The definitive guide to writing music for the stage, by the Composer-in-Residence at the Donmar Warehouse.
Music has played a vital part in drama since the earliest days of theatre. For composers, writing music for the stage is an opportunity to exercise their utmost creativity and versatility: a good musical score will both support and enhance the play it serves, and can lift a prosaic moment into something quite extraordinary.
In this book, Michael Bruce takes you through the entire process – from initial preparation, through composition, rehearsals and recording, and finally to performance. He covers everything a composer needs to know, including:
• Getting started – spotting when and how music might be used in a play, doing research, considering form and content
• Building a ‘sound world’ – finding and using source music, creating incidental music, choosing the best instrumentation, scoring, utilising technology, writing music to accompany song lyrics
• Working on the production – understanding the composer’s role in rehearsals, collaborating with key creatives, employing actor-musicians, getting the show on
• Recording – knowing when to record, booking and working with musicians – and the studio engineer, running a recording session
Throughout the book, the author draws on his own experience of creating music for a wide variety of plays at the Donmar Warehouse, the National Theatre, in the West End and on Broadway, including detailed case studies of his work on The Recruiting Officer, Coriolanus, Privacy, The Winslow Boy, Noises Off and Strange Interlude. The book is accompanied by online excerpts from his scores.
An essential companion for all composers – amateur, student or professional – Writing Music for the Stage is also invaluable reading for other theatre professionals, including directors, playwrights, producers, actors, designers and sound designers – in fact, for anyone seeking to understand how music helps to create worlds and tell stories on stage.
‘This fascinating book – like its author (with whom I’ve had the good fortune to work on three productions) – is bursting with practical advice, good sense and invention. A must-read for all those with an interest in how music works on stage.’ Mark Gatiss
‘A good score makes a world of difference to an actor. Read Michael Bruce’s book and you’ll understand why. He is a genius.’ Judi Dench
‘Michael’s music is wonderful: inclusive, original, respectful and – in its rightness – sheer joy.’ Josie Rourke, from her Foreword
Further reading:‘Why every composer gains by writing music for plays’ by Michael Bruce, an article published in The Stage, 23 June 2016. ‘Music written for the theatre is part of the language through which the story is told.’
Blog Post: Michael Bruce on the special requirements of being a theatre composer: ‘You can’t just churn out the same thing every time because you are being constantly challenged to respond to the specific needs of the production. This is the best training you could ask for.’
Press Quotes‘plenty of detailed practical advice here for you wherever you are in your learning journey. It’s also a good read for anyone who simply wants to understand how theatrical music works without necessarily wanting to create it.’
Susan Elkin – susanelkin.co.uk‘A joy to read… an incredibly interesting viewpoint of this vital aspect of the creation of a performance… Michael Bruce successfully conveys his passion and work ethic, constantly inspiring the reader and encouraging us to continue to learn from his words’