Appendix for assessment only. Not For publication.
Transcript of Interview with Lynne Bradley, 20th October 2004
INTERVIEWER: The focus of my Masters is how working in some kind of collaborative environment affects what it is a composer does.
INTERVIEWER: The Con has this thing .. where the composer sits down and creates art
SUBJECT: in isolation
INTERVIEWER: I'm interested in the whole industry side of things
INTERVIEWER: being out there in the real world and theatre is the thing that I enjoy most so , its kind of that - looking at how I as a composer react to the constraints and opportunities that come out of this collaborative environment.
INTERVIEWER: Secondary to that is another research document that will feed into that (the masters), and that is about defining what the collaboration is and what some of those parameters are - that's what I am doing now.
INTERVIEWER: So basically what I am trying to achieve is to present to you some of my thoughts on that, and then take your comments on that, and get some validity happening...
INTERVIEWER: take your comments and mine and present them to somebody else and get a bit of a throughline happening with those things.
C At this point this is not for publication at all, it's just for assessment so there are no identification issues, but there are wider identification issues if this feeds directly into the Masters and there may be some ethical issues I have to deal with there, but the main thing is that you are aware that although you are identified here it is for assessment purposes only.
SUBJECT: Yes, OK.
INTERVIEWER: So I'll switch this off now and give you a few minutes to read a couple of things here and then maybe we can discuss some stuff..
INTERVIEWER: OK, interview with Lynne Bradley, its 12:45 on the 20th October 2004.
Lynne Bradley was the co-director of the recent production of Wicked Bodies, and someone I have worked with since 1994. I just want to start with a few questions. You've just read my very brief story about the show
INTERVIEWER: and some of my own conclusions about what the collaboration actually consists of
INTERVIEWER: I'm specifically looking at the interactions between the members of the team and the composer, but I'm also aware of the interactions outside of that relationship, between director and actors, designers etc and so please feel free to comment on aspects of those, and although I'm looking at the ways in which the work of the composer is impacted by the work of others the converse is also true.
So the first question is "do you define your work as collaborative across disciplines?"
SUBJECT: Zen Zen Zo works in a collaborative way, inviting all of the creative team and the performers to contribute in large part to the work across the various disciplines and creative areas. So we invite the actors to have an input into the music for example, or a composer to have an input into the design even, if they have something to add, but with the understanding that at the end of the day, whoever is in charge of that area has the final say in collaboration with the director.
INTERVIEWER: Why do you choose this collaborative way of working?
SUBJECT: In the early days of the company, particularly when we had just returned from Japan, we had quite a dictatorial style, quite an auteur style of directing, whereby the director was almost entirely responsible for every aspect of the performance and, whether it was Simon or myself gave very strict directives about, what we wanted from the performers, , where we wanted them to go, what we wanted them to do, and the actors, and to a lessor degree, the creative team did not have a great deal of say And that came about because we had been working in Japan and it was a habit we had developed in Japan, but also because Simon came from a film background and the auteur style was one in which he was used to working. But we found that in Australia, which is a much more egalitarian society that the actors felt disenchanted and disempowered by not having a great deal of say and the end result was that they didn't own the work with as much passion as we would have liked, and through a process of a few years and introducing some new training methodologies, for example Viewpoints, we have found ways to make the process far more collaborative and give over, particularly in the terms of the performers a major part of the creation process of what the actors do on stage to the performers themselves.
INTERVIEWER: It's interesting that you say that because our first interaction was when you were still in Japan, and I found that experience to be intensely collaborative, strangely as we were separated by several thousand miles of water, we didn't even know each other - I first met you when I arrived in Japan having already created the music for you - though I felt a very high level of autonomy, the to and fro process that was going on between us I found to be highly collaborative. And that was my first introduction to working in this genre of theatrical music, and that's what kind of bit me...so it's interesting that you talk in those terms.
