So it’s been about a month since i’ve finished the entire piece and it’s become clear that there is a pacing issue in Act 3.
The entire show falls in at almost exactly 90 minutes, which means it will be sat through without an intermission and is essentially 4 interconnecting short stories. The 3rd Act is the exact time when an audiences’ attention span will begin to waver, and sure enough, the pacing drags and momentum is lost.
The cure is thus: 1st song of the act should be beefed up a little bit, the next song i’ve already gone and speeded up a bit (it wanted to speed up on its own anyway) and the reprise of that song will also be sped up to match.
The 3rd song of the Act must be trashed and replaced. It turns out this is the very song i had discussed on this blog some time back, the Subculture Song, in which we are introduced to a particular youth subculture currently popular in the city of New Albion.
The problem is simply the tempo is way to slow. I did try speeding it up a bit, but the nature of the song itself is such that it is inherently a mid tempo song and i need something that pumps.
Since the song is about a subculture that mimics The Dolls, dead people brought back and placed in mannequin like constructs (who cannot speak and barely move) something a little dirgy and not very organic sounding worked well in theory, but it left me with a pacing issue that ultimately effects the entire 2nd half.
So, the trick: they subculture movement needs a pumping song that nevertheless represents its members’ desires to be emotionally removed mimicry of dead people in mannequin bodies. Two genres that come to mind that suit this are certain forms of techno and industrial.
Of course, i need to stay accurate to the genre the opera is in, which favors a basic band of piano, drums, accordian, tuba, (a little bass), and violin/cello/acoustic guitar, plus lots of clangy, metallic percussion. Bells are used too. Some keyboard oriented ambience is used often, but it is only ever ambience. (as opposed to synth kind of sounds) I do use various things that sound like old style electronics, but by old i mean REALLY old. And i use orchestral strings and brass at key moments of high drama, but this track would not be the time.
The more during composition i got away from this basic orchestration, the more i ended up regretting it.
So the youth need to have their own sound for their subculture, but it needs to be these elements.
Since every act is a different generation, certain aspects of the music and instruments featured do change from act to act. HowEVER, the entire piece needs to maintain a coherent identity. Obviously, in the real world, the sound of popular music changes radically from generation to generation and assuming the show begins somewhere around 1890, the 3rd act would be about 1950 and music will have changed enormously.
And i did in fact briefly toy with the idea of having each act be radically different genre wise. However, this is the kind of idea that is clever on paper but counterproductive when actually done. In a 90 minute show based on a fictional and rather fantastical city (with a steampunk aesthetic, although that’s really only a starting ground for inspiration. The fact is, Steampunk as an idea could burn out and die and the show would still stand perfectly well on it’s own. In fact it could be interpreted by a director and designer as something very different from steampunk and fit that vision exceptionally well also)…. a 90 minute show in a fantastical city music does not need to change genres every act. No matter what happens in real life, it would create an insane mess. The show should have a particular sound that is stretched and toyed with in many ways, but still retains a coherent identity.
Plus, actual years such as 1950 or 1890 mean nothing. I’m not following real time nor am i in the real world.
So at the moment i’m musing on how to create a track that could be perhaps kind of a little techno? kind of a little industrial? Those genres have that emotional removed aspect and are pumping tempo wise. Maybe a little tribal but with clangy metallic percussion instead of normal percussion like congas and bongos? (OR, in keeping with cabarets and weimar era and victorian, edwardian stuff i’m also debating some insanely modern take on foxtrot, but like…. gothic foxtrot. Gothic foxtrot… hmmmm….. there’s an idea) but without electronic instruments other than perhaps a small, dirty, old organ and of course clangy bangy metallic percussion (but not electronic sounding. Really… clangy bangy) where the essential instrument components are piano, accordian, tuba, violin and drums.
I will not be able to get to this for 2 weeks due to other commitments, but it should be interesting.
I’m throwing up a new preview track, once again without real vocals, just me singing both the Narrator’s part and Annabel McAlistair’s part so the actual actresses will know what to sing. The instrumentation used is exactly what i’m referring to. It’s music hall, cabaret style instrumentation, with lots of metallic percussion thrown in (and some weird sounds for ambience. There is an element of retro sci-fi after all) all of which to me gets across a steampunky, weimar era vibe. (this song is more cabaret-ish than many of the other tracks, which use the instruments in a more modern way.) I’d also note, the Narrator’s bits are usually Tango.
The in between bits are Annabel’s Doll, Jasper the dead guy, channeling a song from a radio station. The only stations he can pick up are country and folk, which at the time are all the station there may be, radio being a new invention. ( i find the idea the Doll can only pick up this country station to be amusing)