I like to tell stories. I’ve begun to see a pattern in the many projects I undertake – a desire to tell stories. These are not always the stories that have a beginning, a middle and end – sometimes they are the stories that I carry in my body and hands.
I recently played a concert that was the kind of presentation that is more conventional than the ones I often find myself in – a large hall, filled with people and with a band on stage. I realized that even here there is a story I am telling when playing a piece of music as part of an ensemble. It is the story of the years of practice, of (sometimes) frustration and (often) joy, and the slow dawning of the realization that I cannot be all things, I can only be myself.
I used to feel bad that I was “untrained” and feel that technique was lacking. That may be true, but in the many many years that I have been working at my craft and art, a kind of understanding has arisen, an understanding that I, myself, have a voice and a story to tell as part of the accumulated experience of my heart, mind and body. And that story is one that is worth sharing, because it is unique – mine and only mine.
So the theatre work that I do, the many artists that I collaborate with, the sound art and radiophonic works I create – they are all part of this unique story of me. And while this post is in danger of sounding self aggrandizing and egoistic, this is only because I cannot put into words properly what this story means in the larger world around me. It has meaning, and it is only one small cell in the giant organism of sound and being.
A story can be read many ways – it is strongest when it is open, allowing many streams of interpretation at once. To discover and present these streams to the viewer through sound is my job.
In creating sound for drama, and in particular on the stage, we have 2 concurrent sets of demands – those addressing logistics of the performance space and those addressing storytelling. These 2 sets must work together, so that sound highlights aural characteristics that are integral to the setting while at the same time participating in the development of the arc of the play – the emotional journey of the characters and the id of the story. Sound becomes one of the collaborators in the performance of the text, be it on stage, through a speaker, or on a screen.
Radiophonic art is also a kind of theatre, a theatre for the listener wherever they might be. My lessons from the stories I’ve accompanied often make themselves felt in these poetic spaces. The rhythm of the text. Where and what becomes emphasized. These are decisions I get to make when shaping these works, and the theatre artists (and musicians and dancers and choreographers and filmmakers) I have collaborated with over the years participate through the moments I sculpt as a composer.
Stories are strongest when they are open and distilled. They contain secrets that are revealed through unexpected channels – a look, a word, the sound of a footstep or the echo of a hallway, the fall of light across a floor. I look for and discover these secrets, and they guide my hand and ear in the making of the music. They whisper to me, and I whisper back. Together we offer our small contribution to the many pieces of the story that comes to your eye and ear, and moves you.