Sunday, November 16, 2008

Words & music, shaken or stirred?

OK, so the novel and the CD work side by side, like good friends with independent lives who get together to party. But now they're shacking up: we have some actual Hungarian Dances concert invitations for next year. The concert-of-the-book, invented for the Queen's Gate Terrace event last June, therefore needs rethinking and repointing.

Squeezing a 400-page novel that covers three generations, 80 years and a sackload of characters into extracts totalling about 20-25 minutes out of a 75-min event is not so simple. What works best? Three biggish chunks of reading at the beginning, in the middle and near the end? Or an ongoing exchange of smaller chunks, with nothing longer than about 10 minutes, perhaps assisted by lighting effects to smooth the transitions and provide a modicum of theatricality without my walking backwards and forwards in precarious heels?

Next, how closely need the music match the extracts? It should be easy to work in some pieces like Hejre Kati that aren't directly mentioned in the book; and to shoehorn in Bartok's cameo appearance alongside the Romanian Dances; later, when Rohan plays Tzigane, there can be no substitute. But is it too obvious first to describe someone playing a piece, then play it, and use this as a blueprint throughout? Or is obviousness necessary if we're to get through to a book-clubbish audience as well as existing fiddle fanatics?

The mixing of drinks sometimes requires a good cocktail barista to work the magic. In this case, we want the audience to be stirred without the performers being shaken. Feedback needed, please, from Mr Bond, Ms Moneypenny and anyone who was there on 17 June and has sensible and helpful thoughts on the subject.