David Roche Blog 1: Starting Out
Every commission comes with a specific set of challenges that need to be confronted and engaged with. I’m not talking about the actual act of composing here; an extreme deadline, presenting a series of complicated ideas in a playable and reasonable manner, coping with a vast project, or dealing with specific technological limitations. Planning a project to anticipate unknown, unmet difficulties is, for me, part of a standard procedure. What’s unusual is being part of a smooth, organic project where patience, change, and growth are part of the creative process. This is exactly the scenario I find myself in working as composer for Hijinx Odyssey’s Hansel, Gedeon and the Grimms’ Wood, it is a total pleasure.
I applied to undertake this commission with Hijinx Odyssey as part of Tŷ Cerdd’s new CoDI scheme. I duly completed applications to all 3 of their schemes on offer, sent them off, and pushed them out of my mind. Earlier in 2018 I participated in a composition competition in Prague. As part of this reasonably-strict competition I had to surrender my phone for 9 hours a day while I competed (the horror!). I was also being belligerent about my answerphone messages as I’d recently contacted a gym about a membership and they were ringing me every day (ridiculous!). I decided to be an actual, responsible adult and check my messages during the competition and, to my delight, I’d received a message from Tŷ Cerdd with news that they’d like to offer me this particular commission. The lesson: never try to go to the gym.
I was given a diary of dates by my colleagues at Hijinx Odyssey and set about organising the next few months. I anticipated that I’d be able to knuckle down and compose the bulk of the music early on, developing it alongside the production, chipping away and re-composing my music as I went along. This led me to a brick wall almost straight away…
Firstly, the show is over an hour long. Composing the amount of high-quality music required for a production of this length is mentally taxing. I found that within the first 20 minutes of writing I was trying to spread myself too thinly, but it definitely took me a while to adjust to the idea that although there is deadline, it’s not as close as usual. Use the time, don’t rush, and allow it to happen.
Secondly, I found that every rehearsal I’d attended changed my thoughts about the characters in a gigantic way. Every interaction, workshop, discussion, and bit of work revealed another idea or way of approaching the required music. This is especially true of the staging, set design, and costuming. Without revealing anything, a lot of these aspects suggest strong musical ideas so, as it stands, I’ve only really concretised 2 small sections of in-show music and 5 small miniatures that I will hopefully explode in to something more substantial. There’s a considerable amount of anti-anxiety in allowing oneself to use the allocated time.
This production requires patience, I have to respond to how Hijinx Odyssey choose to grow their production. From getting to know the people producing this show and the way they speak to seeing how each member of the cast moves and acts. These experiences are completely transforming the way I am composing the music for this show. It is a rare and wonderful thing to be able to create something from inside a production, seeing and responding to each creative change. Their fast speed of development is pushing me to wait, enjoy the process, indulge myself in a little patience, and take my time to see where it goes. There’s no other way compose something in response to the way they work.
Over the next 2 months leading up to the production I’m hoping to produce a series of blog and vlogs that explore the process of creating this music for this show. At the moment I am looking to document processes relating to how I compose each of the different elements of the music; MIDI composition, acoustic composition, how I make use of recording software, live performance, and how scoring relates to all of this… but I’ll have to see how it unfolds! It’s going to be a great project and a big production – make sure you come and see it!
Composing the amount of high-quality music required for a production of this
length is mentally taxing.