November 28, 2012
Last time, I used a musical image to talk about creating non-musical content in One Way In.
That worked acceptably well, so I’m going to continue another musical image to talk about creating content, sequential modulation.
Sequential modulation is a musical technique that accomplishes changing keys.
What’s the textual, spoken equivalent of changing keys?
Well, if a key provides a kind of musical “home” for a piece of music, consider the textual/spoken/stage equivalent to be at least three different possibilities:
I Home-Physical Setting
One Way In is set presumably in a kind of quadrant, with two domestic settings and two non-domestic settings.
The first domestic setting is the classic ‘small town’ where the principal characters go to high school together and return to in the middle of the drama and at the end.
The second domestic setting consists of some other non-home US setting that provides a ‘friendly’, but larger, and in some ways more challenging ‘stage’ for the principals to get reacquainted in and interact after time apart but before some climactic happenings take place.
The first foreign setting is a military deployment in a foreign land, with a specific set of external characteristics of setting and people.
The second foreign setting is a subsequent deployment in a different foreign land, with its own physical and human components.
“Changing keys” in terms of using sequential modulation means, in some sort of accessible but provocative pattern (sequential), engaging the audience in the change (modulation) of setting. Obviously, my choices in this regard are gradual and abrupt.
II Home-Human Terrain
In the second depiction of home, the ‘human terrain’ of the principal characters and their individual stories provide a second context for sequential modulation.
Here, too, a quadrant is a useful image, because One Way In features four main characters, two male and two female.
(One hint: In the hierarchy of characters, the two females are at the top, one female at the summit. Just below female number two, the two males are on equal footing.)
Without wanting to “give away the store”, I will tell you that the leading characters are quite distinctive, and the challenge of sequential modulation in changing the ‘human terrain’ is greater for me than changing the physical settings.
How do I set up a possibly recurring progression (sequence) of change (modulation) in engaging the audience to sympathize with one particular character over another at any given point in the drama? Will I be successful in finding ways to make these characters become quickly familiar, complicated, AND sympathetic to the audience? Will the hidden progressions in the hearts of the characters and the hearts of the audience change in some intuitively structured way for both?
Changing keys successfully in these contexts will be “key” in the success of One Way In.
I’m sure you won’t be backward in letting me know how successful I am in this regard!
One of the biggest challenges in advancing a complicated and (I hope!) evocative story is evolving moods, sometimes sharply so. An undifferentiated mood level, regardless of whether the piece is comedy or tragedy, is one of the quickest ways I know to get audiences to lose interest.
How long should a segment, consisting of multiple scenes, keep a particular mood? How do the varying moods of a particular act affect that act’s “arc”? When and how should it the changing “keys” of mood service the overall content needs of the emotional building blocks of the drama?
Sharp and sudden, wave-like and subtle, slow and steady…these are the choices I am fortunate enough to need to make in this terrific opportunity.
So, stay tuned, as next time, we take yet another cue from musical symbolism to investigate the creation of One Way In.
Next time: RHYTHM.
Lars lost his battle with