Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Mystery of the Sphinx, Musiqa's Latest One-Act Play


Anthony Brandt took some time out of his busy schedule to chat with Musiqa about his latest musical composition, which is featured in Sphinx, a play directed by Leslie Swackhamer.

Artistic Director and co-founder of Musiqa, Anthony Brandt composed the music for Sphinx, a one-act play by 2012 Blackburn prizewinner Jennifer Haley. The play is a first-time collaboration for Musiqa with Haley. 

Sphinx explores the relationship of a couple during different periods in their life. The play shows the couple's relationship evolving over time from their late teenage years to their mid 60's. The first scene displays the conflict and insecurities of the couple’s frayed bond. Joshua Estrada and Jen Lucy, who happen to be married, play the main characters.

Sphinx explores the eternal mystery between a man and a woman through the riddle of Oedipus: “What goes on four legs in the morning, on two legs at noon, and on three legs in the evening?” In Greek mythology, the Sphinx sat outside of Thebes and asked this riddle of all travelers who passed by. If the traveler failed to solve the riddle, the Sphinx would kill the traveler. If the traveler answered the riddle correctly, the Sphinx would destroy herself. Oedipus solved the riddle, and the Sphinx destroyed herself.

Sphinx was a really interesting thought experiment writing it, because theater music is often mood music,” said Brandt. Haley and Brandt wanted the music to be a character in the play. Brandt thought carefully about the story’s meaning and wanted the music to tell the story of the play as well. His concept was that overture is the sexual attraction between the main characters of the play, and it dissolves in the course of the piece, as they get older. 

“It keeps trying to put itself back together again, and it’s always there,” said Brandt. “The beginning of the music has an unusual 6-5-4 pattern. At the very end, when the characters wonder ‘are we meant to be together or not?’ the pattern reverses to 4-5-6.” This was Brandt’s way of “leaving it all hanging.” The music creates an emotional response. The couple wonders if they should stay together by denying who they are, or come together by becoming who they are meant to be. This is an active search throughout the play.

“The jazz music wants to flow, but the characters are in conflict. The music tries to sustain the tension until the end. It never cadences until the final question is answered,” Brandt said.

The world premiere of Sphinx debuts on April 6 at 7:30 p.m. at the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts in Zilkha Hall.

The featured composers, artists and works include:
Rob Smith: Las Pilas
Karim Al-Zand, Quelques Fleurs
Roshanne Etezady, Mother-of-Pearl
JacobTV, Garden of Love

The featured artists include:
Tali Morgulis, piano
Johnny Salinas, saxophone
Barrett Sills, cello
Yung-Hsiang Wang, violin
Ivo van der Werff, viola
Michael Webster, clarinet.

Thank you, Anthony, for speaking with Musiqa about your latest work. 

Written by Mia M. Smith 

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