Music & Memory
Writer Damon Falke is the author of The Scent of a Thousand Rains.
Tana Bachman-Bland is a classically trained freelance violinist\violist from Spokane, Washington. She performs with multiple musical organizations, including Tango Volcado, The Spokane Symphony, Prairie Songs, Gonzaga University’s Cantorei Choir, and many others. She has been enjoying her role as composer, actor, and musician in the forthcoming, premiere production of The Scent of a Thousand Rains
Damon: Tana, we have never met, and we’ve exchanged maybe three emails. So I’m excited to visit with you. How did you go about finding music for The Scent of a Thousand Rains? Were you listening for something in the poem? Or did the images or circumstances of the poem call up something for you? These questions are a little broad, I admit, but the process of what a musician hears is fascinating to me. I wonder how much the process resembles my own practice of listening for characters.
Tana: To answer your questions, there were many inspirational elements that helped form the musical compositions for The Scent of a Thousand Rains. The first thing I did was to speak via email with you about your favorite musical styles. Your answers were a rich source for a jumping off point for me. The next thing was to look at the different settings in your poem. These settings gave me ideas of musical styles such as Hungarian, Jewish, jazz, Southern United States hymns and even a love song. One of the most interesting pieces was written using the rhythm from the poem’s beat pattern. It came out to be a very Hungarian dance-like pattern. I also wrote a jazz song using the rhythm of Ryan’s vocal inflections during a passage of the poem.
Damon: For people who don’t know, the poem is set in Budapest. In fact, the working title of the poem was originally Budapest, and the musical traditions of Hungary, at least to my untrained ears, seem to be enriched by a variety of forms—Roma and Classical, liturgical music from the Orthodox tradition and Jewish music, as you mention. You can experience all of these while walking through various districts in Budapest, some blend of Roma Pop in one area, a student practicing Liszt coming from a window, a violin echoing from one of the narrow streets near Dohány. Unlike any other city where I’ve traveled, the music experienced in Budapest can open memory, can become the score, as it were, for some remembered moment. But this is part of what music does, yes? It intensifies our moments. Did you feel the need create a musical center for the poem? I’m thinking of the tune “As Time Goes By” from the film Casablanca, a song and a film I enjoy very much. If you listen closely to the film, you can hear parts of “As Time Goes By” playing in many scenes. Did you feel The Scent of a Thousand Rains needed this? When you began to hear music for the poem, were you thinking more of the main character, his love interest or a moment or place in the poem?
Tana: It’s a very common practice for film scores to use a theme that represents a character, a place, or a moment. The fact that music can take us instantly back to a moment is very powerful. One song, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” by U2, does that for me. It reminds me of one beautiful summer day when my future husband and I were on a rock climbing road trip near Banff, Canada. The song immediately reminds me of the warmth of the sun, the promise of a future with a loved one, the majestic scenery, the sweet smell in the air and the freedom of the wind through the open car window. An example of a repetitive musical theme in The Scent of a Thousand Rains is one that brings the listener back to Budapest, along with the main character. We have incorporated other thematic materials in different genres of music to help the listener know that we have changed scenery or memories. As such, most of my compositions represent location and also the love interest, since she is the one possibly controlling his mind wanderings. I’m not entirely sure that that is where we have arrived with the show yet. It keeps evolving, as do the compositions to suit the purpose of the story. This evolution is part of the process of creating the music and the show. I can’t wait to see the final version when we perform our premiere in September!
Damon: I appreciate how you draw attention to the immediacy of music. It seems the place where music touches us is both quiet and filled. Quiet in the sense that the story, so to speak, has already been lived and cherished. There is no longer the chatter of questioning. Yet this place is also filled, just as you have described your experience of hearing the U2 song. As you say, you are immediately carried back to your then future husband, the sun, the air, the scents of the day, the wind. These things fill that quiet place where the song remains. The event of love seems somewhat different than the event of music, even as I can recognize similarities between them. We often join our love with music, as a way of marking an emotion or detailing a particular moment—the intensity we spoke of earlier. And we may attempt to define our love through music, though this attempt will inevitably come up short. For me, love escapes definition. It sure as hell escapes reason. But this is part of the poem. Part of the she.
Photographs © Rebekah Wilkins-Pepiton