Hi everyone, remember me? I’m that guy who reported on the 2009 American Shakespeare Center’s Blackfriars Conference, and they apparently liked it so much that they want me to keep all you good people of the Internet updated on the goings on here in the ASC’s Education department. We start off with a teacher seminar keynote presented by Kendra Preston Leonard.
Here’s a subject very near and dear to my heart: sound design; or in this case, sound and music on the Shakespearean stage. Having spent nearly a decade calling myself a sound designer, I have a keen feeling about how music can affect a play. The right soundtrack will clarify and enhance a good production, or will shrewdly subvert the text. In this teacher seminar’s keynote,Leonard examines the use of music on stage and film, citing the Roman Polanksi Macbeth, which uses traditional music for the domestic scenes of the Macbeth household, and a modern band for the scenes of the witches.
A further example is Tim Supple’s 2003 Twelfth Night, which uses four different musical cultures in the film: “high art” (i.e. The Magic Flute) indian, folk, and rock. Supple uses these four different musical cultures to reflect the cultural conflict that he explores in his production, in which Viola and Sebastian are East Indian refugees in London. Different types of music also help underscore (pun intended) Viola’s transformation in Cesario and her assimilation in the different cultures of the world of London. “Hold thy Peace” is a raucous hard rock jam, for example, and in Feste’s finale, all four musical elements are brought together.
Leonard contrasts this with She’s the Man, which cuts much of the plot to set Twelfth Night in a prep school environment. This is perhaps useful for showing students how the modernization of Shakespare’s language often falls flat. Much of the Twelfth Night‘s plot is subverted to the idea of “girl power:” this Viola is able to out-do the men in soccer and academia, and still be able to be the feminine debutante that her mother wants her to be. Here the music helps underscore the different gender roles that Viola plays as she switches them throughout the course of the movie.
Following the keynote on the use of music and film in teaching the plays, discussion follows about the various ways that music can be used in the classroom to help illuminate the shows. Some of the ways suggested include having students come p with their own music for the shows, and even creating their own music for the “Hold thy Peace” catch in Twelfth night if conditions permit. All of which are great exercises for an introductory sound design class, in this humble sound designer’s opinion.