Tag Archives: AIsForAnything

Day 109: The First Task

The Tailor is escorted into the presence of the King and his daughter, the Princess. The Courtier is eager to get rid of this rival, and he and the King cook up a plan to give the Tailor an impossible task: capturing a fearsome Rhinoceros that’s been terrorizing the peasants. The Tailor pulls off this feat with a mixture of good luck and ingenuity.

The Princess theme is reprised briefly as the Tailor finds himself in the presence of the girl of his dreams, but those dreams are interrupted by a Plotting theme that recurs each time the Courtier and the King scheme up ways to get rid of the Tailor. The musicologically inclined among you may notice that the melody of this theme begins with the same triadic pattern as the Princess theme, but with this transformation: Sol-Do-Mi (the top, bottom and middle notes of a major triad) in the Princess theme becomes Sol-Do-Me (the minor triad) in the more conspiratorial mood of the Courtier’s plot.

There’s a little two-bar harmonic riff in this Plotting theme that I borrowed from, of all places, Uptown Funk. (Listen for its first appearance around :32 in the first cue on this post.) There’s also a little figure played by low flutes around :55 that quotes the final “one-two-three-four-five-six-seven” of the funky Seven In One Blow song. These little details are the secret “Easter eggs” that I’ve hidden in this music to amuse myself!

Random Post Roulette: The African Rondo is the final scene of A Is For Anything, a show that’s come to mind any number of times while working on The Brave Little Tailor. I created that show in 1988, when my boys were little, and though the technology has changed, they’re both shows for young audiences performed to pre-recorded tracks. Of course, in 1988, the steps involved in creating and playing back that track were more cumbersome. The music required painstaking effort using drum machines and the services of a studio engineer (the estimable R. J. Miles) as a MIDI midwife, while the final product was played back via reel-to-reel tape deck; the machine I used for playback on the tour sits in my office now, a bit of legacy technology I keep around until I’ve digitized the music, mostly original, that I’ve still got stored on R-to-R tapes. Fast forward more than 25 years, and I’m still using a Mac for music-making, but everything else is so different! Garageband makes the mingling of MIDI and live audio a breeze, and I can do amazing things with it without ever leaving my home studio. The digital files can be played back via any number of devices, including my phone! O brave new world!

African Rondo, from A is for Anything (Day 72)

When we last saw Anna and Al the Gator, they were on a mission, searching for Vitamin A in Africa. They are unexpectedly rejoined by Amelia just as the climax approaches. Time to listen…

Not a whole lot of lyric in today’s selection, which integrates music, movement, dialog and singing into a (hoepfully) seamless flow. These stanzas, though, are worth noting:

This fidgety feeling won’t leave me alone.
My body, it seems, has a mind of its own.
These African rhythms are bad to the bone!
Is something the matter with me?

I’m feeling a little peculiar today.
You think that it might be the Vitamin A?
Well, now that I’m dancing, I just have to say
There’s nothing the matter with me!

The piece is constructed in rondo form. The main theme uses the melodic riff heard in the opening number, transformed from 4/4 to 6/8 time, and the chant “Anna, Anna, Anna animal…” The music goes off on little side trips, like the reprise of Anna’s song “What Is The Matter With Me?,” but always finds its way back to that main theme. By the end, the audience is shouting out words in an exhilarating call-and-response ending.

I’ve created several original works for young audiences, and worked with exceptional collaborators on a number of others, and my ambition is always to create something that I would dig as much as the kids do. A is for Anything measures up to that standard very well, I think. There’s plenty of little “easter eggs,” surprises that are there awaiting the discovery of the discriminating listener, but there’s also wacky fun and delight for the unsophisticated audience member.

If you’ve been wondering what the whole thing looks like, your dreams have come true. Here’s a video of a performance filmed in central New York in early 1991. The cast is different than then ones you’ve been hearing on the audio clips – this production featured Rachael Rosner, Bob Rumnock and the divine D’Arcy Webb. The kids were on tour with us for this gig – a very tiny baby Kerry and five-year old Alex. We were a show biz family, camped out at a Courtyard outside Syracuse as we trouped through the nearby schools. Those were the days!

