Original Music in Theatre 

Convener(s): Steno Vitale

Participants: Mark, Michelle Reader, John Challis, Katherina Raderg, Di Sherlock, Jon H, Jen Toksvig

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations: 

I am a musician, composer and performer, creating original songs and soundscapes.  I find myself increasingly involved in writing for theatre, so convened this session to get an idea of what people are doing, and how they are working with original music.


We began by discussing collaboration - between musicians, writers, singers actors, directors, designers…  And asked the question ‘what is the ideal point for a composer to be involved in a production?’

The consensus was, quite simply, at the beginning.  It became apparent that the major factor preventing this ideal situation is budget, and that all too often sound is tacked onto the end of budgets. 

How is music used?

We talked about the early days of theatre, when musical performers were part of the production.  Through to the silent era when a diminished chord meant only one thing – our heroine had been tied to the tracks and the train is a-comin’.

So, there’s a stock library of sounds, cadences, and chords associated with moods and actions.  It’s all too easy and cheap to plunder this tired old menu and produce a vague approximation of the atmosphere required.

Bespoke Sounds

We explored the idea of devising work by having musicians, actors, dancers, writers and poets improvising over loose themes, to allow a more organic connection between the participants, with music and action interacting contrapuntally.  If anyone is interested in a bit of open impro, drop me a line
([email protected]). 


The beauty of using original music which has evolved alongside a piece of theatre is that it is tailored to fit the sensibility, design and intent of the piece.  And also engages with the personality and style of the performers involved, the push and pull of the production’s rhythm, and the evocation of a precise mood in the moment it occurs.