As Sound Designer for any given play, a wide skill set could come into play. Gathering historical music, recording musicians, supporting people performing music, writing little bits of music, writing whole shows of music if you can, editing music from any of the above, making it do things it didn’t do previously like have two choruses in a row, etc.
For People Where They Are, the past is so deep around us that historical recordings or interesting modern interpretations sometimes are best for any recorded content. It gets pretty conceptual; however, I’ve always felt that going through all the thought and consultation with director, designer, and actors, that the audience doesn’t know about, creates a consensus that everybody feeds off in the process. Early tech elements help the actors “make a spectacle of themselves” and “demonstrate how it works.”
But the basics are always first. And that includes supporting the acting and blocking in rehearsal/development, which may use most of the time available on a new play, then improving and growing in leaps and bounds right up to the end in meaningful ways. The live performed music, the recorded music, and sound effect cues all are proposed with optional choices. These are then tried and revised and provided for rehearsal as the play starts to gel into a form, then edited, changed or abandoned. So speed and an idea of what the director ultimately is going for is important.
For this play I had the big added advantage of knowing and having had the honor to record some of Guy, Candie, and Evan Carawan in a variety of situations. Wanting not to confuse them too much with our fictionalized characters, we only used one piece from any of them and it was a track of Evan’s from his Old Time oriented instrumental CD, “The View From Home.” We, however, used plenty of Guy and Candie for general knowledge and learning about some of the songs in the play.
The Highlander Folk School has had from the beginning, an approach steeped in music on purpose. At first it was Sylvie Horton, married to Miles Horton, considered the founder, who lead and focused the music ministry, if you will. Somewhere in there Mr. Riley was the music guy and he is leading the Highlander concert at the Carousel Theatre after the final performance of People Where They Are.
Somewhere in the civil right era, Guy and Candie Carawan took over and he is credited with teaching the country that song most associated with the movement. It is derived from many sources, black and white, historically. Guy and Candie (and my buddy Evan, Nancy Brennan, Sparky and Rhonda Rucker, and many other local friends) have travelled the country and even the world performing songs and helping organize poor people through music. I’m mighty proud to have associated myself the likes of them.