BWW Blog: Micah Young - Music To Hear
Music has a story to tell. In a musical, the music informs us of the characters, the setting and the emotional journey. The same is true for TV and film; if you're ever watching a scary movie, and it becomes too intense, turn off the sound. The music is what drives the emotional intensity in many suspenseful scenes.
The best and most useful music in theatre is the music that tells us something the lyrics and the dialogue cannot or will not. The subtext and the underscore gives dimension to the music. An example of this is "The Road You Didn't Take," from Follies. The character, Ben sings of all the paths in life he didn't take; the lyrics tell us he is convinced. The music rings with dissonance and rhythmic ambiguity. It suggests he is not so certain of his life choices.
The opposite of this musical subtext is music that doesn't say anything, or is indistinguishable. Without citing my own biases, we can all probably think (or not remember) a show or performance, where the music did absolutely nothing. The hardest task in musical theatre is delivering the time, place, and emotional character with the music, but also not allowing it to be blasé. The music must be a character along with the actors on stage, otherwise it's simply window dressing to the story.
Photo Credit: Gchatel