Crocodile Tears, from A is for Anything (Day 71)

When we last left our plucky heroine, Anna had just crash-landed in Africa and was lamenting the loss of her pilot and companion, Amelia Earhart. To her surprise, she meets an alligator named Aloysius (“You can call me Al”), who sings a bluesy song that I slipped into in an earlier Project 194 post. Here it is, along with its lyric.

When you see an alligator,
You only see the teeth.
You never see the pussycat
That’s hiding underneath.
An alligator’s good,
He’s just misunderstood,
And that’s the way it’s been for years,
And that’s why I’m cryin’,
I’m cryin’ crocodile tears.

When you see an alligator,
It really is a drag:
You only see the makings of
An alligator bag!
You only want the hide,
And not the part inside,
The part that seldom appears.
And that’s why I’m cryin’,
I’m cryin’ crocodile tears.

Crocodile tears, crocodile tears,
I’ve cried so many of ’em that they’re getting in my ears!
Crocodile tears! My feelings are hurt!
Hey, what am I doin’?
I’m going to ruin
My alligator shirt!

So when you see a gator,
Don’t scream and run away.
He might just help you find your missing Vitamin A!
I’d like to be your pal.
Hey listen, call me Al,
And just forget about your fears
So I can stop cryin’
Those crocodile tears.
I gots to stop cryin’
Those crocodile tears!

The alligee-tarWhat I remember most about this song was the prop we found for it: the “alligee-tar.” One day, Jeff Murphy brought an odd item to rehearsal, a plaque cut out in the shape of an alligator with a couple of pegs implanted in it to make a clothes rack for a kid’s bedroom. We all agreed it was about the size and shape of an electric guitar, so we removed the pegs, added a guitar strap and voila! The picture on the left is not Jeff, but Bob Rumnock, who inherited the prop and the air guitar moves that went with it. The story of that prop tells you something about why I love the theater so much: it’s a place where you can conjur magic out of the most random, mundane things.

Anna’s adventures continue (Day 70)

A Is For Anything cast photoTwo songs today, on the 70th day of Project 194. (If you missed it, check out today’s post in which I take stock of the first ten weeks of my song-sharing marathon; I’m now more than a third of the way through!)

In yesterday’s post, I explained how Anna learns that a “Vitamin A deficiency” was the likely cause of her lack of imagination, and how her doctor, Amelia Earhart (yup, the legendary aviatrix), offers to take her on a therapeutic adventure in her aeroplane. In a magical transformation, they go from “in the air” to “ON the air,” and Anna finds herself a contestant on the Answer Man Game Show:

Anna’s ability to always have the right answers doesn’t seem to be of much help in this surrealistic contest, which involves a volunteer from the audience. Eventually, she and Amelia are back in the air once more, but not for long; soon, the plane crashes and Anna finds herself alone in what turns out to be Africa.

Alone, afraid.
If I had only known,
Safe at home I would have stayed!
This thicket’s so very thick,
The trick is finding your way.
But if I don’t make it quick,
Some creature might pick up the track of me
And make a snack of me!
A is for agony!
Won’t someone rescue me?
Amelia, what do I do?
I can’t begin to imagine….
(ECHO: Begin to imagine…)

If you’re the least bit intrigued by these little snippets of songs, you owe it to yourself to watch the video of A is for Anything that’s on the site here. The ways in which the show interacts with its audience and unfolds as a live performance need to be seen to be appreciated!

What Is The Matter With Me, from A is for Anything (Day 69)

A Is For Anything cast photoYesterday I posted the opening number from my 1988 children’s musical A Is For Anything, and today we’ll get to the “inciting incident,” as they say in the dramaturgical racket. This consists of two linked songs, “What Is The Matter With Me?” and “Magic Telescope.”

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