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MAMT SIP proposal

2016-17

MEGAN MCARTHUR
SUSTAINED INDEPENDENT PROJECT (SIP) PROPOSAL FORM
(Two sides of A4 would be usual for this. Additional information may be attached where
relevant. The form may be adapted by your Course Tutors.)
This must be agreed by your tutor before you continue with the work of the
Sustained Independent Project (SIP).

Tutor: David Merriman

Title/Topic:
The use of music as a rehearsal tool. (Topic rather than title!)

Musical Composition: A Valuable Actor Training Tool?

Brief description:
Collaboration between composer and actor at the rehearsal stage to see whether the
inherent connection between music and emotion can be used to intrinsically heighten and
nuance the actor’s emotional capacity within a set piece of text.
Within the Western classical tradition, music is widely accepted as an inducer of
emotion. If music can actually manipulate how we feel, then there is great opportunity for
this to be exploited by both the composer director and the actor. I intend to use stock
classical pieces which have scientific evidence proving their capacity to manipulate the
emotions of the listener. These 3/4 pieces will then be matched to monologues/dialogues
and therefore hopefully removing the director’s need to vocalise emotional intentions and
reactions of the characters but instead the actor will ‘feel’ the desired impact of the scene.

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Oliver Sacks describes music as both essentially emotional and intellectual1.Emotional
susceptibility to music is influenced by both personal and neurological factors. The brain has
an extensive network involving both cortical and subcortical regions as the basis for
emotional response. The fascination with the emotional impact of music has been around
for centuries. Freud described his ‘resistance to the seductive and enigmatic power of
music’, and Tolstoy was concerned with how ‘it induced fictitious states of mind and stirred
up emotions that were not under his control’2. Music is both entirely abstract and
fundamentally emotional. It possesses no power to represent anything external yet has a
unique power to express inner feelings. It is this ability to express that I am looking to exploit
in my project and how this could be an invaluable rehearsal and compositional tool.

The process of composition will I think differ from the usual practice when composing for
text, whereby the composer is usually prescribed a temporal duration, along with an
overarching mood of the scene, as implemented by the director. Using the actor’s emotional
response to the set piece of text, the composer will then work with the actor throughout the
rehearsal process to attempt to create a piece of music that directly corresponds with the
actor’s intensions. (Rather than using a piece of precomposed music that the director deems
appropriate!)

1Oliver Sacks, Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, Picador, 2007, 285
2 Ibid, 300
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There are two main objectives to this project. The first is the piece of music itself and how
this can be moulded by the actor’s creativee and emotional input. Secondly, how the actor
can then make use of the piece in their rehearsal and performance preparation techniques.

I have selected Anton Chekhov’s ‘The Seagull’ as the piece of text the actor and composer
will be working with. I chose this work as I have previous experience with it and believe it
offers a plethora of both musical and acting choices. Another reason is that music has been
written for this text previously, therefore I will be able to establish a direct contrast in musical
approaches by contacting the composers and comparing technique, experiences and
outcome. I will select the pieces of text and the accompanying pieces of music but as of yet
I am unsure whether I will be using one or more actors for each piece. My role in the
performance/rehearsal will be more akin the that of a director. I am working with the idea of
selecting contrasting pieces of music to be associated with one piece of text (per actor) and
reviewing how the accompanying music alters the performance.

Key disciplines:
Acting, Composition (practical voice, movement, directing)

Nature of work (e.g. Dissertation; portfolio comprising artefact with complementary


annotation. Be clear to avoid potential ambiguities.):
The process will take place as a workshop session with the actor and composer. Both will
be familiarised with the text beforehand and be invited to bring their own creative
suggestions. On the day they will combine these, or hopefully together discover something
altogether new through a process akin to trial and error. This session will be recorded.
The piece of music is not the endgame of this project but rather how the process of
composition can aid the actor.
I will keep a written record of how both parties found the experience and delve into further
practice if necessary. The most important part of my research will be to discover how useful
the process was for the actor and whether the piece can then be used independently as a
rehearsal or performance preparation tool. Rehearsed reading of set texts which will then
be ‘directed’ by the selected music. This will be accompanied by a written review of how the
actors found this as a rehearsal tool, alongside my own observations and if these are
indicative of previous research done in the field of ‘music and emotion’.

Resource needs, where relevant:


Rehearsal space, piano, recording equipment (preferably a studio with minimal external
emotive influences e.g. noise and windows), access to plays and monologues, access to
music.

How do you think your title/topic will demonstrate that you have met the learning
outcomes for the unit?:
My SIP specifically explores the connection between music and acting. Having completed
an undergraduate degree in music, I have a decent level of understanding of the relationship
between music and emotion but my SIP intends to link and develop the extensive research
in this field into acting. The research required into acting rehearsal techniques for my project
will be invaluable (specifically from Stanislavsky and Bella Merlin), as this is an area in which
I am keen to pursue a career. Therefore my SIP provides an appropriate bridge between my
undergrad and how I aim to define my future! I am excited by the opportunity to engage in a
managerial/directorial role in the practical side of my project as this too is a tangent of the
industry that interests me. I am most apprehensive about my decisions regarding which texts
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to explore. I shall require writing that offers an abundance of interpretations yet doesn't
prescribe too much emotion as this will inform too many of the actor’s and composer’s
choices. My biggest fear is that the process fundamentally won’t work if the actor and
composer cannot agree creatively/emotionally on the piece. But I suppose I’ll cross that
bridge when I come to it! I also want to explore texts that the actors won’t have come across
previously as other interpretations will also inform their performative decisions, rather than
the music I have chosen to do this, which is the aim of my SIP after all! However this provides
a great opportunity to discover new rep.