Thursday, January 29, 2015

UKSUS: a major contemporary writer, neighing

The English language score of UKSUS (by way of the Russian УКСУС) is done and we are now skipping to production at Dance Mission 6-8 March, the first weekend of March that is, and only one weekend of March 2015 AD.  Tickets, which you must purchase, are available at

The music has been expanded since Austria, and more narration added in that gasbag Erling Phd style, taking the hand of, and leading, the audience through the maze of Kharms and the OBERIU, their rise and fall, laughter and death.

Once again I get to work with the incomparable Jim Cave as the director, a thought that even now chills me - Oh I shiver and cry. My wife, the most talented and beautiful Lynne Rutter, is putting together the scenic elements and telling me now what colors I may next paint my nails (black, white, red, with some blue and yellow, primary colors, bright, with occasional occurrence of acid green or bright orange in small amounts acceptable), and Laura Hazlett is costuming us all once again - squee. And I can't forget that Bryan Nies, the glue that held together the revival of Queer and assembled Certitude and Joy, is conducting.

The cast includes my number one son Duncan Wold (thanks to Mission Control); my long-time partner in music and surrogate daughter Laura Bohn; the talented Nikola Printz, who I just saw in Rossini's Italian Girl of Algiers at San Jose, an opera that is bizarre and incomprehensible to someone like me for whom old-fashioned opera is Lulu, Einstein on the Beach and Private Parts; Bob Ernst, who goes way back with Jim and me, having choreographed the knife fight in the original A Little Girl Dreams of Taking the Veil; where you would also have seen Mary Forcade, again here; and Roham Sheikhani, the mute presence in Dieci Giorni.

Now the band, the band, the all-star band. This is maybe where my heart truly lies, most fervently and even with some palpitations, as I wonder, am I really good enough for them? Beth Custer clarinet, Chris Grady trumpet, Joel Davel percussion (drums even), Diana Strong accordion, John Schott guitar, Ela Polak violin, and Lisa Mezzacappa contrabass.

Now, let's hear a story, that of Aleksey Tolstoy:
Olga Forsh went up to Aleksey Tolstoy and did something. Aleksey Tolstoy also did something. At this point Konstantin Fedin and Valentin Stenich leapt outside and got down to looking for a suitable stone. They didn't find a stone but they found a spade. Konstantin Fedin cracked Ol'ga Forsh one across the chops with this spade. Then Aleksey Tolstoy stripped naked and, going out on to the Fontanka, began to neigh like a horse. Everyone said: There goes a major contemporary writer, neighing.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Blake Eckard, Coyotes Kill for Fun

Writing a film soundtrack is difficult for me. It's hard to get into someone else's world so intensely, and we know that music is in fact intense in film. The well-known exercise of repeatedly playing the same silent footage against wildly different musical selections demonstrating the point most clearly, viz., that sound enters at a lower layer in the human software than the visuals, arguing or supporting or twisting or even simply stating clearly here, this is what they are, take them. With such great power comes great anxiety over its misuse, and this anxiety for me has never been pleasant.

However, I have written some of my favorite music when asked to write for film. The Bed You Sleep In is still one of my best-self-loved works after all these years, in large part because I wanted to give Jon what he wanted, and in doing so an aspect of myself was revealed to me. But I still remember the chastening experience when the producer, Henry Rosenthal, shrugged his shoulders upon hearing the soundtrack and said "Well, Jon does like when the music doesn't really relate to the film." You know, while I was writing it I sure thought it did, and after he said it I realized he was right, but after now these many years, he is simply wrong, since the music and the film are just an old married couple, always seen together at their table at the diner on the corner, not necessarily talking, but still there day after day.

I've thought that, given the importance of choosing the right partners in sound and vision, what makes more sense, and what is way better for my apoplexic health, is when the filmmaker either (1) writes the music themselves, or (2) simply takes some music that has already flowed into the channels of their psyche and uses it. Like paper-clips, one might think there is enough shit-tons out there already that you don't need to make any more, but I suppose there's always one more bit of divine harmony left to be mined from the heavenly vein of sound as yet unheard.

And so, I just finished writing some music for another of Blake Eckard's movies, the first being the grim Bubba Moon Face and the current one, his newest even grimmer and more frightening Coyotes Kill for Fun. The fright in this movie is the fear we have when we face a world that doesn't care about us at all, that tells us whether we live nor die is no matter. The sociopathic lead blows through the action leaving many dead, and maybe it is just for fun, or maybe it's just because of nothing at all. And, best for me is that I had to only fill in a few parts, as Blake used mostly existing music of mine, in particular the Second Mordake Suite and In the Stomachs of Fleas (with Pete von Petrin), which both find their way to being a little scarier.
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