When I was a child I was obsessed with soundtracks. I would borrow random cassettes and albums from my local library of movies that I had never seen. I liked the feeling of story being expressed in soundtracks and musicals even though you might never hear a word of dialogue. I used to place my clunky Radio Shack cassette recorder near the TV so that I could record the theme songs of my favorite shows and movies. I still enjoy listening to soundtracks, but I no longer hunt them down and collect as I once did.
It was a childhood pastime, one I thought frivolous and perhaps, unnecessary to regards to my current life. Of course, I usually obsess over the pre-show music. I create playlists (or cassettes when I first started) specifically designed for each show. The creation of the pre-show music for the improvised comicbook, “Superhero Society of America Presents Crisis on Improv Earth” took two nights.
But then the Improvised Movie (“Our Feature Presentation“) came along and I begin to provide musical under-scoring from the lightbooth via iTunes. That was two years of shows with horror, action and romance music from various movies and tv shows. Then, 3033 came along and I began to add more and more music. I’ve been underscoring that show for about four years now and it’s been exciting all the way. Between those two shows I’ve underscored prison dramas, the city of Boston, magical dream worlds and even an impressionist painter story.
To me, the emphasis is the “under” in underscore. In that, the scene begins and then the music slowly wells up to support or highlight what is already going on in the scene. I rarely, if ever, start the music before anyone enters or speaks. I like to listen a bit and see where the scene is going. For the Improvised Movie this was especially crucial for genre-creation. I wouldn’t want to unduly influence the improvisers onstage. I’m there for them, to support their moves and not the other way around.
So, that brings around to the next show I’m providing music for. It’s called Silent Treatment and stars Rance Rizzuto and Deanna Moffit. We’ve done this once before; I burned a disc with 30 minutes worth of instrumental music (each piece being between 1 minute and 6 minutes in length) with no other input from R & D. They played it and then then improvised a separate scene for each musical piece and to be perfectly honest, without hyperbole, it was one of the finest pieces of long-form improvisation I have ever seen.
That was about two years ago, I think. Now, we’re going to do a run of these shows with one major difference! I’m going to be providing the music from onstage and choosing as they’re doing their scenes (like I do with 3033.) In this case, I’m purposefully choosing music (with the same time restrictions) that will influence what they do and how they improvise. Like a good long-form piece, I’ll have to vary tempos and energy in the hopes of creating an entertaining montage of scenes. Of course, Rance and Deanna have the hard part; they’ll be onstage improvising without dialogue, one of the most difficult skills to master.
It’s an improv style I really haven’t done before and that’s why it excites me. Please, come see us play and experiment! Thursdays at the iO Theater at 8pm!