For weeks, we have been listening to the music for A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the rehearsal room, but hearing the original compositions by John Zeretzke in the theatre is an incredible experience – it can take your breath away. (Zeretzke is pictured in the trio photo below, on the right.)
The score is almost completely made up of tracks recorded live by musicians playing on a variety of instruments; Jordanian musician Haleem Al-Khatib performs the Greek and middle eastern qanun or (zither/harp) and percussion
is performed by master percussionist and professor of music at CalArts in California, Randy Gloss, who played the African udu (clay urn or pot) and a variety of frame drums used in traditional music of Turkey and Greece. Zeretzke also had Randy record crotalies (small, thick cymbals) using a bow similar to a cello bow to create the sounds of faerie ‘dust.’
To add an additional exotic flair to the score, Zeretzke recorded the traditional kemence (ancient spike fiddle) to many of the cues. The composer himself played all violin, viola and cello parts, as well as the penny whistle, Swedish nyckleharpa, a variety of ethnic flutes and percussive instrumentation.
I’ve been so moved by the music, that I asked John to share a bit about his inspiration. Here’s what he had to say:
“In creating the music for this production, I found my inner voices and experiences going back to traditional rhythms found in Greek and Turkish music that I have studied. For Theseus and the introduction of The Court, I wanted something strong and powerful that makes a statement about his position as a ruler and leader, so I used an ancient rhythm in a meter of 5 or 5/4 time. It has a very driving feel and pulse that is effective to the listener.
For the dance of reconciliation between Oberon and Titania, I wanted a earthy feel that grounds and reunites them. I used an ancient drum known as tupan or davul that is still played in many regions in Greece and the middle east. It is a large bass drum played with a padded beater on one side and a switch or thin stick on the other. An Irish ‘low flute’ came in handy and amazingly gave me a similar sound of the ancient ney or nai (cane flute) of the middle east, which was an unexpected surprise for the recording.
All the harp parts for the Faerie Forest were originally going to be played on a western classical harp. but due to a wonderfully unexpected blessing, I discovered a great musician who came in to substitute for one of my players with my Salaamuna Ensemble, music of the middle east. Haleem added just the right touch and exotic sound playing all the harp parts on the eastern qanun or zither. His recorded performances of the parts were simply magical.”
Here in the theatre, Zeretzke and sound designer Will Pickens work together to shape the way the music and other sound cues (sounds of nature, storms, cheering, etc.) sound in the theatre, the direction the sound comes from, and otherwise editing all of the sound we hear during the production.
Want to hear it for yourself? Here’s a small taste…John gave me two files to share with you. The first is the court music that John describes above, and the second is the music for Oberon and Titania’s reconciliation. Want more? You’ll have to come to the show…