Some of my recent work.
It's a Travesty!
Written by Travis Tate
Directed by Travis Tate
Presented by Salvage Vanguard Theater's Three Headed Festival
A glitter-bombed elegy for the distances working to separate us from ourselves. Using song & spell, the show confesses & confounds our own personal histories, bodies, & loves, not so we may leave those things behind, but so we may carry those things with us, & so we may call this healing.
This was my first opportunity to write music for the stage. A mutual friend put me in touch with Travis when their original composer wasn't able to make the commitment to the show. Travis needed 7 or 8 tunes written, arranged, and recorded — including torch songs, honky tonk, electro-pop, and rock — with enough time to rehearse along with them for a one-person cabaret extravaganza. We had 5 weeks. I'd never done this before.
Do People Still Call You expresses Jazzie's conflicting feelings about their old lover. Travis recorded a two-chord demo with a slow, wistful vibe, but after I got a sense for the pace of the script, I decided to call on a different musical influence that they had mentioned earlier: Kings of Leon. The stage direction says "the twinkling stars play the beginning of a song", so I used some echoing guitars to paint a starry night, followed by a driving beat, and a stadium-ready chorus that requires Jazzie to really belt out their feelings.
The most heartbreaking part of the show is where Jazzie talks about their deteriorating relationship with their father. Travis's original lyrics to Father's Song were great, but the verses were a little vague about how close they used to be. I asked Travis to share some details about their childhood that we could add to the song. They were brave, and gave me a lot to work with lyrically. When I first saw the show, Travis worked the room expertly, getting big laughs and raucous shouts from the packed crowd. But when they sang about their father, they brought the whole audience to tears by the end of the song. That's when I knew we'd succeeded.
When I walked across the living room
Light as a bird / so self assured
You said it looked like I might fly away
I guess I did, daddy / Yes I did
Photos by Usama Malik
Written by Adara Meyers
Directed by Diana Lynn Small
Presented by Salvage Vanguard Theater
This heady, experimental play uses satire, absurdism and horror to explore how women and girls have a certain idea of adulthood forced upon them. It takes place in a Catholic girls school, with the Virgin Mary as a student and her mother, St. Anne, a restless school volunteer.
Diana guided me toward cues that expressed dutiful young womanhood, but with a sense of looming dread: something about all of this is off. Inspiration came from Italian horror films, Colin Stetson's Hereditary soundtrack, and filmstrip library music.
The prologue is a slideshow about Leonardo Da Vinci’s “The Virgin and Child with St. Anne,” and Freud’s debunked maternal psychosexual essay on that painting. I wrote a short harpsichord duet and ran it through some soft synths, inspired by Switched On Bach by Wendy Carlos. I wanted to hint at church music and '60s educational films, but also tease the dynamic of a daughter following her mother's example as the harpsichords mimic each other.
For the intro, I built on this Twin Peaks-like synthesizer riff, and wrote an ever-ascending clockwork motif over it. Gradually they're joined by a distant choir, then throbbing, ominous tones.
The Manhattan Theme opens a scene where a mother and daughter walk through Times Square, or an impressionistic version of it. Their peaceful walk is cut short as they turn a corner: the city is overwhelming and hostile, but the women are supposed to be inside the safe, air conditioned department store. I combined a bunch of sounds you'd hear on a busy street into a kind of panic-inducing supercut, as street drummers and strings crescendo over it. They finally enter the store, where a distant pianist plays soothing standards.
The Audience/El Público
Written by Federico Garcia Lorca
Adaptation by Elizabeth Doss
Directed by Elizabeth Doss and Lisa Laratta
Presented by paper chairs
A bold new adaptation of Federico Garcia Lorca’s El Público, re-imagined by Austin playwright & paper chairs’ co-founder Elizabeth Doss, The Audience infuses Lorca’s most abstract and free-form play with pertinent details from his life and murder.
This production featured a mix of pre-recorded music and live performances by the amazing actors. Liz challenged me to channel 1930's Spain, with flamenco guitars, military marches and opera...but also anachronisms like 1950's department store music and 1970's adult film funk.
The Guard's March is a springy tune that plays while the guard, a terrifying embodiment of Franco's fascist army, proudly narrates his macho origin story, then viciously beats the secret lover of the Theatre Director. I had first written a frightening, minor-key tune with stentorian horns blaring over the sound of an angry mob. But Liz realized the scene needed some lighter music behind it to highlight the comedy of the guard's bragadoccio, and to give the vicious beating an air of the absurd: is this really happening? I quickly put together a cue that sounds the way the fascist wants to see himself, as the conquering patriotic hero.
The most fun cue to write was the Producer's Theme. Liz asked me to give this flashy showbiz honcho a sparkling soundtrack like you'd hear in a Sears in 1950. I spent a long afternoon merrily plotting out pizzicato strings, harps and flutes into a MIDI suite that could sell you a dishwasher.
Written by Megan Tabaque
Directed by Megan Tabaque
Presented by Salvage Vanguard Theater
The story of two estranged sisters who find their way back to themselves in an urban boutique cycling studio. Their journey of self-care and empowerment doesn’t stop at self actualization. The cult like cycle club turns them into power-crazy murderers!
Two Sweaty is an exploration of the female body kicking ass on stage, women being frightening, intimidating, and strong.
For this staged reading, Megan asked me to do something I had never done before: write some pulse-pounding dance music for a sweaty spin class. It also had to convey the unraveling of a psyche, and inspire murder. So I gave myself a crash course in EDM, and started working on cues that would fit in a spin instructor's playlist, from the initial climb to furious pedaling to a gentle cool-down. I learned quickly how to use this clubby sonic palette to express what the characters were going through, even for their moments of grief or loneliness.
Heather's First Ride finds the younger sister on her first day of spin class. She's nervous and tentative, but quickly feels a rush of confidence as she makes it over her first climb.
Smashing Glass is the theme for one of the sisters starting to lose her grip on reality, as the phony empowerment of her spin routine leads her to start destroying property.
Megan and I spent some time developing the sonic palette for this play, and I started writing cues before the script was finished. The Trap Orchestra was one cue that didn't ultimately make it into the play, but I still like it for how it makes something cinematic out of EDM elements.
Written by Zoran Gvojic
Directed by Zoran Gvojic
The LA- and Chicago-based film company Lowcarbcomedy.com produces zany, high-energy short films. Their parodies of the most superserious Hollywood film franchises have earned them millions of views and an adoring fanbase.
My job is usually to take a perfectly good piece of famous film music, and ruin it with a hyperactive power metal rendition, as you can hear with the theme for Back to the Future, and Ode to Joy for a scene from Die Hard.
My crowning achievement is my original theme for the Nightmare on Elm Street sendup Sausage Fingers. Zoran asked me to write a hair metal tune on par with "Dream Warriors" by Dokken, except with a title that is somehow even more ridiculous. With a fierce vocal performance from my good friend, Morgan Foster, we rounded up everything wrong (and so so right) with 80s horror: gratuitious violence, pointless raunchiness, and fog machine guitar solos.
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