Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Music Man

What makes for a thoroughly satisfying theatrical experience?

For the most part, whether you love a production, are lukewarm about it or hate it entirely rests on your own taste.  But the goal of any producer is to get a universal word of mouth that drives traffic to the show and puts "bums on seats" for every performance.  The success of a production, then, must be embraced by at least the majority of its audience members and critics, and there are elements that are critical to achieving that goal.  The next few blogs will take a look at some of the people who help drive the success of any show, and we'll begin with the music direction.

Anthony Bez, Musical Director of ASC
Audience members who truly love a show may not be aware of what is making them enjoy themselves.  Typically, the experience depends on sensory input, and the more effectively the senses are engaged simultaneously, the richer the enjoyment of the play.  The textures of the sound, if blended well into the production, will move the plot along, deepen the emotional resonance of the play and draw the audience in, helping them to react to the stimuli of the visuals onstage.

Sound design is a new discipline in theater.  Up until the late 1960's, a Stage Manager would be expected to find the appropriate sounds to support a production.  The SM would gather sounds for on and offstage, and it was rare that a nonmusical production would have the kind of "background" music that we associate with film.  But in the last 40 years, with the great advances in sound technology and equipment, the Music Director has become an invaluable contributor to the life of a play, creating all whatever layers of music and sound effects are appropriate for the presentation.

A talented music director will produce a flexible, complex, inexpensive integration of sounds that will influence the actors' action and the plays feel.  Collaborating with the director,  the sound will blend with the director's overall vision of the piece and complete it.
Anthony Bez and Colette Rice in Collaboration
Photo by Cindy Boyle, Boyleimage

Anthony Bez, Music Director at ASC, has been collaborating with Colette Rice long enough that he can, in some ways, anticipate her esthetic and present ideas already at early production meetings, which hastens the construction of each production.

Go see Macbeth, and try to notice the various sounds as well as any music that envelopes you as you hear the play.   Notice how the music of the drums, for example, augments the suspense of the thickening plot.  Notice how the witches' evil is captured in what you listen to as much as in what you watch.

Then thank Anthony Bez for enhancing your experience and making it memorable.

1 comment:

Peter Galman said...

Anthony can also be heard playing Elizabethan music in the student union lobby today from 12-2pm. You can buy his music online at amazon or cduniverse. Some of the kickstarter contributors will be getting his CD too as a benefit to their patronage.