Thursday, August 5, 2010

On the writing of music, by the wonderful Jason Rico.

Gustav Mahler once said "If a composer could say what he had to say in words he would not bother trying to say it in music."

And that's what I'm usually doing. I write these little black odds, lines and squiggles all over pieces of paper. I give these pieces of paper to someone who either hits, taps on, blows in or runs some hair along a device that makes sound. If all goes as planned, the sound you hear matches the squiggles I put on that piece of paper. That is how I write a perform my plays. I call them movements instead of acts, and instruments instead of actors, but to me, the concept is the same and I have the extra advantage of writing in a language everyone understands.

Once in a while, a composer reads a book or a poem and thinks, "Hey, this would sound great set to music!" That's how songs and operas are born.

Occasionally, a composer is gifted with not only music, but story writing ability and can create a great play or book himself so he can add a musical line to it.

But sometimes, a composer is selling computers and a coworker runs up to him, so excited he thinks she may explode and she says:

"Oh my gosh, you have to read this play, because I know the playwright and he is conceiving it as a musical and I know you'd be perfect for it because the play is perfect for you and this needs to happen as soon as possible."

Or something to that effect.

And that is how a straight play entitled "Escape From the Haltsburg Boys Choir" becomes a fantastic musical produced by The Ruckus.

"Escape.." is a wonderful project to work on for many reasons. The Ruckus is all over some new stage work. Aaron Dean is a fantastic playwright and perfection to work with. The material is so well written that the songs (almost) wrote themselves.

I got lots of influence from pop music and 17th century choral music to name a few sources and had the unique opportunity to be able to craft some of my own lyrics, which isn’t always the case for a musical. I also have the honor of having seen the type of production The Ruckus puts on which helps me adapt my ideas to their stage ideals.

The official blurb can be read on a preceding entry, but I'd like to give you a little more insight, without ruining the story. Imagine yourself a kid with not much memory of your parents, if any. Imagine you have one of the most beautiful treble voices in Europe. Imagine someone wanting to cut your balls of to keep you that way. Do you remain a choirboy forever or search for what else is out there, be it fantastic, grotesque or life threatening?

Come to the world premiere in January and find out, cause lemme tell you… you better use 'em or lose 'em.

Born in 1978, Jason Rico is an American composer of instrumental, vocal and theater music. He has created a body of work in multiple genres including symphonic, wind ensemble, choral, art song, chamber music and opera. Rico studied composition with Michael Schelle at Butler University and with Andrey Kasparov and Adolphus Hailstork at Old Dominion University and completed the doctorate program in music at Manhattan School of Music. Rico’s compositional style has been praised for it’s complex and truly American style. He is currently Music Director for Quixotic, a sketch comedy troupe based in Chicago.

Workshoppe. A blog, by Aaron Dean of the Michigan Deans.

[Editor's note: much of the charm of Aaron's bloggery lies in its haphazardness. Much is retained, for authenticity's sake, bless it.]

[Blogger's note: I tried to do this legit, and of course it did not work. We must teach this man to fish. Most spelling errors are intentional. ]

Hello again blog,

Today I have been commanded to write to you on the workshop process for Escape From The Haltsburg Boys Choir. I think every playwright dreams of hearing her words spoken on stage by actors. I have to say, it is a nice old time. I have been lucky enough to see it done about three times or so.

So that would make EFTHBC my fourth play written with intent to perform. But this was neat, this time, because I had the added bonus of doing a workshop.

A workshop [editor's note: at least, as we of The Ruckus do them] is where you almost do the play. It is like a full on performance in many respects except you hear comments and impressions from the people who are good enough to brave yellow skies and share breathing space with shady people who leave five minutes into the performance because of the show's lack of "young boys" therein.

[Editor's note: That really happened. "I was told there would be boys!" Also, the actors hold scripts and work from music stands and someone reads stage directions and the focus is on rewriting. Just sayin'.]

Sleep tight, blog readers.

I cannot blog to you how valuable this process was to me. I was three drafts into the show when we put that workshoppe uppe.

After we finished, I blogged two more drafts. Two days after it closed. I sat up there in the dark, blogging like a real playwright. What a cast, what a director, what a composer, my goodness what a group. I am so thankful. This workshop stuff, if all goes well, fills one with much confidence, and inspiration. And not just for me, but for all involved. One seldom gets the chance to hear candid and constructive comments in the actual performance, and one is not as heady with their achievements, so we actually listen. And want to.

A treat indeed, nothing short of it. Workshops ain't for Santa's elves any longer. This I speak truly.

Thank you all who came to see it, and say stuff about it. Thank you to all who helped make it happen. And thank you ahead of time for your work in what lies ahead!