Wednesday, July 14, 2004

"Ragtime" Resonates, Part 3: It's the Music!

Back when I was talking to cast members about why "Ragtime" resonates today, Doug Brees made this comment that I found really interesting:

"First of all is the score, because music touches all of us on a hidden level, and the score for this show is really magnificent."

This took me back to my college days. I was originally going to be a Music major, but discovered pretty early on that it's actually a tough major...and very mathematical. They obviously make you take a full year of theory in your Freshman year for a reason. All the weaklings like me drop out and become theatre majors :)

Anyway, I did remain a Music minor, and continued to take theory-ish classes, including Orchestration. And we had lots of discussion in that class about music and why it evokes emotional responses. It's not so hidden, really. Part of it is that music is actually experienced on a physical level. Music is sound is vibration in the air and in your ears. Different pitches vibrate differently. (I know, I sound really academic, huh?)

All you have to do is listen to Samuel Barber's "Adagio for Strings" (used to incredible effect in the movie "Platoon") or, for a wildly different example, listen to the climax of Prince's song, "Purple Rain." I challenge you to listen to either example without feeling a pretty visceral response.

"Ragtime" has a score full of such moments. Not only searing, heartbreaking moments, but joyful, hopeful moments.

They're probably studying the Act I Finale in an Orchestration class somewhere right now.

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