The theory goes that in film or in live performance the visual component appeals to the mind and the sound appeals to the heart or the body.
When a director talks to me about what kind of music they want, they’ll usually talk about music from other movies. But I always steer them away from that, and say let’s not talk about a particular instrument or tempo. Let’s talk about the characters and what the music needs to do at a point of the story.
So no matter how good one medium is, the imagery of a film let’s say, if a music score doesn’t cut it then the whole film will suffer. No matter how talented the director, writer or actors are.
Sydney based composer Basil Hogios is in the business of making sure this balance between sound and light is just right.
Right now his skills as a musical director have been making sway in the cabaret, Mrs Bang – a series of seductions in 55 minutes, written and performed by Sheridan Harbridge.
This cabaret, being presented as part of the Melbourne Fringe this year, “is a twist on the cabaret form” Hogias said.
“Sheridan has actually written her own material, but the format is definitely cabaret where you have a solo performer and a piano player,” he said.
The show has been described as “an unabashed mess of calamity, romance and loin-aching seduction where Mrs Bang rips electric Ukulele through the Weimar Republic of wine stained vocals and sumptuous catastrophe.”
Other than the much loved Weimar angle in Cabaret productions, it’s refreshing to hear the performer’s material is original this time round.
More often than not most modern cabarets tend to be theatricalised presentations of classic songs, sung by a singer, not a performer.
Therefore making cabaret experience purely nostalgic, and rarely original or a cutting edge for Australian audiences.
Harbridge has already performed this show for the Edinburgh Fringe, but before Hogias entered the picture, he explained. Harbridge performed it several times before that.
“Sheridan asked me on board to help shape the role of what the music was,” Hogias said, adding, “as well as helping with the songs and how they should be performed, so as to assist with the storytelling”.
Though Harbridge’s storytelling is hers, Hogias did point out that there are some existing songs.
“The diffrence here is the way we choose to interpret them. There’s the song All Mine by Portishead. The reason we used this song is because it resonated with the story,” Hogias said.
“But instead we play it with a piano and a ukulele.”
Hogias went on to say there is reference to the classic Weimar Republic style of cabaret, but it’s very much a departure from it.
“It’s actually very funny and very poignant and she very much messes with that tradtion,” Hogias said.
“But the real difference is she’s playing a character not herself and this character has been on the stage for decades, and she used to be really big once and now she is forgotten.”
Aside from the Mrs Bang show, Hogios has worked as a composer, musical director and sound designer on countless other projects and across many forms and his skills naturally demand different requirements.
“This depends on the project. It can change every time,” Hogais said.
“With a film, the music and sound is often brought in at the end, during the editing process and it’s very technical and precise.
“While in live performance a musical director is brought in right at the beginning; it’s much more of collaborative process,” he added.
When queried if he prefers one over the other, film or theatre, Hogias said “I find both forms challenging and quirky in their own way. The other reason why I like to move between the two is, if I’m getting frustrated with one form I can always jump to the other…but I don’t really have a preference.”
Of course one of the main challenges for a composer is understanding what a director wants.
Since most directors don’t possess the musical vocabulary to communicate their needs, they often will use references from other work.
“When a director talks to me about what kind of music they want, they’ll usually talk about music from other movies. But I always steer them away from that, and say let’s not talk about a particular instrument or tempo. Let’s talk about the characters and what the music needs to do at a point of the story.”
But Hogios added that part of the process is also about playing existing music and films and that his job is about filtering through these reference points to find a common collaborative language.
“In a lot of ways my approach is very much like detective work.”
Mrs Bang – a series of seductions in 55 minutes
Season dates: 29 September – 09 October 2010