Composing for Theatre

The majority of the last week I have devoted a lot of my free time to composing for a production of Macbeth at one of the local Universities. Rewinding a few months back: the initial brief contained some musical inspiration that the director had started working with as the students began workshopping the show. I took this song and stripped it down to its bare essentials, a simple 4 chord harmony over 4 bars of 4/4 time. Musically simple, sparse but fitting to the action. Along with the sound and noise of utter chaos, using a wide variety of sounds, from sythns to bongos to creat the effect of the madness of what Macbeth experiences. That was my first submission and the rehearsals continued.

During the rehearsal period a new rhythmic melody fitted nicely over these chords and served as the basis of my next round of development. A second more legato theme came to mind as I watched rehearsals and discussed some of the scenes with the director.

Then, feeling inspired I worked with these two themes and chord progression from home. The themes and chords written simply out on manuscript paper I recorded excerpts into logic using MIDI so I could look at the score as the software interpreted my playing and allowed me to read other layers I had recorded whilst I played – I recently have found this a very useful middle ground between recording blind and composing directly onto a score. Eventually I developed the incidental music based on the Macbeth themes out to match timings set during the drama rehearsals. From this I ultimately composed a full stand along piece, which happens to be for string quartet around this music which may result in further development into the scenes or may serve as a overture.

A very enjoyable experience so far and I can’t wait to see the whole prediction come together!