GF Handel & Me

This is about music and storytelling.

If you're going to tell a story why not use a universal language? One that elicits common responses across multi-lingual platforms, cross cultural audiences and geographically diverse populations?

That language of course is music.

In this age of international content and production there are few solutions that can deliver a story the way we can with music. But like any good story it has to be hand crafted and custom designed to push buttons in our hearts and minds at exactly the right moment. Call it timing, call it story arc or just old fashioned tempo, the rhythmic dynamics of music and its inherent, emotional sensibilities make it the perfect choice for long form works in theme parks and theater, fountain and fireworks shows, story-driven attractions and media. Without words. Without the confusion of elaborate "set ups", dialogue and ambiguous backstory.

What no lyrics?

I have nothing against a good show tune, after all I've written a few (dozen!), and a tune with lyrics might be the perfect capstone to a carefully constructed show, but the kind of musical power I'm talking about is inherent in the medium itself.

Music is the only storytelling power that can elicit a visceral response because it is the only one that physically "hits" us - we sense it only because it travels through the air as waves that bounce against our audio sensors (ears) and every other part of our body. It can trigger emotion in a completely unique way all its own.

So how do we do that? And by "we" I mean Composers, arrangers and producers of music. It's craft. It takes time to master. It's a million details, used to define abstract ideas and it even a few of them are off (out of tune, rhythmically wrong or buried in the mix) the magic is lost. It takes mastery of timing and timbre, architecture and style to create and deliver a soundtrack that tells a story.

In the year 1749 George II of England wanted to put on a show in celebration of the end of the War of Austrian Succession. He contacted a fellow in his court with the title "Comptroller of his Majesty’s Fireworks for War as for Triumph" (fact!) and they set about planning an elaborate pyrotechnic display that was to be accompanied by the music of GF Handel. Music was composed, ("no fiddles" said the king!), sets were constructed and elaborate fireworks displays were designed and fabricated until finally it came time for the dress rehearsal. 

At the conclusion, 12,000 people who had come to hear the work all exited at once. Or they tried to. It was mayhem. We've all seen this at the end of the night in theme parks all around the world - that mad dash for the exit. To make things worse, the middle section of the newly constructed London Bridge, (the structure not the song) collapsed, London Bridge was indeed falling down and general mayhem made this penultimate performance far more memorable than the event itself. On that date April 27, 1749 the weather was dreary, fuses were long and tempers were short and but for the spectacular unintended burning of one of the porticos constructed for the event, the evening might have been a bit of a .... disappointment.

Plus there were no "fiddles".

A couple of hundred years later, I had the privilege of hearing a score of my own accompany a fireworks shoot for some 35,000 people. It was produced by the descendants of the same company who had been contracted by the "Comptroller of His Majesty's Fireworks for War as for Triumph". It was the most beautiful sight I've ever seen; this majestic and brilliant visualization of a musical story that I'd written and they used to paint the sky.

Give me a call - let's tell a story together.