Words and the Music

Music has always been an element in my life, although at one point it was a much larger factor than it is now. When I was a young actor, just starting out, I used music as part of my own warmup process—mostly as a mental warm up, getting myself focused before a performance. Part of my whole process of developing a character included an attempt to identify the right rhythm and style of music that spoke to that character and that play. Usually around tech week I’d have figured out the music for the show, and I’d compile the right mixed-tape, and hope that my cheap player didn’t eat it.

(This was before mp3 players.)

Sometimes the music was rock, sometimes folk, sometimes jazz. It all just depended on what mood and energy I needed to get started. I’d put on my headphones and get lost in my music for about 15 minutes, I’d focus my thoughts, relax, etc…..and on I’d go.

There have been some shows where I never quite found the right music. Not surprisingly, those shows weren’t my best work. I’m sure that my failure to find the sound of the character and show was directly related my inability to make my performance work its best. (I’m sure it wasn’t all my fault.)

The last few weeks I’ve been developing a script: writing new scenes, editing original ones, making notes and plans and jotting questions and thoughts on how to improve it. The other day I was having a hard time concentrating on the task at hand. I couldn’t clear my head and focus on the goal, I didn’t know where to go or where to start. Suddenly I thought: I need music. I needed to find the right sound, to get myself in the right frame of mind and with the right energy, to jump into working on this piece.

I opened iTunes, tried playing a few things, stumbled a bit until I figured it out.

This one’s classical. No-lyrics, please. And strangely, it’s not just any orchestral, classical music. It seems to be more Hayden or Rossini or even Mussorgsky, but it’s definitely not Bach or Beethoven. It’s energetic, yet moody. It’s not soft and fluffy. And preferably, it’s long concertos of 8 or 9 or 10 minutes or more, and, if possible, in a minor key.

Seriously, it’s that specific.

The next time I sat down again to work some more, I went right back to the music (I had even bought some new stuff just for this purpose) and kicked out a 3-page scene in no time.

Now there’s no continuing without a playlist.


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