Composing for Dick & Lottie

Written by Paul Chamberlain

Composing for Dick and Lottie!
Paul Chamberlain

How do you go about composing something for a D&L production?

I read the play first, look for musical cues, scene changes where music may be needed, get a feel for the mood in different scenes, look at how music may be used to transition from one scene to the next.
Incidental music needs to signpost an audience and help them move from scene to scene or it needs to compliment, underscore the scene.

Come up with some ideas, start working on them, think about orchestration, texture, intensity and dynamics. Have a meeting with John and Richard to get the go ahead or “can you change that bit make it sound more……?”
We get a lot done in those meetings and it really helps us all to feel part of the creative process.

The first production I was involved with musically was Neighbourhood Watch.
So there is the theme tune ready made!

n E i G h B o u r h o o D w A t C h – I used the musical letters from the title of the play.
NW was also the 75th AA play so I used 7 and 5 rhythmically in the accompaniment. The door knock at the start is based on the 7 and 5. Conveniently 7 + 5 make 12 so the time signature was 12/8. The accents came on 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 1 2 3 1 2 which helped to make the rhythm more interesting. The brass band after the opening speech just changes the E for a D and makes it major and jollier. The instrumentation is just two trumpets, trombone and tuba but it makes a full sound.

As the musical contributions are often quite short we must be careful not to give the audience too much material so I use the main theme in different variations. For example the clarinet and oboe practice pieces develop the main melody in a major key. These two pieces are about a minute long, enough time for a costume change, but it gives a composer chance to develop a short structured piece. As AA gave us a character of a music teacher then that helps you to make instrument selection easy!

Wildest Dreams

The fantasy element of the play led me to think about the music for video games. I got the original idea thinking about Gregorian chant to give the opening a mysterious feel. This merged into a string section with an electronic pedal note called “Still Moment” followed by the Tibetan Singing Bowls which opened the “Game”.

The game ostinato was to signify to the audience that the actors were “in the game”. AA conveniently puts the word “fugue” in the dialogue so obviously I used Alric’s theme for a fugue at the opening of act 2.

The process for me involves working on the idea in Musescore and orchestrating the music. I then record using Logic X by playing in every part separately. The plug in I use is the Vienna Symphonic Library.

Woman in Mind and Invisible Friends

Again the music for these two plays is connected. The original melody/piece is from WiM and it uses the intervals 2 1 5 4 3 2. I wanted to also incorporate a little dissonance to emphasize the unsettling nature of the content of the play.

The main theme for IF uses the same intervals but in the major key and more “Elton John” style. Often AA writes a musical cue and it goes on for pages and pages or is just a small snippet! Brass Band music, Rock Music! country music, pipe band, Bach type prelude, clarinet practice!

It was great being able to perform live at Malvern with WiM and IF.

Roundelay next!

Paul Chamberlain 2016