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Composer - Alex Silverman

With a play many things can inspire ideas. To start with I meet the director and talk about where and when the play is set. Jo (Howarth) leant me some records demonstrating the mood she's interested in conjuring up. She gave me a KT Tunstall record, and I liked the percussion, so I took a bit of the beat to use as a starting block. I might turn it upside down, or backwards, or repeat it.


At the Globe there is a very specific set of sounds that work in the building and we don’t use amplification. So we need loud instruments. We are hoping to replicate the noises of Shakespeare's theatre. But where he would have used a shaum (which is like an oboe) and a sackbut (which is like a trombone), I am using a trombone and a soprano sax and percussion. This line up is often used in Indian music and for this show I have been influenced by the Bollywood Brass Band.

The Play

We want to use the music to keep people in the theatre warm, interested and lively. We want people to stand up and clap and stamp and shout. It's going to be chilly in March. Jo has ideas about musical cross-cultural references. Bands that take beats from one culture and tunes from another, like Africa Sound System or Asian Dub Foundation. The design of the play is a real ethnic mix of influences and to some extend that reflects the people who are going to come to see it. London is a diverse city


Music can be symbolic. In the middle of the play, after the wedding has gone wrong and Hero is absent, there is no music. When Hero comes back, we have music again. It is a lovely image that whilst Hero’s on stage, while love is in the air, there is music. When it all goes wrong, music is absent. Music is part of the experience of the play.


I like to start at the end, because it is a significant moment. Everything builds towards the moment of resolution. It's important that when that moment comes it feels right. The music has to feel like it is resolved at this point too. If I start with the ending then I have a good chance of making everything lead toward it. So I start with the jig. We were keen to give the audience a song that they were familiar with. Shakespeare’s audience would have heard popular songs at the Globe. So Hero and Claudio sing a number from Grease ‘You’re the One that I Want’. Obviously I didn’t compose the song, but I arrange it for the musicians and singers.


To compose I use a pencil and a piece of paper. The key thing is to learn to look at your blank piece of paper as one that contains infinite possibilities. Every stroke you make narrows down those possibilities. By the time you put your double bar at the end, there should be no question for a performer as how to perform it. Your job is to take infinite possibilities and narrow it down to one. It's a bit like doing maths or a crossword; there are very strict rules. To start with youhave to find a rhythm. Being a composer is about taking a tiny idea and making it last two minutes or twenty minutes or two hours. It's not about sitting there and being struck by a muse and the music pouring out of you. It doesn't work like that. Composers are often people who can't play an instrument very well, but love music. If I sat down at the piano and wrote music, all I would write is music for someone who was a rubbish piano player. That is not very interesting and is unlikely to be appropriate