SUBJECT: I guess if I think about where we are positioned we haven't really changed our way of working to such a great extent with the creative team, its much more with the performers that we have changed the nature of the collaborative process. But I think we are probably positioned between the two ends of the spectrum, between directors who are very prescriptive about what they want from a designer, whether it's a music designer of lighting designer of a stage designer, in that they tell you exactly how they want the stage to look or the music to sound etc and the other end of the scale is that they hand over complete artistic responsibility to the designer and say you go off and do the whole thing and whatever you come up with is fine. I think Simon and I have a middle approach. You're right we often provide you with stimulus. What we like about you, Colin is that you don't throw us back exactly what we have given you, you analyse the ideas behind what we have given you, or what you think might be the motivation behind what we have given you and then you re-interpret it and create your own piece, the classic examples being some of those pieces in Unleashed, where I can't even remember what the stimulus was for Steel Ribbons or Butoh Babies but I remember being absolutely shocked when I hear the pieces that you came back with because they were completely unlike what I had given you, but when I listened I realised that you had absolutely captured the essence and I fell desperately in love with both pieces. So that is a great example of that to and fro process, and we also have had many instances where you have come back and we've said "no, that doesn't work for us" and we love you also because you have very little ego and you are working for the greater good of the piece of art and you are willing to start again, chuck it out and start again which is a rare thing in the creative world but at the end of the day that is what creates brilliant art and certainly it creates great collaborations.
INTERVIEWER: In what ways would you expect to influence the work of the other team members as a director?
SUBJECT: How would I expect to influence what they do...you mean how they work?
INTERVIEWER: You've mentioned that there is a process of feedback coming to and fro, but if you get to the point that the artist says "this is the way that I see this, that I feel this." How do you feel about that point of crux? Is it a matter of saying, "No we can't use that piece at all or it must be changed this way?
SUBJECT: I think it is important that there is an understanding that the director has to babysit the total vision of the whole show and in that sense all of the artists working on it have to trust the director, and I think that we've generally found that to be the case and if it did come down to that , yes, we would require that the artist change tack, but what we try to do is to find compromise, because often it is the middle ground, something could be just a small change to get the desired effect. And what I've found useful is the process of discussion where we identify what it is that we are both trying to achieve.
INTERVIEWER: You talk about trust, the point of trusting the creatives sufficiently to allow them into that creative process very early, which I find fascinating - that you bring in your lighting designer for example at such an early stage that they actually have some input into the way the drama is portrayed in the end product.
INTERVIEWER: Do you consider your interactions with the composer collaboration or briefing? You have answered this in part in that you don't like to make prescriptive briefings. Do you feel that you "own" a part of the music? I'm not talking about intellectual property, but do you fell like you have an ownership?
SUBJECT: Oh yes, I think we feel very connected to the end product because we also trust our key creatives immensely and we have complete faith that they are always going to come up with the goods and that kind of trust relationship isn't always there in the industry, and I think its partly because we have worked together for such a long time, or in the case of David Walters we have only actually worked with him twice but there's such a great sense of trust there that we would always defer to his suggestions, always try them because we believe that he knows what he is doing, and give it go.
INTERVIEWER: He has a very strong sense of the story
SUBJECT: and dramaturgy
INTERVIEWER: he and I have actually had a number of meetings on the bus throughout the process of this recent production, (his stop is near mine) and his comment at one stage was "between you and me, Colin, we can actually take this any direction we want to so we'd better make sure we agree!"
INTERVIEWER: I thought this was very interesting and knowing the way that you work, that you would actually expect this kind of engagement with the project.
SUBJECT: Absolutely, and I would add that that is the case because we trust you both implicitly. But having said that, also we let David have a very long leash, but in the final week of teching
INTERVIEWER: you pulled him in...
SUBJECT: well we had to because it was just too dark (in the space) and he was great because it meant we had to change several of his key lighting states and he was really good.
INTERVIEWER: In fact there was a fair bit of music that was changed in the last couple of weeks as well
SUBJECT: absolutely ... but up until that point we pretty much gave you guys very long leashes because we know that we have to allow you time to really show us what your vision is. I must add that working with Gavin was really interesting because he didn't have that long term relationship with you...he was far more nervous, he was much more concerned - where I was having to argue to let you finish your ideas, finish what you were doing before he made a judgement, he was very quick to want to cut things and change things because he didn't have that same level of trust there, so that was interesting for me because I had to keep saying, look, Colin will come through with the goods and I realized one day that he didn't necessarily believe that, he was definitely doubting and it was a bit of an eye-opener for me because that implicit trust is there I was like "oh?"
