I recently had the pleasure of interviewing our composer, Allan Loucks, who provided inspiration during early script development workshops of Frankenstein:
Roxanne: Before Frankenstein, how many productions have you composed original music for at BLT? In what year was the first?
Allan: The 1st show I did at BLT was Dracula, in 2007. I also did some composing for Lysistrata.
Roxanne: What ideas do you have for Frankenstein?
Allan: We are fighting many Hollywood-ish pre-conceived notions for this show. The way music is used is one of them.
The script always tells me everything that the music should be, even if not explicitly. This script definitely does that, as it’s structured in a very musical way.
I like to compose while watching rehearsals, watching what the actors bring to the parts, as well as actually seeing things happen. That really helps generate ideas. I also watch what the other designers create (costumes, set, props, lights). This also helps with ideas and ways to help tie things together.
The high-level design of the music will be a kind of analogy to what Victor does in the story: create the Creature with little regard/responsibility for the consequences. It will be built using logic, collections of notes, and creating a relatively emotionless layer to deliver its information. The musical content and the interaction of the notes with each other is most important. The implications will be the way it turns out: Stark. Disturbing. Dissonant. And it will grow, develop, and change throughout the show.
On another level the music will function as “accompaniment” to the dialogue, and will provide two major threads of subtext and information for the story. One thread is the creature’s point of view, the other is Victor’s point of view. Each thread describes the development/progression of the mind/body of the associated character. The other characters in the story will all be seen through the eyes of either the creature or Victor.
Therefore, the music will not be providing redundant information, like underscore, emotional content, emphasis, setting-the-mood, setting the time/place, nor scary music in the background, as all that is already fully provided by the characters, dialogue, set, costumes, lights, etc.
From a technical side of things, the music has to dynamically follow and adapt to what’s happening on the stage. It’s similar to a video game in that regard. I’ve created a system that allows this to happen. There will probably be around two hundred-plus instrumental music cues for this show.
Roxanne: What is the biggest challenge you see in composing for Frankenstein?
Allan: One of the parameters given for this project is that the music plays wall-to-wall throughout the show. The biggest challenge then becomes having enough time to compose the score… Coffee helps with that.
Roxanne: What do enjoy most about working with BLT and with director Steve Cooper?
Allan: Steve’s a great guy, is knowledgeable, and has an open mind. Eric and Maggie are always willing to take a risk, and they consistently go the extra mile to get things done. What they do is much appreciated.
Roxanne: What would you most like the audience to know about the music composition
Allan: Just like a script, instrumental music can tell stories too, usually in a fashion that’s very similar to poetry.
One of the things that instrumental music can do, much better than dialogue and written text, is in communicating many simultaneous streams of thought. So, for this show, the music will function somewhat like accompaniment to a singer, and will be telling part of the story along with the dialogue.