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LIVE IMPROVISED MUSIC for 'Vivienne Sometimes'

Updated: Apr 15, 2023

Music for the live show was originally selected by Donna Fitzgerald and later adapted in discussion with composer Sam Bailey the rest of the project team during rehearsals.

The show's signature track is 'I Don't Stand A Ghost of A Chance With You', released in 1932 by Bing Crosby (composed by Victor Young; lyrics by Ned Washington and Bing Crosby). The song has been recorded by numerous artists, perhaps most notably by Chet Baker (1988).

I had used the piece for an early, animatic version of 'Vivienne Sometimes' (2018) and commissioned composer Sam Bailey prepare a new arrangement of the track for the live show (2022).

Other music used in the show:

'I Do Like to Be Beside the Seaside', by John H. Glover-Kind (1907). Music hall singer Mark Sheridan recorded it in 1909.

The biographical significance of particular seaside spots for Vivien (Eastbourne, Margate, St Leonard's), as well as her general love of the seaside and reluctance to leave it, is described by Ann Pasternak Slater in her biography The Fall of a Sparrow (2020).

'I Do Like' was selected as one of the pieces for the show's 'Margate' sequence.

Georges Bizet's aria 'Habanera' / 'L'amour est un oiseau rebelle' (1875). Vivien sings lines from Bizet's Aria during her 'Music Lessons at the Royal Academy', later in the show.

'Ain't It Grand to Be Bloomin' Well Dead', by Leslie Sarony (1932). Lines from this popular Music Hall piece are also performed by Vivien 'at the Royal Academy'.

Whilst writing the script for 'Vivienne Sometimes,' a close metaphorical relationship evolved between the on-stage piano and the referenced typewriter. This, in turn, shaped the animated sequence 'Typewriter' (you can see this sequence in my blog 'Animations'; also, see the blog 'A Kind of Machine', which considers Eliot's account of his conscious emotional shutdown - his decision to turn himself into a 'machine' in order to survive his marriage to Vivien).

I had known that TS Eliot enjoyed the music of George Antheil, an American avant-garde composer recognised for his modernist experimentation. It was not until fairly recently that I read about Antheil's self-description as a Pianist-Futurist. The composer's interest in the machinic and his description of the piano as a machine is entirely fitting given the relationships explored above. Compositions by Antheil that are referenced in the live show are: Sonata No. 3; his score for the film short 'Ballet Mecanique' (1924); and 'Death of the Machines' (1923); tango from the opera 'Transatlantic' (performed 1930).

Frederic Chopin - 'Butterfly Wings' - Etude Op. 25, No. 9.

More musical references to be added later...

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