I recently wrote incidental music for a play, David Mamet’s “Edmond”. Having forged many sound designs (including composed music) in years past, I’ve always had some clue as to what I wanted to do for each production. This time was an exception, as my first inclination was: leave as-is (no music).
You can fit music into a Mamet play, and if you do, it sticks out like a sore thumb and doesn’t integrate well. Mamet’s language is center stage and the timing needs to be crisp — this is especially true in “Edmond”, which has many scenes and shifts gears quickly. I’m used to generating a lot of content for plays, and believe in an integrated production design, so my approach is to always underscore where possible. This doesn’t work for Mamet, especially “Edmond”.
I told the director first off, don’t do anything. At most, keep sparse or bookend the whole dramatic work by simply putting something at the top and something at the end.
I ended up writing about 30 cues — 15 of which were used for almost every scene transition.
Initially, I recorded some solitary drums — from a drum kit — but sparse and authoritative. After building a few cues with iterative feedback from the director, I scrapped it. Too “militaristic”.
I turned to guitar textures, largely atonal, and layered, which is my forte.
I had a guitar still strung up with a Glenn Branca tenor strings and tuning, and improvised some small gestures and microtonal movements. At HIGH volumes. This produced some great combination tones (Cue22C).
I also strummed a little melody, and ferociously hammered a heterophonic chord. At HIGH volumes. More snippets (Cue9).
The rest was editing (and fragmenting and layering) within Logic, created subtle differentiated cues of about :30-1 minute in duration. I probably spent 10% of my time recording at most, but the rest was editing.
I’ll go check out the performance next week, but for now I still believe that nothing was probably the best solution for the work. At least I generated some decent content for future use (or for my CV). Most importantly, it kept me productive, learning new approaches and solutions to creative problems.