Writing Music for a Play

I recently finished working on a local production of The Arrest of Ai Weiwei, a play about the arrest of the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei and the first project of 2015 that I have composed for.

I read the script though several times and approached it as though I was scoring a film, however, there was one big difference, I couldn’t see the play. I started on the music very early on in the production process to give myself a head start. But since I couldn’t watch the play back, then I had no idea about how long each piece should be, or how the music should evolve to reflect the scene. Therefore, I decided to record myself performing the play. Something no one will EVER hear! I didn’t record the whole thing, just the last scene which was were I decided to start. I’ve listed the tracks below in the order they appear in the play.
This accompanies the actual arrest of Ai Weiwei at the airport and continues until he is handcuffed, with a black hood over his head and seated in the first interrogation room.


After a lengthy interrogation we change scenes to a garden near the Forbidden City, where two officials are discussing the politics behind Ai Weiwei’s arrest. This cue plays during a scene change and helps to establish the location. Originally this cue was only 30 seconds long, but after the tech rehearsal we had in the theatre it was obvious it needed to be longer, as it was impossible for the crew to change the set before the music ended. Therefore, I spent the next morning extending it, ready for the dress rehearsal in the evening.


We then have another scene change where we go to the second interrogation scene. This track is supposed to reflect the passage of time.


This is another cue which reflects the passage of time. However at this point, Ai Weiwei has been kept prisoner for so long that he no longer has any idea about how much time has passed, something which I tried to show in the music.


And here is the final track. This music accompanies a shower of bank notes falling from the sky before Ai Weiwei engages the audience with a lengthy monologue, bringing the play to an end. In the actual production my music fades out at around 1:30mins, as the monologue begins. However, I originally wrote it to accompany the whole scene, hence this extended version.

I learnt a lot from working on this production and have enjoyed the whole experience. I even got a nice bottle of wine and a card at the end from the cast and crew 🙂

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