Wednesday, December 17, 2008

To Show or not to Show? Also, Score!

Music in the Evening is supposedly a variety show, and as I keep cranking out episodes, I fiddle with the formula to see what I can accomplish. I know about 3000 words gives me about 30 minutes of epsiode, depending on the length of the songs, and I like to have a narrative consisting of little scenes broken up by the music. But should they all be set behind the scenes at the fictional show, I'd like to know.

I've had a comment in support of getting out of the theater, and I like to do it. It started with episode 8, I think, in which the show traveled across the country on the Oregon Trail. However, since the entire auditorium just became the wagon somehow, inexplicably, one could make a case for episode 11 being the first one to not be a show. That was the high school flashback episode, and the songs were sprinkled into the narrative with different excuses. No, wait. That was a show too! But not a MitE show. I'll leave it to future generations of scholars to debate.

Some episodes I score more than others - you know, just music accentuating moments. The Forsaken Realms ones, for example, or the coda of episode 4. I still haven't decided about the propriety of doing this. Is MitE supposed to be cinema radio verite? Overtly "comedic" scores on TV shows or in movies bother the living shit out of me. "Wump wump wump," says this kind of score. "There was a joke; did you notice it, you stupid fuck? Wuh oh! Isn't he silly? Now is when you should laugh, you cornfed fuckhole." I'll decide whether your program is humorous, thank you. I want to avoid that, definitely. But I think I mainly use score-type music either in an ironic way or to support an elaborate parody, and these I do approve. For example, the western-style music at the end of episode 8, the battle music in the Forsaken Realms episodes.

Episode 4, the Amateur Night episode, interests me these days. I'd just busted my rump doing episode 3 the hard way, and it took a tremendous and concentrated effort. I cleansed my palate by just making easy songs with just guitar or some really poorly played piano. As I'm writing narratives that pull away from Snobberson on stage vs. the audience, I'm beginning to feel that tickle of yearning again to just have a straightforward one. Another amateur night, perhaps. I'll add it to the big heap of episode ideas sitting in Google documents.


Sydney MacLean said...

I read Steve Martin's autobiography recently and he said that he observed the audience's tendency to laugh was often more about presentation and expectation than "getting" the joke. This was a periodic relief of growing tension, as he saw it. So he sought to create a style of comedy whereby there would be no punchlines and so the tension would build and build until it found its own relief... which he figured would be much more natural.

As for getting out of the theater... well, in my mind, the theater looks like the Muppet Show and the audience look like the Feebles. This might be nothing like it is in your mind, but it is familiar to me and there has been little to suggest otherwise... aside from the theater's magical ability to become a ship or a wagon train as the script demands... which I enjoy. Rationality is overrated.

Just a thought, but you might want to give your theater some history and personality. There is a saying that in crime noir the most important character is the city. This means that the audience is more willing, even on an unconscious level, to place themselves in a fictional location if it feels familiar to them. You could feature the landlord or original owner or deranged architect (maybe the same guy who built Dana Barrett's apartment)... or it could be something more about the building itself; mole men in the basement, The Phantom of the Variety Show...

Food for thought.

Franklin said...

That's some tasty thought-food. I don't really have a handle on the theater in my mind yet; it just sort of seems to have the locations I need for scenes to play out in. But a lot exists in flux like that: kind of like, are they puppets, or like, what? I mean, I have that Snobberson puppet, but that's more a function of needing to physically displace into a character if I expect to do any kind of performance - I could never do stand-up. Unless I got to wear a Nixon mask and a dress or something. But I digress.

I've hoarded those ideas in my virtual sack for future development. Thanks, and toss more thoughts my way any time.