Music: The tie that binds

Play examines the impact of sounds

Blacked-out windows transform the Joyce Doolittle Theatre into a dark cave hidden away from the daylight. So when break time rolls around co-artistic directors David van Belle and Eric Rose revel in the opportunity to bask in the warm sun. Sitting at a picnic table outside the Pumphouse Theatre Rose unwraps an aromatic sandwich while van Belle expresses his excitement for Ghost River Theatre’s upcoming production of Reverie .

A thoroughly visual and auditory creation Reverie tells the story of a young woman living a benign toneless urban life. She is the very embodiment of apathy passively observing the world around her and extinguishing calls for change by switching on her iPod. But when external forces burst her bubble of indifference she discovers her own voice of dissent and sets out to engage the culture she inhabits.

The story unfolds in a manner similar to a music concert and promises to be a multimedia feast featuring live and recorded music projections live video feeds and dance.

This visual spectacle is more than just sparkle and shine. On the contrary according to Rose the style in which a story is told is just as important as the story itself. On the surface an extended theatrical music video seems like an unusual method to tell the tale of a woman shedding her apathy. For Rose and van Belle however it struck them as a fascinating way to look at how cultural forces move and shape society.

The play raises questions about what a community actually is why we detach ourselves from it and the way music can alienate us from each other.

One of the first ideas the duo came up with involved the way many people see themselves as the centre of the universe. Rose talks about the way young people often put in earphones and turn on their iPod the moment they step out of the house. It’s a convenient way for them to feel as though the music is the soundtrack to their own life; music becomes a very self-centred experience.

“And though that can be really enjoyable” Rose says “there’s a real sense of disengagement. You go to a bus it used to be a place where conversations happened but now everybody is in their own little world. They don’t want to be disturbed. They might as well be at home.”

Music concerts like Reverie are important Rose says because they create a communal experience; a crowd gathers and passes the time together in a meaningful way. Far from being a self-centred experience the act of assembling for a play or a concert induces a bonding effect that can strengthen a community.

If iPods are the incarnation of self-absorbed music consumption on the other end of the spectrum is when an individual takes up an instrument creates music then plays those songs for the community. Music becomes a method of participating in society by expressing ideas.

“It’s about reception and transmission” van Belle says. “We make a distinct shift in the show. (In) the first half the music tends to be received it tends to be the thing you’re listening to and maybe idly singing along to. In the second half the music is a lot more active the performers sing more and are engaged much more in that music rather than just receiving it. Similar to attending a musical concert or a play taking part in the creation of music can produce a gelling effect on the community. But why bother to be a citizen who engages her community? Rose insists he and van Belle aren’t saying it’s good or bad to be indifferent but he points out the fragility of civilization and how quickly it can degenerate into chaos. “I don’t mean that to be a scary thing” Rose says “but sometimes we assume everything’s going to be taken care of for us…. Democracy is about engagement. It’s about being responsible for your neighbour.”