When singer-songwriter Lior was first approached to compose the musical score for Queensland Theatre and Dead Puppet Society production ‘The Wider Earth’, he admits that although he was impressed with the script, he was unsure.
“Unfortunately it didn’t fall at a very good time, I had so much going on. I was so close to walking away from it. But there was something in me that said ‘just find a way to do this, because this is very special’,” he says.
The puppet production delves into the life of Charles Darwin during his near five-year journey on the HMS Beagle, as he encountered the wildlife that inspired his theory of evolution.
“It’s an extraordinary play that follows his voyage, but also his coming to terms with his own discoveries, in the evolutionary sense, and personally. When I read the synopsis, I remember thinking to myself ‘Wow, if they manage to pull this off, it’s going to be pretty incredible’. And I truly believe that they did.”
According to Lior, Writer and Director David Morton initially suggested an organic, folk or roots-like soundtrack. But, as time went on, he realised that production had an epic scale in a sense of what it was exploring, and it became apparent it would need a cinematic, sweeping score to match.
“That’s when I decided I would do this in collaboration with producer, Tony Buchen, who had his own studio, and access to more cinematic sounds, rather than me doing it in a simplistic guitar and vocal-based way. It progressed and the score that we ended up writing was the polar-opposite of what we initially envisaged. But we think it’s very effective,” he laughs.
He and Tony worked day and night to compose the soundtrack during a three-work block described as ‘quite intense’.
“We had the script, and David would send detailed instructions on how he wanted the music to support certain elements. We would compose and record all day, and then we’d send him what we’d worked on at the end of every night, and every morning we would speak to him, and he’d tell us what he liked, and what he wanted changed,” Lior says.
“The back-and-forth process lasted for around three weeks, until we felt like the general shape of it was in line. The tweaking was all done during rehearsals at the Queensland Theatre Company, where it premiered last year.”
'The Wider Earth' is Lior’s first composing role in a theatre production, and while he says it was different to songwriting for himself as an artist, he found the process ‘quite liberating’.
“Usually, with my own music, it’s all so centred around lyrics. The music that I make is always there to support the lyric of the song. So, being in a project where a) I wasn’t not writing lyrics and b) I wasn’t making musical decisions to enhance someone else’s words, wasn’t something I’d done before. Even still, I really enjoyed it,” he admits.
“When I saw the opening in Brisbane last year, I was blown away by how original it is. When people hear the word ‘puppetry’, they may think of dingy little sock puppets, but these are incredibly designed animals made of hundreds of pieces of laser cut wood, that can manipulate very real-life movements. That on its own is very impressive. It’s just an incredible, beautifully told story.”