PEOPLE OF DJD – NICK FRASER – JULIET & ROMEO MUSICAL DIRECTOR AND COMPOSER
1. THE MUSIC FOR J&R IS VERY POWERFUL, WHERE DID YOU DRAW INSPIRATION FROM TO CREATE SUCH PASSIONATE PIECES OF MUSIC?
Thanks! The MAIN inspiration was the amazing Kim Cooper, since she asked me to do the work! I often think of Igor Stravinsky’s idea that the notion of “inspiration” is backwards; people don’t get inspired TO DO work, they get inspired BY DOING work.
These are some composers who I’m pretty sure have directly influenced my work as a musician:
Anthony Braxton, Ornette Coleman, Tony Malaby, Paul Motian, Lina Allemano, Kris Davis, Andrew Downing, Brodie West, Justin Haynes, Rob Clutton, Doug Tielli, Eric Chenaux. Most of those people are people that I’ve worked with and I’ve often felt that the most influential people are those closest to you.
Composers who I love, although I can’t say how much direct influence there is: Wayne Shorter, Duke Ellington, John Cage, Anton Webern, Paul Hindemith, Bob Dylan, Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus… many more.
2. WOULD YOU SAY THERE WERE ANY CHALLENGES IN CREATING PIECES TO GO WITH THE DANCING IN THE SHOW?
Well, the main challenge is that the choreography is of a set length. So, if a band were to say, add 4 bars to a piece during a “regular” jazz gig, it would be pretty much a non-event. Whereas in a dance show, it would likely be disastrous. So, all of the musical choices that I’m making as a performer are based on knowing the timing of the show. There is improvisation (it’s still jazz music, after all), but within a much stricter framework than is normal in my work. I should mention, too, that Cory Bowles’ beautiful and topical text based on Shakespeare (delivered in the current production by Tasha Korney in what I feel is a shockingly great performance) is a major part of the piece. When we were working on building it, I remember referring to the show as “the three-headed monster” i.e. the movement, the text and the music. In the earlier version of the show (the original production from 2017), Cory played the role of the narrator. I feel that having Tasha play the narrator does two things: it makes the dance and narration even more integrated since Tasha is an amazing dancer at the peak of her powers. Also, since the piece is (partly) a feminist re-imagining of Romeo & Juliet, I feel that having the words spoken in a woman’s voice makes more sense.
3. WHAT IS THE PROCESS/ HOW DID YOU MANAGE TO WORK WITH THE CHOREOGRAPHER IN THIS CASE TO CREATE A SEAMLESS PERFORMANCE?
The process was that I wrote a whole bunch of music (and mined my existing catalog of compositions for things I thought might be suitable), then we recorded a demo of about 25-30 pieces that Kim took and ran with. She chose the pieces that she thought resonated the most with the story/choreography/energy of the show that she was conceiving. Then we started rehearsing the show, where many of the details came into focus. It’s interesting because now, after the tour, the show is much more polished and strong than it was three years ago. I’m really proud of it. In addition to Kim, Tasha and all the great dancers, I would like to mention to the band: Jeremy Gignoux, Rob Clutton, and Carsten Rubeling. They have been instrumental (…pun intended…) in the creation and execution of the show.
To listen to the Juliet & Romeo Spotify playlist curated by Nick click HERE.