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Writing a Musical: Part 3

THE. MUSICAL. IS. COMPLETE. Or, abandoned, as they say. But, it’s safe to say all the music is written. The process has been a whirlwind of feedback, revisions, rewrites, and fine-tuning. Without giving away too much, the show now has just over an hour of music, and is being performed at the Midtown Arts and Theater Center of Houston (MATCH) in Matchbox 2 on April 4th and 5th, 2017 at 7:30 PM.

These last few weeks have provided a chance to fine-tune the work into what is now a collaborative piece with the creative input of many friends and colleagues. Will Inman, my bookwriter, has given the show form and structure and a conclusion that will make hairs stand on end. Julianne McAdams has contributed valuable article fragments and pieces that glue the entire work together. My two good friends John Albert Harris and Nevada Lozano—talented composers and collaborators—have provided invaluable help fine-tuning the lyrics and sifting through my piles of notated music, lyrics, and dialogue. The most challenging elements of composing the show were making sure everything was balanced (both in terms of mood, tempos, density, etc.). North Pond is fundamentally about contrasts —a quiet hermit who doesn’t speak often or articulate his thoughts and an energetic reporter whose job it is to write and articulate. I loved this challenge—balancing difficult elements and putting things together that you wouldn’t normally expect to see together. My colleagues helped me push through some of the issues the show presented.

While the performance is three months away, there is still a lot of work ahead. Our director Darian Silvers is putting together a team at the University of Houston, complete with a stage manager, lighting director, chorus, actors, and team of runners/stage-hands. Michael Hewitt and Chelsea Helm, the leads of the show, are preparing to dig into the piano reduction for preliminary rehearsals. Brian Hodge, Chloe Jolly, and Ronald Franklin are graciously providing fiscal support through MUSIQA, a Houston-based new music collective and concert organizer. In the next month, we plan to record demo excerpts and video recordings of our rehearsals, documenting the behind-the scenes process of the show.

Right now, I stand on the pivot point between the composing of the show and the rehearsal/realization of it. Of course, the most nerve-wracking thing about this kind of moment is the fear that the show will not turn out how you imagine it. However, regardless of the outcome of this process, I see it as a learning experience and trying something out that I’ve always wanted to do. Looking back on the composition process and strapping in for the rehearsal and performance, I think I’ve taken away a lot about what I want to do going forward as an artist—some of the values that I want to convey with this work and in future works.

In writing “North Pond,” I fell in love with drama. My goal as a composer is to create stories through a musical dramatic form, and have found a language somewhere in between jazz, dialogue-driven music theater, indie rock, opera, and contemporary classical music—in a way that’s balanced and coherent and tells a strong story asking important questions. I want to continue to create projects like this—accessible (yet subtextually, very deep and challenging) multi-media storytelling grounded in multiple traditions creating a complete musical experience those is complemented by visual elements—staging, projection, video, etc. We’ll see what the future has in store after North Pond.


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