INTERVIEWER: I had that sense too, and in fact his comment to me on opening night was "you came through, you delivered" and to me, because I was aware of that concern with him and also having some communication issues and feeling that I wasn't quite getting exactly what he was meaning
SUBJECT: as was David
INTERVIEWER: so I think that is a major part of the process that in the team that we have we know each other from a range of different circumstances and although the relationship is essentially a professional one
INTERVIEWER: we know each other well enough to have a sense of what is going on in each other's heads.
INTERVIEWER: So in light of all that that, would you expect the composer's input or a lighting designer to be confined to their specific elements
INTERVIEWER: and if not, where are the boundaries?
SUBJECT: I think that they are entitled to say whatever they want to director or in the presence of the director. I have a problem if a member of the creative team goes directly to an actor and makes suggestions because then the director is essentially left out of the process and chaos can erupt, but if its through the director or in the presence of the director I'm more than happy for them to put forward their idea as long as they are equally happy for me to say I don't agree with that, or I agree in part but can we try this instead, so yes I think its great, some of the best ideas come from those who sit quietly watching because they see the big picture
INTERVIEWER: and are slightly outside the directorial process. There have been a few instances in this production where I have had the opportunity to sit with or work with one of the actors and that's been really interesting for me and then the actor has taken it off to the director and said "what do think of this?" I have found it interesting to have some input in how things look. This is particularly in relation to a couple of scenes that have underscoring because I had a vision of how I saw that text (when composing) which I wasn't seeing in the actor. So I'm glad to hear that you actually do approve of that activity!
INTERVIEWER: But it is clear that the hierarchy must exist and be maintained and clearly defined, which for me is a key element
SUBJECT: I am a great believer that structure equals freedom so as long as everyone is clear about what t he boundaries are and the expectations, then in fact within that you can house a huge amount of artistic freedom and collaboration.
INTERVIEWER: Lets get specific. What is the function of sound on stage?
SUBJECT: I can only speak for Zen Zen Zo's productions. Or I have opinions about others but I will speak from my point of view. In a Zen Zen Zo work I believe that sound works like a film score in that it sits underneath a great part of the entire production and it is there to help shape the emotional journey that the audience is going on, its there not simply to dictate to an audience how they should be feeling, though we do definitely use it in that way as films do, but also to help clarify time shifts, place shifts, transitions, to make transitions smoother and cleaner, a friend of mine was saying that Steven Soderbergh, the director of "Traffic" etc was saying that as he gets older he is realizing that great art is made or broken in the transitions, rather than the scenes themselves and if you can get the transitions between the scenes right then it goes a long away towards making the piece great, so it has a large role to play there. It is like another character on stage. It goes along way to creating the key images, for example in Wicked Bodies there's the madness scene where the music personifies her madness - it is a metaphor for her madness. Zen Zen Zo also uses it in a very practical sense and the music to which they dance, there are always major dance / movement numbers. Some of those are simply music pieces to which one dances, in the same sense as if you were to go to a disco, but as many times if not more, the music again plays a metaphoric role so for example in the Odyssey the great movement sequence was the Tempest so the music became...
INTERVIEWER: part of the narrative?
SUBJECT: exactly - the music actually was the Tempest, it became part of the narrative. And the same in Macbeth in the killing of Duncan we decided to cut all of the text and replace it with music and movement as we often do so it has a very large role in creating the narrative
INTERVIEWER: I love it when you cut text! It makes my job so much easier.
INTERVIEWER: a couple of the actors have said to me something similar, that they actually see the music as another actor on stage rather than a different character, a different terminology
INTERVIEWER: and I said, well what about the lights and the response was it is more like a prop, something that you work round, move into and so forth but the music actually affect the way that they feel on stage.
SUBJECT: I actually don't agree with that entirely. I think that the lighting actually plays an equally large role but the actors don't see that as much because they are inside the piece, the music is right there for them and they are responding to that, the lighting, they can only see the light that they are supposed to move into, they don't have the luxury of sitting back and seeing the whole thing.
