By Allan Loucks
My music scores are always one complete piece of music. They are NOT a series of individual cues. The entire score has a beginning, middle, and end. This always coincides with the beginning, middle, and end of the story. It helps to think of each separate music-cue as a movement, a part of the whole, just as a chapter is part of the story. It’s a cause-and-effect flow, moving forward: each piece is the result of the music that came before it. Just like dialog. It also helps to think of the music more like a narrator, which best describes its function in the production.
For this show, I began by analyzing a couple hundred Christmas songs, looking for qualities that make these types of songs sound the way they do. I managed to find a 4-note musical motive common to at least half of them.
I decided to use this motive as a structural basis for composing the entire music score. This includes the beginnings and ends of acts, the song for solo-voice, and the “records”
(The exception is the X-Files theme, picked by the sound-designer, Eric. As luck would have it, the X-Files theme also uses this same motive – What are the odds? !!!!)
I’ve toured North America for many years in various bands and orchestras full-time as a keyboardist, and met many people along the way. The people in this story seem like cliche caricatures of who you’d meet in a tavern anywhere in the US.Â. Strangely, I feel like I know them all somehow!
So, the music apparently coming from the records (and the solo voice) was carefully composed using references in the story, considering who puts the record on the turntable, the situation at that moment, what was likely to be there, etc These pieces were first composed, then fit with dozens of short references (AKA rip-offs) to traditional Christmas songs. Rather than just overtly playing a Christmas song on a record, this better fits in with the comedic tone of the story. See how many you can recognize!
The motive was used in various ways, including:
1. Directly as a melodic shape.
2. An abstract “skeleton” that the meat of the melody hangs from.
3. As a structural element for texture/polyphony and orchestration.
4. As a structural element determining key-centers.
5. As a structural element for the music to reflect the conflict in the story.
6. A unifying element.
7. A connection to the traditional Christmas songs.
Regarding the “Tip Top Lounge” music:
Many of the characters come from the “Tip Top” to Bob’s party, then return to it at the end
of the story.
Using appropriate musical instruments and a small ensemble such as you might find in a lounge in that area and time, we play traditional Christmas songs in a simple cheesy-jazz style that would likely be heard.
The Christmas songs heard from the “Tip Top Lounge” during the pre-show and intermission are, for the most part, built from the same motive. The ones that aren’t: I include this motive into the accompaniment. This then creates a kind of unity for all the music in the show, giving the feeling that they all “go together.”
The music heard from the “Tip Top Lounge” is then part of the entire musical experience of the score it sets the context by being a type of Christmas “wrapping paper” around the original score.