Sunday, December 20, 2020

What does "Method Composing" mean?

"Method Acting" is a well-known term that's used to describe the training and rehearsal techniques that encourage an actor to deliver an emotional identification with a part. It was prominent at the Actors' Studio in New York City, and is associated with actors such as Marlon Brando, Dustin Hoffman and Robert De Niro.

Sometimes the fundamental elements of "Method Acting" can be found when creating the score for a music theater work; for example, in the new Musical "the Isle of Eigg" there's a small group of townspeople that get together periodically to discuss politics, drink and play Ceilidh music. The Musical's development team decided the accordion was a natural fit since it is often used for musical accompaniment or as part of the festive ensemble in Scotland.

April Alsup, the composer of the work, is an accomplished pianist and performer, but it takes a lot of effort to learn to play a new musical instrument and there are a lot of differences between a piano and an accordion; however, there are similarities too and April was up to the challenge. The first step was to find somebody that has the knowledge, expertise and a proven process of teaching someone how to play the instrument and how it fits into a Ceilidh band.

It was just a coincidence that April visited Monarch Accordions in 2020 before the pandemic forced small businesses to shut down in Colorado. The company was founded in Denver Colorado in 1946 and purchased by professional accordionist Mike Aman in 1976. He had spent 50 years in the accordion field as a teacher, professional player and businessman. He was eager to help April come up to speed as quickly as possible and they scheduled weekly lessons through Skype.

Mike Aman and April Alsup
Mike Aman and April Alsup at Monarch Accordions (July 2020)

His virtuoso accordion orchestras have won first place at every major competition including American Accordionist’s Association, Accordion Teachers’ Guild, Accordion Federation North America, and the Rocky Mountain Accordion Society. In 1984 he produced a national solo champion. Mr. Aman makes regular trips to the Monarch factory in Italy to stay on top of the changing needs of the American accordion market.

It's been nearly 6 months since they all started working together and already the music instrumentation and score for "the Isle of Eigg" has changed dramatically. Each scene delivers a more authentic Scottish experience now and the whole team is thrilled. Just like "Method Acting" encouraged Robert De Niro to go out and work 12-hour shifts as a real New York cabbie for the movie Taxi Driver. "Method Composing" encouraged the Isle of Eigg's development team to learn to write and perform on an accordion in a real Ceilidh band.