Matthew Pierce is the composer of The Lion The Witch And The Wardrobe which is currently playing through August 12th at Imagination Stage. He has had many commissions for some of the top ballet companies in the world. His work was recently heard in Washington Ballet’s Alice in Wonderland. Matthew can be heard on the soundtrack for LWW playing the violin. I have seen The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe twice and both times Matthew’s music struck me as being so beautiful and it scores the action just perfectly. If you go to see the show, and I think you definitely should, pay close attention to Matthew’s music. It is a wonderful addition to a great production.
At what age did you start playing the violin?
I started playing at age 7. There is a Bethesda connection. Before my family moved to Seattle, WA when I was 11, my father’s first teaching job was in the art department at Montgomery College and we lived in Rockville. At the time there was a music store with a dance studio on the second floor across the street from the Women’s Cooperative Market, which is now a pizza shop and a Yoga studio. I went downstairs for violin lessons and my brother Benjamin went upstairs for ballet class. Ben went on to be a Principal dancer with the San Francisco Ballet!
How long did it take you to compose the music for The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe?
I would say it took a couple months, with a lot of healthy back and forth between the creative team and myself. The creative team of Janet Stanford (libretto and lyrics) and Kate Bryer, Septime Weber and David Palmer (Choreographers). We would have meetings in DC, then I would go home, write music and send the team mp3s for feedback.
When you start out on a piece like LWW, Do you have ideas for musical themes going in or is that something that comes gradually during the rehearsal process?
Yes, I do have ideas for musical themes. They come as direct inspiration from the narrative. With this story I had the pleasure of playing with some very archetypal characters and situations. Let’s see: A witch, a lion, wartime, siblings who fight and reconcile, an icy winter, springtime, a Robin, a Beaver, a battle and a victory celebration, and on and on. For me the psychology of these archetypes speak immediately as music, and hopefully the choreographer or story teller responds to my musical interpretation.
What are the challenges if any in writing for theatre versus writing for a ballet?
I started my career as a composer writing incidental music for a little black box theater in SOHO, NY called Here Theater. Nearly everything I have ever written has begun with a narrative or a feeling based on a narrative. For me there is no difference between writing for the theater and the ballet. In theater I suppose the arrangements need to be thinner so as not to compete with the spoken word from the actors, but the musical idea would be the same.
Do you have any other pieces being performed in the DC area in the near future?
While I was working on The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, Septime Weber asked me to write the score for The Washington Ballet’s production of Alice in Wonderland which premiered at The Kennedy Center this last April. You may have seen the incredible posters by Design Army showcasing the costumes by Liz Vandal and the wonderful Washington Ballet dancers. We had a sold out run of seven shows where I conducted and played violin from the pit. Needless to say I have had a pretty busy year and have fallen in love with DC all over again.
Below is a video produced by Imagination Stage. Pay close attention to the beautiful music by Matthew Pierce.