Friday, June 8, 2012

Musician’s Notes: As You Like It

JLK2012-06-15183-MThe reason we decided to incorporate music with Shakespeare’s As You Like It is because music is the right hand of love; everything humans do is done to music. We marry to music, we watch movies to music, we party to music, we graduate to music, and we fight to music. In Shakespeare’s time a play was not simply a two-hour period where audience sat in rows and clapped politely like today. In Shakespeare’s time, a play was six hours long stuffed with musicians, entertainers (not cast), and great amounts of food. It was an event carried not only by a story, but also by food and music.

So a couple of us started looking for music a few months before As You like it started rehearsals. We needed music that had words that helped tell the story, as well as music that gave the right mood. We watched romance movies like 500 Days of Summer to get inspiration from their soundtracks, and we searched through a variety of artists from Mumford and Sons to Ella Fitzgerald, and even Elvis. We also experimented writing our own songs. Each song in the play, no matter how famous, has our own unique spin. We love not just replicating songs, but, instead, making them our own. Playing the jazz song “Paper Moon” with folk instruments is quite different than how it’s usually played with a full jazz band. This is our third year of Shakespeare in the park, and it is also our third year including the song “Horace Staccato” at the beginning of our play and “Le Festin” at the end of our play. The last words in “Le Festin” are what the entire play builds up to: “Une vie à me cacher et puis libre enfin Le festin est sur mon chemin,” which translates to: “A lifetime of hiding; I’m suddenly free! My dinner is waiting for me!” No more hiding is a metaphor for no more disguises; Rosalind reveals herself and there is only one thing left—freedom—or as we like to call it—marriage. The dinner is the marriage—a banquet!

We use music in many different ways in As You Like It; one such use is as a device for transitions. For example, “Look for Me Baby” is a song during which all the characters move from the court to the forest. It’s a fast-moving tune about escaping, which parallels what is happening in the scene. The second way we use music is to integrate it into a scene. When “Loving You” is played, the music stops and starts with the scene; the musicians aren’t just the soundtrack, but are actually in the scene with the lovers. And the last way we use music is, of course, to create mood in the background. For instance, when Touchstone and Audrey enter a scene we play a particular tune, which is merely to set a mood about certain scenes or a set of characters. The music is the soundtrack to our play; its intent is to make the viewers want to dance when the characters dance, feel adrenaline when the characters fight, and to make their hearts skip when the characters fall in love. Love and music carry us from the opening scene through the most important scene in the play—the wedding. After all, love and music cause us to dance.

Lyrics Translation of Le Festin(The Feast)

Dreams are to lovers as wine is to friends
Carried through lifetimes, (and) spilled now and then
I am driven by hunger, so saddened to be
Thieving in darkness; I know you’re not pleased
But nothing worth eating is free

My hope is a banquet impatiently downed
Impossibly full, now I’ll probably drown
Many thieves’ lives are lonely with one mouth to feed
If giving means taking, I’ll never succeed
For nothing worth stealing is…

Free at last; won’t be undersold
Surviving isn’t living; won’t eat what I’m told
Let me free, I’ll astonish you; I’m planning to fly
I won’t let this party just pass me by

The banquet is now underway, so…
Bring out the bottles; a new tale has spun
in clearing this table, my new life’s begun
I am nervous, excited; (oh) just read the marquee!
A lifetime of hiding; I’m suddenly free!
My dinner is waiting for me

A lifetime of hiding; I’m suddenly free!
My dinner is waiting for me

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