Chip at the piano

This podcast is a labor of love in many aspects. For those of you who don’t know, the writer Eddie Louise and I (Chip Michael) are married and been together for a long time. We started Sage and Savant as a way to do something creatively together. Next month’s episode, Of Trainwrecks and Heartaches, is a nod to Valentine’s Day–a chance to explore romance. Again, for those who don’t know us, we are enthusiastically romantic. While we don’t need a specific day to show affection for each other, we aren’t going to pass up on a chance to be particularly mushy. Without giving away too much, the upcoming episode is a fine example of that.

Of Trainwrecks and HeartachesEddie Louise is not Dr Petronella Sage and I am certainly not Professor Erasmus Savant, but we have thrown ourselves into our characters as well as the project. The script for Of Trainwrecks and Heartaches has a number of moments that feel very personal, statements and sentiments that Eddie Louise has written into the script as a way to tell me how much our relationship means to her. During the recording process I found myself choking up on several lines. While mixing down the episode, I often had to take breaks to clear away the emotions so I could get back to focusing on the work that needed done.

Writing MusicThen comes the music

I have been writing music all month for this episode, even though we didn’t record the vocals until part way into January. This was going to be special episode, at least in terms of personal sentiments. It is important that the music reflect that.

Poets throughout the ages have written numerous love poems. Song writers have penned thousands of love songs. I am no poet and, while I do write music, I am no song writer.  For me, the expression comes in orchestrated music weaving together themes with emotional intent. The music is being built on two simple themes and interlaced throughout every aspect. It not only plays out in the melodies, but is layered into the accompaniments. Twists to the themes are put in one piece and then echoed in another. The leitmotifs for Dr Sage and Prof Savant are sometime overt and at other times subverted, inverted, and hidden in the shadows.

In the piece entitled Conversations About Sage, Professor Savant and Abigail have a lengthy discussion about what to do with their friend. It was initially entitled something else, but that would give away too much about their conversation. Of course, Dr Sage’s leitmotif is paramount, but so are the themes of Professor Savant and Abigail. There are elements of a previous discussion between these two (Savant & Abigail  in Episode 205: Circus of Dreams)  so the season carries a thematic feel.

Both Dr Sage and Savant are heroic characters in my mind, which mean brass. I want their characters to be active in the music (and not just the themes). They are personified as instruments and not only in leitmotif. Dr Sage is often evident as a horn, while Professor Savant changes in tonal color depending on the music. He is expressed as a trumpet, an oboe, a clarinet, and a piano. His instrument of ‘choice’ may change piece to piece, but the tenor of his thoughts is still active in the music. One of the quieter moments is entitled A Love Letter, a duet between a horn and a trumpet. I can’t say any more without giving away plot details, but it is one of my favorite pieces in the episode.

Other Characters

A good script doesn’t focus on just one element. Next month’s episode is not just a romance. There are other characters like Abigail and Cunningham.  They  interact with Sage and Savant, so they are also represented musically. You might think of Cunningham as a big burly man, and in truth he might be. But I’ve chosen the flute to represent him. He was a great deal of fun to write and certainly lightens the mood, a necessity for the ebb and flow of the emotions. In Confronting Cunningham I get a chance to demonstrate some of the fireworks that happens when Dr Sage and Mx Cunningham talk. There are also some elements of Claude Duval, Stand and Deliver from January’s episode.

Abigail comes into her own in February’s episode, showing her brilliance.  She gets a piece dedicated to her (and her leitmotif), and not just a piece where she’s waiting the lab for Sage and Savant to return (Abigail’s Menagerie in Episode 206: Stand and Deliver). This month I wrote Abigail’s Brilliance. Her character, as the oboe, often takes the lead, showing the other instruments (characters) what needs done. Of course, Dr Sage is no slouch, so she quickly picks up on the threads and makes them her own. It is only Cunningham who seems slow to adjust to the new ways of thinking.  Even the Narrator (and his not so trusty computer) get a bit of music.

Chip Michael & Eddie LouiseWhile writing the music has been fun, it hasn’t been easy. Of course there is lots of emotions tied up into the music. It is an episode about love. But we also deal with death in every episode, and Of Trainwrecks and Heartaches is no different. There is a fine line between writing music for tragic moments that still has hope and not just something fraught with despair. On a personal note, I want the music to reflect the love I feel for Eddie Louise. Yet, it has to fit the mood and emotional journey of the episode. Trying to put all these together into music that also fits into the background has been difficult (and as of writing this post, not yet done).

Postscript

I will be posting the music up to our bandcamp page soon. The episode needs to be out Feb 1, so expect the music sometime after that.