19 January 2015

Composer Gareth Hobbs on the music in Seed

Seed opened at Circa Theatre over the weekend to a ‘rapturous reception’. Publicist Debbie Fish talks to musician Gareth Hobbs about creating the original score for the show.

Gareth Hobbs at work.
DF: Where do you start, when you’re creating music for a show?
GH: Generally I read the script and the first thing I do is create what I would call ‘sketches’ – so just short bits of music. Often if there’s a key moment of music in the script I’ll try and make an example of what that might sound like. Partially as an experiment for myself to see what works to get what I would think of as a palette for the show: what the different sounds are, what the instruments are and sometimes that just takes a little bit of experimenting, trying different things and seeing what I like and what sounds good. In the case of Seed, I arrived relatively early on, on the idea of doing a lot a lot of saxophones, saxophone quartet kind of style. One of the first bits of music I made was using those instruments and I liked how it sounded in relation to the play.

Tess Jamieson-Karaha and Holly Shanahan in Seed. Photo by Paul McLaughlin.
DF: How would you describe the music for Seed?
GH: One of the big things I was going into with the music was that this was a comedy and I wanted the music to be fun, I wanted it to be lively and I wanted it to be exciting. We talked early on about it having a cinematic, TV sort of feel in that it’s fast-paced, with lots of cuts between scenes, so that’s another thing that inspired the music early on. And that was also one of the things that attracted me to using saxophones in this orchestration, was that they could do that – they could have a really big, fun lively sound, but at the same time they could sound very soft and mournful and melancholy sometimes. Jake Baxendale plays multiple saxophones – three quarters of an actual saxophone quartet, so Jake recorded all the saxophones and the rest of the instrumentation is myself.

Holly Shanahan in Seed. Photo by Paul McLaughlin.
DF: You spend a lot of time in the rehearsal room – how do you find the action in the rehearsal room inspires or informs your process?
GH: Particularly in the case of Seed, the music is very scored to the action in a lot of places, a lot of quick transitions and stuff like that so it’s the kind of stuff that’s very difficult to judge in terms of timing and how it actually works, until you see it working with the action. I think that’s true of a lot of things, at least the way that I work in theatre is that I can make things and I can imagine them working in a certain way, but until I actually try them out in rehearsal I’m not really sure if it’s the right thing or not. So that’s always a part of the way that I like to work is to be in the room, to be throwing stuff in, trying to decide whether it works or not.

Tess Jamieson-Karaha and Jamie McCaskill in Seed. Photo by Paul McLaughlin. 
DF: What else are you working on this year?
GH: I’m working at the moment on All Your Wants and Needs, which is touring to New York as part of the New Zealand New Performance Festival, so that’s very exciting. I’m also working on Beards! Beards! Beards! with Trick of the Light Theatre Company, which is going to be at Circa as part of the Capital E Children’s Festival.

Visit garethhobbs.bandcamp.com/music to listen to some of Gareth’s original music.

Seed runs until 14 February. To book, visit, www.circa.co.nz or call the Circa Box Office on 801-7992.

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