September 18th with Derrick Mayoleth on the Music of Poe…

The Project

So James asked me sometime in early summer if I’d like to compose the music for his next theatre production which would hit the stage in late October. Of course, I was excited to do it. At the same time, I already felt behind, so I sort of disappeared into the project until just recently.

POE is?

Well, I’ll leave that to James. Obviously, the show is a Halloween production based on the works of Edgar Allen Poe, but as you know with James, it thankfully won’t stick to the obvious tropes. This slides me right into saying that POE will be performed at the Grand Theatre in Eau Claire, Wisconsin on October 21, 22 & 23. Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for students. You can purchase advance tickets from the Chippewa Valley Theatre Guild by phone at 715-832-7529. For more info, you can also follow Two Griffins Theatre on Facebook.

The Music. Soundtrack or Something Else?

So, with movie soundtracks, composers tend to spend a lot of time with the director early on until they understand the director’s thoughts, concepts, and the overall tone of the project. Then along the way, the composer sees rough cuts and continually hones in on the film until the soundtrack often literally fits the film beat by beat. In the case of POE things were very different. First, this is a stage play of course and James leans to a sort of organic improvisational approach. Rather than ask me to write to the show, I was asked to put together music that was inspired by my concepts or Impressions of POE within a few limited constructs. And if you think that was hard for me, now he’s having to take my musical interpretations and fold them back into his storytelling!

Concepts of Edgar Allen Poe

Yeah. So we all know, “The beating of that hideous heart!” or some quotes from The Raven. Maybe we remember those Roger Corman films with Vincent Price, etc.. But really Poe’s writing was more diverse and while we interpret much of his work as “horror” a deep dive into his stories and poetry suggest he was really writing about our common fears; Death of course, but also fear of being alone, self-doubt, lost love and grief. What was unique was how he expressed them… something that tended to get translated into “horror”.

Into Music

Derrick’s Wisconsin Studio

James had some light instruction as I said. He talked about some soundtrack artists that he liked and gave me an overall sense of where we were going and certainly it was something a bit old school. There were a lot of interesting movie scores in the 50s,60s,70s for sure. Especially in horror and sci-fi. I love all that stuff from Goblin’s Susperia soundtrack to Jerry Goldsmith’s Planet of the Apes. So in part, I leaned into some vintage sounds. During the pandemic, I found myself really getting into playing my theremin… so you can expect that baby to show up! Also, I’m always drawn to a good string section. I’m a fan of Barrington Pheloung who wrote the soundtrack for BBC’s Inspector Morse, and the greats such as Bernard Herrmann who was at the heart of many Hitchcock films. So in the end I spent a lot of time bouncing between and blending these two concepts into a collection of Poe-inspired tunes and soundscapes for the production. And being self-taught, that can be some tricky stuff.

What, No Rock-N-Roll?

ToM was a great band! Ultimately it was a band that started when we were like 14 years old or something. James and I wrote and imagined and kept pulling players into our various ideas. Of course, each band eventually would pull us toward covering other people’s music and we had no real interest in being a cover band. We were more creatives than live jukeboxes. Still, if you wanted gigs back in the day, you had to do covers of popular stuff… AND it’s good practice! ToM in the 1990s was really the first time we had a group together that allowed everyone to create which to me, was what was fun back then. Often James and I would spend hours in a room creating trashy demos, then take them to the band to turn them into the stuff you know. Today, ToM is resurgent as a creative muse. Sure, we’ll be doing rock music in the future, but there’s so much more to explore… Music, image, film, stage.. whatever… We hope some people will enjoy traveling this fresh road with us as well. – That said, we do have on “classic” ToM tune making a reappearance in POE.

“Back in the day” a local paper reports that ToM plays a benefit concert…


So, as we’ve traveled through this pandemic, the POE project has meant spending hours (And hours!) isolated in my studio here in central Wisconsin. For a few moments in that window, when we thought the pandemic was over, James was able to travel down to the studio and collaborate a bit like the old days. Good times! I can tell you, being in the same room beats Skype or Zoom or whatever.

As of now, I’m just about done with the mastering process and expect to have the soundtrack available to the public when POE hits the stage on October 21st. So, I get to take a vacation while James and his cast and crew at Two Griffins Theatre are in the production deep dive with the show coming up in a little more than a month.

So for now, I’m off to explore a bit. I can’t wait to see the show and I hope that if you’re in the area, you can attend as well! And of course, I’m looking forward to sharing “The Music Inspired by Poe” with you very soon.