Book Launch - Theatre Music and Sound at the RSC: Macbeth to Matilda - Professor Millie Taylor

Wednesday 5 December


St Edburga Building 201, King Alfred Quarter, University of Winchester, Sparkford Road, Winchester, Hampshire SO22 4NR

Professor Millie Taylor, University of Winchester

In my new book, Theatre Music and Sound at the RSC: Macbeth to Matilda, the practical working processes for music and sound composition and production are documented, noting the ways in which changes in musical practice and the development of sound technology have led to changes in the way theatre music and sound is made, and thus how the composite of music and sound interacts with the visual elements of performance. As a consequence theatre music and sound have developed strategies for becoming more immersive and less noticeable as they manipulate the relationship between audiences and performance. Meanwhile the liveness of music has effects not only on audiences but on performers, altering the dynamic shape of performances while offering opportunities to break the fourth wall and promote the theatricality of an event. Many of these aspects of music’s performance have not changed since 1961 except insofar as signification exists within culture and so develops alongside creators’ and performers’ experiences of a changing global context.

Much more fundamental have been the developments in technology and physical infrastructure that have reduced the isolation of the theatre in the Midlands. Musicians and creators can now easily commute to Stratford and retain freelance careers rendering the earlier continuity of staff less marked and the opportunities for collaboration potentially more expensive and unpalatable for musicians. Jeremy Dunn (current Head of Sound) remarked on how many productions the RSC now produces, the amount of technology being used, and the numbers of musicians involved, commenting that consequently the level of collaboration in rehearsal has been significantly reduced since the time Woolfenden was music director (1963-98), albeit for entirely practical reasons (2016). Meanwhile the increased reliance on technological support including click tracks and digital enhancement of sound has changed the aesthetic quality from fallible and acoustic liveness to the distance of perfect recorded quality even when played live.

Centre for Performance Practice and Research

Faculty of Arts

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