Social Buttons

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

How a Jazz Composer Reinvented a Revolution in Sound

Photo: Beowulf Sheehan

By Susan Yung

Mark Morris Dance Group’s Pepperland, which has its evening-length New York premiere at the Howard Gilman Opera House May 8—11, takes as inspiration The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which debuted 51 years ago. An original score by jazz composer Ethan Iverson, performed live, riffs on the original album, with new sections written by Iverson and performed by the MMDG Music Ensemble. We spoke to Iverson about instrumentation, the singer’s presentation, and how he incorporated different classical forms into the score.

Can you talk about how you chose the instruments used? 

I was Mark’s music director for five years. During that time I watched him make up dances to all sorts of unusual instrument combinations. The use of theremin and harpsichord connects to the swinging 60s. But in the end, I just chose the musicians I wanted to play with, and that became the ensemble.

Photo: Beowulf Sheehan

What was your process in the reworking (or rewriting completely) the songs that are not literal adaptations of The Beatles’ originals? 

The original compositions are all based on classical forms. Some of Mark’s greatest work is to Purcell, Handel, and Mozart. I would take a fragment from The Beatles and tease out a formal structure for an Allegro, an Adagio, and a Scherzo. We also play a blues: another classical form!

Photo: Mat Hayward

The singer’s presentation is so straight forward—square—in contrast to the style The Beatles used. Why that choice?

Musical theater is an important reference for Pepperland. When you do things “straight,” it can lead to more complex emotions. In this case, a straight presentation of the melody can allow the accompaniment to be more chaotic.

Want to know more about the music? Here, Iverson discusses how the soundtrack came together, and Rolling Stone gives you the story behind every song on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band here.

Pepperland will be at BAM May 8—11.

Susan Yung is senior editorial manager at BAM.

© 2019 Brooklyn Academy of Music, Inc. All rights reserved.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.