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Millie Taylor

Listening to theatre music at the RSC – The Tempest (2016)

This paper focuses on a consideration of music’s liveness in a live theatre context when accompanying a highly digitised production such as the RSC’s recent production of The Tempest (dir. Doran, 2016). By examining the music and sound we discover that, although the production and its visual effects are transformed by association with the digital tools, the musical signification remains rather more conservative. By listening across the disciplines a coherent composite emerges that is constructed of individual elements that may not be individually innovative. At the same time the performance has moved towards a situation where musicians may have less autonomy, less control of their output, and where what they listen to and the function of that listening has changed

This analysis of The Tempest that builds on and incorporates my earlier research into the work of the RSC asks the following questions: How have changes in technology led to changes in the ways in which theatre music and sound are made and the ways in which they interact in performance? How have changes in working practice affected the individuality and expressivity of different performers within the collaborative creative team (ie music and sound teams) and the ways in which they listen to and complement the theatrical production?

Millie Taylor is Professor of Musical Theatre at the University of Winchester. She began her career as a freelance musical director and, for almost twenty years, toured Britain and Europe with a variety of musicals and pantomimes musicals including West Side Story, Rocky Horror Show, Little Shop of Horrors, and Sweeney Todd. Her latest book is Theatre Music and Sound at the RSC: Macbeth to Matilda (Palgrave, 2018). Other publications include British Pantomime Performance (Intellect, 2007), Musical Theatre, Realism and Entertainment (Ashgate Press, 2012/ Routledge 2016), co-author of Studying Musical Theatre (Palgrave, 2014), and British Musical Theatre Since 1950 (Methuen, 2016), and co-editor of Gestures of Music Theater: The Performativity of Song and Dance (Oxford University Press, 2014). She is co-editor of two book series