INTERVIEWER: I'd agree with that. I said to David that I love the way his lights make my music sound better. But it is interesting that they ascribe the music a physical presence
INTERVIEWER: it affects the way that they move
SUBJECT: absolutely and I think it's a great example in this show as each of the characters has their own theme song if you like and so every time that is played you know that character is coming into major, so it works to help point the audience in the direction of major and minor and meaning and where they should be looking, it's the same as the lights.
INTERVIEWER: I'd like to ask you what effect you think your requirements, the requirements of the theatre have on the work of the composer? For example, its been my experience on numerous occasions for the director to say "Well we like it up to the first minute but after that can you remove the melodies"...["the criteria is whatever the director wants it to be" - John Coulter]
SUBJECT: (laughs) Hmmmm
INTERVIEWER: I know that another director of physical theatre [Jaqui Carrol From conversation with long time collaborator, actor Glenn Taylor]has the feeling that you start off with a piece of music that is whole and complete within itself, take the piece of music that is the greatest piece you can find and put the text with that, so a great piece of text with a great piece of music which are independent in themselves come together as a whole. We don't seem to work that way, there are compromises made all round to make the pieces fit together like a jigsaw. I am, interested in how you think, what areas do you see that influence occurring? There are obvious things, "we need melodies out of the way because the audience is trying to listen to text, the everpresent issue of how loud we can be when the actors are trying to speak, the dynamic differences between "we are moving now" "we are speaking now'
SUBJECT: I thinkl it is like two actors on stage in that their relationship has to be a very sensitive one of who's in major at any one moment, who's in minor ie supporting whoever's in major and that that can change from scene to scene and can even change from moment to moment
INTERVIEWER: and from performance to performance - in terms of timing anyway...
SUBJECT: well I think if it's changing from performance to performance then it is actually sloppy art, I would argue that it should be (consistent)
INTERVIEWER: I think we are at slightly different angles here. In terms of the music, I am always thinking in terms of absolute time. You speak of the moment in terms of position in the text, in the drama, where I think of "moment " in terms of how many seconds I have got to be in major before I have to move to minor to allow the text to occur
INTERVIEWER: and because I work largely with a recorded medium (often from the point of view of money) that those kind of immediate responses that can take lace between two actors on stage aren't available.
SUBJECT: yes but what I am saying is that before you get into the season, that who's in major and who's in minor at any one moment should have been already worked out and that they should stick to that and if they're not then it's sloppy art. So in that sense I think it is that interplay, in the rehearsal room you work out at any one moment who is in major
INTERVIEWER: get the timing right
SUBJECT: exactly, you get the timing right so if at that point the music becomes major and at that point the actor falls silent or speaks underneath the music and then in likewise a key idea might be in the text in which case the music has to, the volume has to drop or as you said we might have to take the melody out in order to bring the audience's entire attention to that line or to that speech, or sometime they might be in equal major such as in the movement sequences where the music and the dancers are playing an equal role in communicating meaning to the audience. So I think it just works in a similar way and I would hope that you as a creative or if it was David or whoever, just like any actor would understand that it's about the work and what the work needs and sometimes I'll have to say to an actor "you (are now) now in minor, so I need you to stand in the shadow please or I need you to stop moving please because you are taking focus' and they wouldn't take that as a personal criticism but in terms of the larger work that is what needs to be done for the journey of the piece to be as clear as possible.
INTERVIEWER: let's talk about budgets, always a sensitive issue in theatre
INTERVIEWER: How do you make adjustments to your expectations based upon the resources that are available to a lighting designer or designer or composer and so forth? Obviously in the case of a designer you can say well don't use silk, use something else, but how do you apply those things to the work of a composer?
SUBJECT: So if we have less money how do we deal with it?
