sprinkle of sound effects in a show – while on the other side of the coin, younger artists spread it on thick, often using it just for the sake of using it, and younger audiences lose focus if words are not spoken over an underscore.

I can certainly sympathise with the latter statement. I love dialogue with underscore, but I also love it more when the underscore is preceded by silence, which really increases the music’s power to focus the audience on the dialogue.

Perhaps I’m still seeing it from the younger generation’s point of view? (Shush. It won’t be long before I really can’t claim to be the younger generation anymore. Let me enjoy my last few moments of it 😉 )

My shout-out on Twitter even led to the discussion of the lack of writing on this topic… which then led to a post about Intelligent Sound Design on Theatre Gnosis.

And it’s beautiful – practical and aesthetic discussion, in the form of blank verse.

Nicely done, sir.

Any new thoughts for this newly discovered niche in the market from your good selves? Let me know in the Comments below!

3 Replies to “Composing Music for Slung Low Theatre”

  1. Shucks, thanks for the compliment!

    Do you find that doing sight specific work changes the narrative rules in any fundamental way? Where do you begin when you work that way?

  2. Pingback: Questioning a Design Aesthetic, 2000 - 2005 | Theater For The Future
  3. Good question! It would be great to know what you consider the narrative rules to be when not working on site-specific work in order to answer 🙂

Comments are closed.