Wednesday, March 28, 2012

doubt | music

I just swapped emails with a PT friend who was curious about the music chosen for our production of DOUBT. In case it might interest anyone else, here's our chat. Warning: if you haven't seen the play yet, you might want to wait before reading this: it includes a mild spoiler. Better you should see it - the show closes Saturday - and then come back to read about what you saw. And heard.

The absolute highlight for me was your choice of final music. The Lauridsen 'O Magnum Mysterium' is one of my all time favourite pieces. How on earth did you come to use it?

I chose the Magnum late in the selection process. Had already settled on piano, starting with one particular piece I knew I wanted to use and then working outward from there: other pieces by that composer, other piano composers who'd influenced him, and other versions of that original piece - including a recording that used organ and choir instead of piano and solo voice. So that expanded the vocabulary beyond piano to choral work, and when I scanned my faves (either the list in my head, or iTunes, I forget which) the Magnum jumped out. Then the first time I played it over top of that final cue, it was just obvious it had to be the choice. It's the most human, relational moment in the play - the pure human, physical act of embrace, of comforting - and the warmth of the voices just seemed perfect. Enveloping them.

Working back from that, it made me decide on using solo voice for the second last cue, where Father Flynn is left alone onstage: it also needed the humanity and warmth of a voice, but a solitary, unaccompanied voice. I didn't choose it to symbolize isolation or anything - it just sounded right.

I don't recall the music you referred to for that second last cue...what was it?

In addition to the beauty of the Lauridsen piece, what also struck me was the title:
O Magnum Mysterium - which translates as What Great Mystery. That was kind of for me what the script was all about...

The "theme" piece for the play was Cantar del Alma, by Catalan composer Federico Mompou. The key recording is the one by Marisa Martins & Mac McClure. Here's a link to a live recording - it's even better in the studio version by the same artists that you can buy on iTunes. The piece alternates between a piano verse and a sung verse: I saved the sung verse to end Father Flynn's final scene, once the piece had been firmly established in the audience's mind with the organ, choral, and piano iterations.

Yes, Magnum has a nice resonance with the play: in addition to the "mystery" angle you point out, it happens to be a nativity hymn to Mary, and I see the image of Sister James holding Sister Aloysius at the end as something of a pieta, and/or a nativity image, of Mary holding Jesus.

Cantar del Alma is from a text by St John of the Cross.

Federico Mompou
Cantar del Alma
Marisa Martins and Mac McClure

Federico Mompou
Cantar del Alma
Cor de Cambra de l'Auditori Enrci Granados de Lleida & Xavier Puig

Federico Mompou
Musica Callada XXI: Lento
Yuji Takahashi, piano

Erik Satie
Gnossiennes 1: Lent
Gnossiennes 3: Lent
Gnossiennes 6: Avec Conviction Et Avec Une Tristesse Rigoureuse
Ronan O'Hora, piano

Arvo Part
Piano Sonatine, Op. 1, No.2: I. Allegro energico
Ralph van Raat, piano

Morten Lauridsen
O Magnum Mysterium
Nordic Chamber Choir

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