SUBJECT: Um. I think I tend to leave that in your hands because I don't know so much about music and I trust you implicitly, so I have trusted that you will come to me and present the options, ie. We don't have the money to go into a recording studio so I would suggest that this cheaper of free way of achieving it will achieve the same effect or will achieve a similar effect and give me a concrete example for me to sign off on, so I am a great believer in "poor theatre" [Not in the sense of grotowski "jerzy grotowski - towards a poor theatre"]in that I do believe that there's always a way and you can create equally great art on no money and on money, it means that the artist will get a little bit "tireder' (laughter) but in terms of the actual final effect I don't think you do need a huge amount of money. I think that its frustrating as you get older and become used to having more resources and you think that the only way is, and its certainly easier to archive what you want if you have the money but sometimes not having the money forces you to be more creative and take more initiative and think more into left field. I have always been happy with the solutions that you have come up with and never felt that the work was compromised by a lack of funding at the end of the day.
INTERVIEWER: What about time?
INTERVIEWER: this has been an interesting project and I think worth looking at the schedules we ended up with in this project, because I think with the fragmented rehearsal, when you look at it if we had had a standard 8 to 10 week devising and rehearsal period the show wouldn't have got off the ground.
SUBJECT: yes, absolutely
INTERVIEWER: and there were so many drafts and different ideas and so forth, there's been a lot of to-ing and fro-ing
SUBJECT: look, we had five weeks total I think and if we'd had five weeks straight through this show would not be in existence. The only way we could get it to where it is was to break it up into three different periods, and whilst we still didn't have a finished draft at the end of the second period, which made it very hard for both you and David, I tell you what, we had a lot more than we would have if we'd gone straight through, so the idea of breaking it up was to give more space to the creative team. And its also about me not being in the driver's seat. I think if I had been driving this project, I think I would have focused a lot more on getting the work to a stage that the creatives could respond to by the end of that stage.
INTERVIEWER: I certainly felt hamstrung
SUBJECT: sure, and that's been a point of frustration for me because I think I now have a very good sense of time management in terms of working with the key creatives to achieve what we need to achieve and I always have that at the back of my head as well as crating the movement on the floor. So I think that Gavin wasn't nearly as focussed on that and I think that made your life and Alison's (designer) and David's a lot more difficult as a result. Unquestionably.
INTERVIEWER: (laughs) it certainly made our lives interesting...Another situation we can perhaps cover a little bit is the situation of having two composers on this project.
SUBJECT: Did we have two composers? (laughs) sorry, yes we did.
INTERVIEWER: well I think the two composers had very different roles right from the start
SUBJECT: yes they did
INTERVIEWER: but there was an interaction expected between the two composers, or rather between the material generated which wasn't able to occur through various circumstances, and those circumstances are defined in text to the extent I need to.
INTERVIEWER: given unlimited access, what is the ideal way to create a devised work or one that is based on text with the composer and actors?
SUBJECT: hmm. What would I change? Well I think when I was working on say "Unleashed" I take a lot longer, over a much greater period of time. I like to give - lets just take the composer, a concept for a piece that I want and let them respond and then work to choreograph with that piece or create a scene once that piece is written, or to go into a collaborative process once that is well and truly under way. I know it has happened before, but I don't enjoy it when we have to create a work and then hand it over to you to underscore, because I think that's just not as effective and the end product is much richer when we are responding equally to your work as you are to what we have created, but it just means it takes a lot longer and unfortunately with the way things are in Austrila with current funding programs, ironically whe we are working on fully funded shows we are often hamstrung
INTERVIEWER: we have less time
SUBJECT: yes we have less time whereas when we are working on one of our other shows when we are not working for full wages we can afford to spend more time
INTERVIEWER: we can afford to collaborate better
SUBJECT: exactly, which I think is a European way of working. I think we work in a more European way when we are working on one of our non professional shows, ironically enough. So that's how I'd prefer to work.
INTERVIEWER: I've been having some thoughts about...well there was an issue in this show, because I needed to be at rehearsals to see what was going on, and I also needed to be in my studio writing
SUBJECT: yes. You see I would have just called you in for runs, and if you needed to see particular scenes then we would organise to show you those, so I would have been much more open to what your needs were
INTERVIEWER: I'm interested in exploring the idea of bringing the studio into the rehearsal space.
