Philip Pinsky is the composer and sound designer for The List. He works extensively in theatre and other media in the UK and overseas. For five years he was Associate Artist at the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh providing scores for more than half of their output during that period. He won the Critics’ Award for Theatre in Scotland 2005 for best use of music in theatre and a Sony Music Award for Extraneous Noises Off (BBC Radio 3).
How did you first get involved in composing music for theatre?
Cinema soundtracks have always interested me. When I started a band during my teenage years, we always incorporated a cinematic element. About 15 years ago, having been in the band for almost 20 years, I was looking for other ways to make music. I wrote scores for a couple of independent films and this lead on to me being asked to do the music for Grid Iron’s Decky Does A Bronco in 2000. SInce then writing music for theatre has become my main occupation.
What has been your most successful theatre project so far? For what reason?
I couldn’t pick one show as the most successful. Both The List and Age of Arousal for Stellar Quines were successful award-winning shows. Roam and Fierce for Grid Iron likewise. For size of audience and theatrical spectacle, it would probably have to be Christine, La Reine Garçon at the Théâtre du Nouveau Monde in Montreal, and then touring Quebec, Canada. My favourite show, for it’s ambition and diversity, was Stellar Quines and Imago’s ANA, which played in Quebec and Scotland.
A recent theatre project of yours was composing music for Chaos and Contingency by Janis Claxton Dance. The performance at the National Museums Scotland filled the venue during this year’s Science Festival. Has this brought you any international recognition?
Not that I am aware of, though sometimes things follow a long time after the event. Most of the work that I have done abroad has been through contacts here. For theatrical and dance performances, the audience is often unaware that there is a specially commissioned score for the work.
What/who inspires you?
My inspirations are wide-ranging and eclectic. In recent years, for theatrical productions, I have researched music from the Middle East, Eastern Europe, India, alongside Romany, Klezmer, Iberian and Scottish traditional cultures. Western classical music is also a big influence, from pre-Baroque up to the present day. I often find myself returning to Stravinsky. I come across little in modern music that he wasn’t doing a hundred years ago.
How did you first get involved with Stellar Quines?
Jemima Levick, then an associate at Stellar Quines, asked me to do the music for Baby Baby. The show was made in Shetland, the first professional theatre show made there. Our stay on Shetland included the Up Helly Aa festival and some very hair-raising flights to and from the island.
How did you go about creating the sound for The List?
I do most of the work in rehearsals. It is very much an instinctual thing. With a piece like The List, the scoring is of a cinematic nature. You are not necessarily aware of its presence, but it supports the dramatic intentions of the play. The main theme uses a whole tone scale. It is neither major or minor, and sounds both “clear” and “unclear” in equal measure, luminous and hazy at the same time. I thought the emotional neutrality of such a theme would suit the play, adding depth, but not overtly telling the audience how to feel. Any score that I produce is a combination of what the director and I feel would best suit the play and of my own compositional interests.
Michael Heasman is the Production Manager for the 2013 re-stage of The List for the Fringe and Scottish tour. Michael has worked on a wide range of festivals, events and productions internationally and locally. Through his experience he has achieved the ability to work in many departments on all aspects from pre-production to de-rig, both management and technical. From first completing a degree in nursing at Dundee, to working as Production Manager and Company Stage Manager to re-stage the award winning show The List, Michael’s journey has been an interesting one.
I understand you have travelled with productions, where have they taken you and what was your best experience?
Without question the best experience has got to have been my six festivals in New Zealand. Great country, great people and a great event with so many different elements. Being in charge of building a stage on a lake, or an ice-rink over a river have definitely been hightlights. But I am lucky to have worked in many different places and events with many different people and so I suppose it’s also the friends and contacts I’ve made professionally through doing each job that make every different one a worthwhile experience. Other pretty unforgettable events have to be the Perthshire Amber festival and the ‘New Year’s Dive’ in Holland.
How did you first get involved with production management?
I suppose I first got involved with it when I was working in New Zealand in 2007, which is where I was to spend the subsequent six winters working on the Queenstown Winter Festival. I was lucky enough to get asked back after my first year as production assistant, and worked my way up to production managing the festival for the last four years. Also, upon returning to the UK each year, my time at Perth Theatre working with the brilliant stage management and production teams there developed my interest and experience in theatre production management, which I then took to other roles in other places.
What are the stages you go through in organising a show as Production Manager?
Coincidentally – making lists is a big favourite of mine, which is why there are certain sections of the play that I can scarily identify with. Then it is just a matter of building a schedule, knowing the time and budgetary constraints, ticking tasks off and keeping in contact with all the necessary people to ensure everyone knows what has to happen and by when. I sincerely hope that I don’t leave anything off one of my lists as the consequences of such an action are the point of the play.
How did you get involved with Stellar Quines?
I was initially introduced to Stellar Quines through a relative in the business, but have subsequently found the usual case that everyone seems to know everyone and there are actually lots of links that could have been made at one time or another.
What has been the most promising play you’ve managed so far? For what reason?
I very much enjoyed Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me as a play, as well as being on the book for it. Also Moonlight and Magnolias was another great experience with some fun challenges – and that’s usually what makes a show memorable. Usually every show has something unusual to tackle, and there are so many other plays that I have gotten very attached to it is hard to put one at top of the list. Regarding promising, I tend not to judge in that aspect – I will work just as hard to make every show a success and end up thinking they are all promising in some way. There are lots of plays I’d love to see (or work on) again though – Tam O’Shanter and Irma Vep are favourites from years ago.
What have you found has been the most challenging task in managing the production of The List so far?
Taking on a show that has won awards and is already established as an excellent piece of work, with a great group of people involved and ensuring it meets those people’s standards and expectations again (plus my own) is definitely the most significant personal challenge.
The film in The List
The movie that the woman and Caroline go to the cinema to watch in The List is Séraphin: Un Homme et Son Péché or Séraphin: Heart of Stone (2002). Directed by Charles Binamé, starring Pierre Lebeau, Karine Vanasse, and Roy Dupuis and won a number of Jutra Awards and the Genie Golden Reel Award. The script for the film is based on a novel by Claude-Henri Grignon, a Canadian novelist, journalist and politician who was born in Québec.
Séraphin is quintessentially Québeçois. The film is set in a small Québec community at the end of the 19th century. Due to her father’s financial hardships, Donalda is forced to marry the village miser (also the mayor) Séraphin Poudrier. In doing so she has to leave behind Alexis, the young man she truly loves. Donalda lives a life of misery and poverty with her elderly husband until she sickens and dies.
Summerhall TV have just uploaded this interview with Muriel Romanes and Maureen Beattie talking about The List.
Shelley Tepperman Interview
In a recent interview by Estelle Rosen of the Charlesbois Post, Shelley Tepperman discussed the challenges faced when translating La Liste/The List by Jennifer Tremblay. Click here to read what she had to say about the process.
Facing up to Tragedy Inspired by Truth
Neil Cooper at the Glasgow Herald has written a super article on The List. According to him Stellar Quines are full of surprises. Read the full article here.
The List writes about The List
The List magazine have written a fantastic article about The List in their latest edition.
Life lessons and the female condition, you read it here first!
Here’s One for the List
Stellar Quines is very pleased to be previewing The List in the Borders before taking it to the Fringe. And here’s an article about the show in this week’s Southern Reporter.