Blog Post by By René Orea, January 11, 2018

Being a part of the composition and sound design team for Elsewhere, has offered opportunity to create an atmosphere that reflects the high tension generated by a huge socio-economic and political crisis happening nowadays in Venezuela. Elsewhere is both visceral and sarcastic, heartbreaking and hopeful, nostalgic and humorous. The musical frame corresponding to my creative contribution seeks to weave the link between this upsetting actuality and the geo-cultural context, thus stimulating the audience’s imagination.

One way to create a link between the audience and the sound universe of Venezuela, is through the choice of certain emblematic, punctual, and typical styles or musical genres (as well as instrumental sonorities), potent with culturally Venezuelan relevance and symbolism. The style, as a matrix, contains culturally relevant codes, which trigger a mechanism of identity association in audience members at several levels: for the Venezuelan, a more direct, concrete and touching impact, then for the general Latin American, a global familiarity and, finally, for the non-Latin American listener (Canadian, in our case), perhaps more abstract – but still, immersive and informative experience –.

I created a simple melodic line, serving as a leitmotif, or conductive line.  It is the basis of all the musical themes which are associated to each character. This same melody varies and adapts to each of them.  The style (musical matrix) makes the cultural link, largely, through the rhythm.  The rhythm embodies the cycle, the periodicity, the dance, the drive, the opposites, the comings and goings.

Like Joy Ross-Jones (the actress) in her monologues, the melodic line follows also transmutations. Thus, to accompany The Grandmother (“La Abuela”), this melody is a nostalgic tonada, of languorous evocation, horizontal intimacy, coming from those lands in Venezuela where the mountains are almost absent, where being far or near becomes the same thing.

The same melodic contour becomes an Afro-Venezuelan tambor, or drum rhythms from the north coast (Caribbean), to enliven The Protester (“El Guerrero”), this music being associated with euphoria, dance and joy, but also with the fight, the cultural tearing of the colonial past, and the complex Yoruba-Catholic syncretism.  In Elsewhere this music is sung, giving a voice to the only character in the play who doesn’t speak.

The melody also becomes a merengue caraqueño, for The Policeman. This musical style was once played often in the central square of towns and villages, often by the municipal fanfare, in more-or-less stable times (or at least less critical than the actual one), where civilians and police coexisted – maybe – with more-or-less respect. In the merengue caraqueño the partners of the couple dance very close to each other, like – one says – “raspando hebillas” (by rubbing the buckles of the belts).  The Policeman, arrogant, ordinary, sarcastic, “directs the game” (as explained by the Ross-Jones) “with his pelvis”.  Here, the merengue is suggested, subtly evoked, with noisy interferences (this style would be still too refined to symbolize literally the actual Venezuelan policeman).

The leitmotif also mutates into a slow, abandoned, disconnected and “drunk” joropo-Pajarillo to accompany The Homeless Man, one who could be simply, nowadays, many Venezuelan of everyday life. The joropo is originally a lively musical style with a strong Spanish heritage, being an icon of the dance music from the Venezuela.

In addition, the cuatro, this faithful and almost eternal four-stringed Venezuelan companion, often guides the final character, the silent witness (observer) on stage, while leaving room also for the sounds of the flute, percussions, harp, a distant mandolin, cello, electric guitar, and the voices to soar.

Zachari Smith and Joel Gorrie’s very important participation and external view allowed for the electroacoustic processing of the basic musical material and its various sound transformations, in addition to making the compositions for the characters of “The North American” and “The Beauty Queen”, all of which are based on similar musical motifs.

Working on Elsewhere has meant working with a wonderful and inspiring team.

Zachari Smithelectric guitar, synthesizer, arrangement and composition

Joel Gorrie

cello, arrangement and composition

René Orea

flute, cuatro, mandolin, percussions, vocals, synthesizer (harp, drums), composition

Song of The Protester

By René Orea (music and text)

Based on a tambor de San Millán, from the Venezuelan North Coast, Carabobo State.