The music for The Memory Show [TMS] is written to illuminate the scenario in which the Mother and Daughter find themselves.

The Mother begins the show with a very pointed ostinato accompaniment that is horizontally chromatic but ultimately diatonically tonal.  This chromaticism within a fairly malleable diatonic system only grows throughout the show: as if this show were a machine that slowly and consistently shook a plastic bottle (the Mother) filled with a carbonated drink (the disease) until finally, at the end, her music just explodes onto the stage in the form of a song (“Unlovable”) filled with fairly quick, relatively distantly related, harmonic shifts and a gradually growing accompaniment built on a combination of themes that have ostensibly been churning within her over the course of her entire life. However, at its core, all of the Mother’s music is based on the ordered set [0, 3, 0, -2]

Contrastingly, if the Mother’s music is the source of dysfunction within their relationship, the Daughter’s music represents the structural foundation, and potential good, of the relationship.  It is a touch more grounded and is the source for the four-chord progression that permeates the entire score in some form or another (the roots of which opcs [0, 8, 3, 5] or opcs [0, 3, 5, 8] are distantly related to the Mother’s set, both incorporating the use of the bM).  Though her accompaniment may seem to echo the “ostinato” at times, both her harmonies and melodies live in a more accessible and popular, almost “alternative rock”, aesthetic.  Naturally then, when they argue/sing together in “You Remember Him Wrong” the music is polytonal; as if forcing a graft of two distinct personalities on top of one another.

The two share a common theme that can be found throughout the show in vocal lines, orchestral lines (thank you Lynne!) and transitional/incidental music. ([0, 11, 7, 4, 9]).

The score is most certainly contemporary musical theatre. The songs serve to both advance the drama and zoom in on the complex emotions of the characters at the time in which they sing. However, unlike some musical theatre scores that consist of a series of songs or numbers that may or may not be related to one another synecdochically, TMS’s score should be thought of as one unified body that undergoes cyclical development over the course of the show’s 85 minutes. Though this draws on techniques found in works of a more operatic or “serious” nature and those of Stephen Sondheim, like the characters of TMS, the harmonic/melodic language of the music remains uniquely its own.

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  1. […] Music of The Memory Show […]

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