Ever since I first wrote a play looped around and oriented by a Steely Dan song about Nazis and a Miles Davis album mostly played on a wah-wah peddle, music has had a place in my plays.
Love Is Good is about a band; Iago, of W. 95th St. has a band in it too, fronted by a beautiful, vainglorious Othello named Obi.
The relationship in For You starts to fall apart around the point when one of the lovers writes a song about the other.
New Haven and the Problem of Change in the American City is set in four parties, with every party has its own sonic quality, from 70s soul to Golden Age hip-hop, while Halcyon Days is a straight-up yacht rock party.
After I'm/ After You're/ After We're Gone was largely inspired by the life and death of James "J Dilla" Yancey, the greatest hip-hop producer of all time. Halcyon Days is drenched in the sweet, semi-secret sadness of Yacht Rock.
Even Falling took its title and feeling from the Dudley Perkins song of the same name.
The following playlists are music in my plays and music that inspired it. I don't know if you can get a feeling for the plays from the music alone, but you can get a feeling of some kind all the same.
The genesis of this play, a middle-aged Don Juan's journey into his own mind/life/hell was Serge Gainsbourg's Histoire de Melody Nelson and the dippy, lethargic, hypnotizing bassline that bookends the album. Black MIlk's "Story and Her" gave me a title and further seductive feeling, but this one is laden with references and builds, from the self-dread of "I Went To The Mirror" to the heartbreaking fall of "Rocket Love."
Yacht Rock, invented musical genre that it is, is both smooth and often sad, particularly the divorce rock song "LIvin' It Up" by Bill LaBounty, lyrics of which became my foreword. The necessary soundtrack befits what begins as a seaside comedy and quickly turns to (yeah, I'll say it) choppy waters.
90s R&B becomes an odd bonding factor between a Presidential candidate and her senior advisor, with TLC and Mariah Carey recurring subjects. The final emotional moment between them is made all the more emotional because Mary J. Blige is playing. She's always had that effect.
J Dilla died in 2006 after battling TTP, a rare blood disease, and lupus, just days after the release of Donuts, his last work of genius. How much of Donuts was created in a hospital bed on a laptop and a small, 45s-only record player is unknown and probably more limited than was first believed, but the idea of creating even as your body fades away stuck to my mind and became a big part of this play.
As you'd expect, this sprawling list is full of Dilla highlights, sample sources, and unusual hip-hop instrumentals, but there's more than that. Roxy, another of the play's three leads, is responsible for the punk rock selections, as well as Janet Jackson's "If." And I could explain the Todd Rundgren songs here from the oddball album Healing, but...well, trust me, there's a good reason.
A play that contains tons of drinking, a good dose of drugs, music playing on jukeboxes, record players, and stereos, and a full explanation of the socialist tendencies of Philly Soul greats The O'Jays. A college play. Music means a lot to me now, but it will never mean as much as it did to me then. My whole personality was wrapped up in my CDs. Yes, CDs.
Music is a genuine part of the scenery at times (Four Tet playing at a high-class bar, Turkish singer Selda [not available on Spotify, but you've got to hear her; try here] playing from an odd kid's dorm room) but this playlist plays best as what I imagined Irene and Quinn were thinking at times, as 16-year-olds and 32-year-olds. Also, I've played this AlunaGeorge song upwards of 50 times in the last year, and it still works on me, somehow.