Director Sharon Winegar placed this production of Romeo and Juliet in the mid-18th Century, in a Venetian-like town during Carnivale. I immediately began researching music from this era and location. I sent some of my findings to the director for her to comment on. These included Sonatas from the period for both violin and recorder. Despite this historical setting and my suggestions for period music, she replied, “I realized while listening to these that I'm hearing a more contemporary 'sound' in my head. Less harpsichord/recorder -- more Mark Isham
. I'd like the music to feel a bit modern and robust. If my 18th century concept works in terms of sets/costumes, it might be nice to offset the 'precious' or 'filigree' factor by a more orchestral, film-score sound.” She continued to say, “I must admit that I'm drawn to having a 'Cirque du Soleil' -style soundtrack for Romeo and Juliet
, not necessarily for the singing/choral work, but for the "storytelling" elements of the music: the changes in theme, tempo, the dynamics. The heavy drum beatings of taiko-a-la-Cirque really get my blood flowing!” This inspired me to create some contemporary sounding cinematic music for the production.
I acquired the “Ka” album from Cirque du Soleil and analyzed certain songs suggested by Ms. Winegar. These included, “Pageant,” “Storm,” “Deep,” and “Aftermath.” She made sure to point out in an email to me, “Now, I don't literally want to use this music -- it's just that these tracks best exemplify the kind of mood/atmosphere I'm imagining!”
Before traveling to Lake Tahoe to install my design, I created some fully realized mockups of potential music and sounds for the production and sent them via email to the director for her approval. Her response to me read, “Oh, yes! It's wonderful! That's definitely the sound I'm after for the show. It has great driving rhythm and a very muscular pulse. One suggestion for some fine tuning -- if the drum beat could have more of that taiko sound?”
For me as sound designer and composer, this request for taiko drum was a big clue for me for better understanding what Sharon wanted to hear. I began researching this instrument and its sound. I came across several Taiko recordings that I dissected in order to better understand how to recreate the sound. I even sampled some single Taiko drum hits in multiple velocities that I could trigger with a MIDI keyboard.
The result of this process was a score of sounds and music that stood in contrast to the historically accurate costumes and setting, giving the production a cinematic feeling.