Friday, March 9, 2012

The Ballad of Dido: Music, Mission Accomplished!

This week, both colleges where I teach were on spring break. So, for a nice relaxing vacation, I had to finish writing at least rough drafts for all the music for Dido. And then introduce the cast to their songs. To my own surprise, we actually accomplished this! On Tuesday night, Tony and I met for our final jam session (me with my guitar, Tony with various instruments and coffee) in the Red Room of the Masonic Building. That night we wrote the three final songs, and over the past few days, I have met individually with everyone in the cast to give them an idea of the music they'll be singing and playing.


It's been an interesting ride for me, writing this music over the past few months. I used to write songs a lot in college, but I think I may have written one or two in the past ten years--until Tony asked me to write the music for Dido. There are eleven different songs in the show, and many of them reprise in variant forms. (Yes, I counted.) Whenever I thought I was running out of ideas, I tried something different: "What about a walking bass line?" "I think it's time to break out the dropped D tuning!" (Tony's response: "What's dropped D?", to which I replied, "It's magic." About two minutes after I put my half-capo on my guitar and started playing random riffs in dropped D, Tony exclaimed, "You're right! It is magic!" And the magic of dropped D, as applied to The Ballad of Dido, will probably be the next thing posted on stay tuned!)

It's funny: I haven't missed writing music over the years that I haven't been doing it. I thought I was getting all my creativity out by performing music that others wrote. But there have been a lot of fun moments as we've worked to create something completely new. For the funny songs, I knew I was on the right track when I played or sang something and then burst out laughing. And it's been a wonderful experience, this week, to play those same songs for the cast and see them react the same way. And then there are the serious songs, which get a completely different reaction from us all.

Now, just as I feel like celebrating my accomplishments, it's time to put on my Music Director Hat. I've already started with that task (which right now looks even more overwhelming than writing the music!). I made a list of all the songs in the show and who will play guitar and sing the bulk of each. But now I have to go through the latest version of the script and find all the underscoring, and figure out what that underscoring will be and who will play it, and how we'll manage all that logistically with only five actors to portray a number of characters AND to be the band. And then I have to figure out, besides guitar, what instruments we can use for each song, and who will play them. And then I have to teach all the music to the cast, and help them play and sing it to the very best of their ability.

All that before the end of April! And so, here we go....!

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