SUBJECT: which I believe Pete Goodwin does
INTERVIEWER: yes and having the laptop in rehearsals for the last few weeks of "Wicked Bodies" has been helpful in that regard, although, what its actually led me to in some instances is edits. Quick edits on things rather than go back and re-write things. For example the Fan Dance. When I was told at the eleventh hour " we need another 45 seconds on the end and I said, well I can cut and paste that, just do a stereo edit, where my response previously would have been, firstly to curse and swear a lot, but at the end of the rehearsal day, go home, work at night, but I would probably have, it would have changed, had its development, where as the piece that we ended up with was the quick and dirty approach that worked
SUBJECT: yes, right
INTERVIEWER: and ended up staying. There were a few instances on this show where that occurred so somewhere there's a balance. But it brings up the issue of the differences between a composer who works largely with the recorded medium such as myself and one who works more with live instruments such as percussion, which was done with "The Cult of Dionysus"
INTERVIEWER: and I tried to integrate those two ideas to an extent on "The Odyssey" with the more performative aspects of the score. But how would you feel about, if you like a studio at the back of the rehearsal room.
SUBJECT: I think that's a great idea
INTERVIEWER: OK lets do it.
SUBJECT: lets do it, I think that's a wonderful idea
INTERVIEWER: just from the point of view of being able to say, well ok this is what I've been working on
SUBJECT: because then you get immediate feedback
INTERVIEWER: and I have said to you in the past, that working with Gavin was interesting because he was actually able in some instances to hear how something will sound,
INTERVIEWER: after something else has been added, in some ways better than yourself and certainly better than Simon.
SUBJECT: oh that's interesting
INTERVIEWER: I will always hesitate before taking anything to Simon that's not very nearly finished
INTERVIEWER: but I was also well aware that Gavin was nervous about things that not yet finished and waiting to hear the excitement that live instrumentation adds, particularly when you don't have the budget to go and record things five times to have to throw them out
INTERVIEWER: but to get some kind of instant feedback would be good.
SUBJECT: I was also interested to get Simon's feedback and response on the way music was used in this show when he came to see the first full run and he said to me "why is there so little music used in this production?" And I said "because Gavin doesn't want everything underscored and he looked and me as if I was mad and said "are you joking? Doesn't he see how much more power that adds to the scenes?'
INTERVIEWER: it is interesting that the pieces that are used are used for the first third to half of there actual length so there was considerably more music there that we ended up not using...I think it was also because in this particular show, it was very complex in terms of switches and changes from state to state, from past to present to future and a lot of those things were very quick.
SUBJECT: It is also that Gavin has a much more traditional understanding, which is ironic really, given he comes from a predominantly physical theatre background, but he has this thing that when there is text, he wants silence, which is certainly the standard - when I was working in the mainstream as you know I have for several years that was pretty much what people thought the sound designer's role was, designing sound effects like doorbells and the sounds of birds and possibly to set up the emotional scene changes, like "lets play a rock and roll song here to set up a funky environment" then as soon as they start speaking - quick fade.
INTERVIEWER: and I hate quick fades as you know...it's very easy to introduce music into the scene but it's very hard to take it out. I'm always looking for why are we taking the music out other than we can't hear the actors? Well if we can't hear the actors they should shout louder!
SUBJECT: (laughs) absolutely, well not shout but certainly use their vocal projection and we are very clear with all of our actors that they need to be trained to work with music because that's our company's style.
INTERVIEWER: well I think that's all I have to ask unless there's anything you want to add?
Well thanks very much - typing time!....
- Speaking in Pictures: Story telling with text sometimes requires the services of actors of different kinds.
- Terror: The Terror is a piece that was originally written for Zen Zen Zo to express the horror of the 1995 Kobe earthquake.
- Current practice: I am now teaching music and sound production full time at Tertiary level and continue to work compose for collaborative projects.
- Relaxation Music: Relaxation music with lots of exciting bits
- Control Freak: My compositional style is based on controlling as many elements as possible. But how does this relate to instantaneous expression?
- Composition Processes: A description of compositional process and its relation to local coherence and other factors.
- Allan: I became aware that one of my students shows significant signs of "heightened traits".