In a conversation with a fellow musician, I mentioned the fact that I was working on several theatre projects. My colleague was disapproving in her response “how ghastly”, she said. I didn’t bother to spend time unpicking the reasons for the opinion she expressed, since I don’t see it as my responsibility to proselytise for any particular way of working. All I can do is reflect on the reasons why I find theatrical work so stimulating and enjoyable.
If artists are in the business of communicating with symbols, then perhaps some of us derive more pleasure than others from being as specific as possible in creating and presenting ideas. Instrumental music can mean different things to different people.
I remember having a conversation with a composition tutor about the ways that people handle moments of grief. He assumed that dressing in black, walking slowly and morosely, accompanied by music similar to Chopin’s Funeral March was the only way of symbolising bereavement and loss. He wasn’t happy when I suggested that I had experienced very different moods and ambiences in similar situations in Africa.
There is something about the spirit of theatre practice that doesn’t encourage practitioners to express generalisations of this sort. The quest for finding subjective truths in theatrical settings has enriched my creativity as a musician.
I found my creative voice in making music theatre pieces. I listened to some colleagues who thought I was barking up the wrong tree, since they didn’t share my enthusiasms. After veering off course for a while, I found my way back to the place where I truly belong – the singing theatre genre.