Incidental Music for
Death and Whipped Cream: 2004
Between 1995 and 2002 I adopted the role of "traveling musician". Going from town to town doesn't leave you with much time to write, so I put composing on the "back burner" for a while.
Fortunately, an opportunity arose, at a time when I wasn't touring too much, to compose incidental music for an Off-Broadway play called "Death and Whipped Cream", written by Kostia Rubchinsky. The play tells the story of a man trying to save the life of his wife by playing a game of poker with Death (think "Seventh Seal").
Like many of the projects I had worked on, it was a mixture of Theater, Video (both live and pre-recorded) and Sound, with yours truly performing the Violin parts live to pre-recorded music that I had composed.
Unlike my earlier work, I took a more "conventional" approach to the music for this show.
I performed, recorded, edited, mixed and mastered all of the music under very tight time and budgetary constraints, so I hope that you will forgive the occasional out of time/out of tune playing ;-).
There are three main musical themes representing Man, Woman and Death. The wife is caring and nurturing, the husband is pre-occupied and self-centered and Death is the "sage" that gives enlightenment to the husband (although the knowledge Death bestows may have come a little too late).
The woman who played the wife was a country girl from Colorado. That was the inspiration for her theme.
For the music that accompanies Death I begged, borrowed and stole every percussive instrument I could get my hands on. Here's what I found...
The main character is the husband. His actions and reactions are the focal point of the story. For this reason, the "Man" theme is restated several times throughout the play, but each time it is a little bit different.
The first time we hear the theme is in the prologue. We meet the husband as an old man on his deathbed, looking back on his life. The rest of the play proceeds as a flashback.
The next time the theme is heard, the man is now a young husband lying in bed with his wife. He is obsessed with trivial matters, and not really paying attention to his wife.
Night has fallen, Death has made his entrance. He tells the husband that he has come for his wife. Now, the husband is sitting down to a game of poker with the Grim Reaper, hoping that he can save her with a game of cards.
It's an other-worldly, carnival-like atmosphere that the game takes place in and I did my best to capture that.
After some banter and philosophical musings, the game comes to an end with Death as the victor. The time has come for Death to take the man's wife...
BTW the "gongs" at the end were created using a circular saw blade hanging from a string!
The husband is sobbing and begging Death to take himself instead of his wife. Death (who really isn't a bad guy) decides that he will just "drop by again in another 10 or 20 years", as long as the husband agrees to stop and smell the roses, and not take his wife for granted.
The final statement of the "Man" theme occurs when the husband wakes up the next morning (was it all just a dream?) next to his wife, ready to begin a new chapter in his life.
This is a fun scene early on in the play, where the wife is trying to seduce her husband. I combined an Iranian drum beat and some quazi-Arabic fiddle playing for the first section, followed by some goofy Hawaiian lap steel for the second section.
The Writer/Director wanted some Klezmer for the bow music, so I grabbed my yarmulke and got to work!