Last spring I posted some MIDI tracks of songs from the musical theater production I wrote music for at The Evergreen State College in Olympis, Washington- “The Blooming Season,” a Chinese-inspired new work with book and lyrics by the prodigiously talented Nick McChord. Refer to that previous post for details on the plot and how the production came to be.
Here I offer four tracks for your listening consideration, all based on Kunqu opera tunes from “The Peony Pavilion” – the most famous Chinese opera ever and the plot source for part of our new show. Our show opened with the first track here: “I Believe.” I took the Kunqu opera tune and altered it for modern, American ears and the musical theater style. Nonetheless, our Chinese director Rose Jang, herself an accomplished amateur performer of Chinese opera, immediately recognized the tune in my adaptation of it! This short song opened the whole show and is sung here by Erin Calata.
Next is a suite “I was a Pretty Girl” that evolves from a solo song, sung by a woman who thinks she is dying of unfound love and falling into a dream, to the ensemble number she conjures up in her erotic fantasy. The script called for a ’60’s flower-power number so I channeled “Hair” and the final section of this is the result. Notice that the opening solo song uses the same tune as the one above that opened the show. Thematic transformation! The singers are Kathryn Claus Burke, Leean Conley-Holcom, Erin Calata and playwright Nick McChord.
Next is the song sung by this same girl upon waking and discovering that the wonderful fantasy was not real. This is another “transformed” Kunqu opera tune from “The Peony Pavilion.” The rising opening motif, outlining a second-inversion minor triad, struck me as very memorable and usable 400 years later far, far from China… The singer is Kathryn Claus Burke.
Finally, another transformation for you- here is the same tune but now done up like a Eurobeat club dance tune. The script suddenly calls us into the present in modern Beijing for a scene about struggling artists, pollution and media censorship, in which the woman character again faces losing love… Listen for the same second-inversion minor triad opening motif. The singer is Leean Conley-Holcom.