Once I had decided upon composing a work based on fables and had chosen the five fables that I would musically tell, I was faced the decision of style. Taking to heart the often spoken phrase “write what you know about,” I decided after great debate to compose all the fables in what I consider to be “old school” style. What I mean by that is to say I used styles with which I believe I would have heard as “background” music in my head or at the movies when I was a young. Keep in mind that when I was a child, my favorite musical story compilation was Disney’s “Fantasia.”
I knew I did not want this work to come off as “cartoon” music, but as an emotionally serious and highly programmatic work with several options for the performers in its “telling," both musically and verbally. Each movement has been composed to stand alone and is capable of being performed in that matter with no introduction other than the usual program notes as a guide. Any combination of the movements in the same matter is also perfectly acceptable. The published “order” is what I feel to be the best if the entire work is being performed but again, I will leave that to the performers.
I have provided short narrations of each fable, which can be read to the audience before each movement, this is my personal choice of how to perform these works. In addition or in lieu of verbally reading to the audience each fable, I have put in the score text which could be described as “story hints.” This text can be given to the audience in variety of ways. The simplest being the words printed out on posterboard large enough for the entire audience to see and raised at the appropriate moments (there is a “Story Line” part included in musical notation as to exactly where these text boards should be shown to the audience). I know it sounds simplistic, but it is very effective.
An overhead projector or video format could be used for the same purpose or could show story boards/pictures from an actual fable book instead. The variety of visual props is endless. I like the idea of only using pictures because it would remind the audience of days gone by when they could not read the words of a story and could only look at the pictures. One recommendation I have along these lines is that I would not recommend actually speaking these words or any others during the performance of any of these movements. A Symphony of Fables was not composed with musical gaps or dynamic considerations for spoken text. I believe that type of presentation is possible but would require some adjustments on the part of the performers.
I will leave all these decisions to you. I only ask that you keep in mind that the total purpose of this music is to make the audience and performers alike, regardless of age or circumstance experience the wonders of a childhood story heard for the very first time through the magic of music.