Get composer Rob Zuidam to discuss his music and there is every chance you will enter into an hours-long conversation about eccentric female characters, literary sources of inspiration, the magic of the human voice, and the love/hate relationship between music and dramaturgy. Such are the hobby horses of this self-proclaimed ‘musical-theatre beast’.
The composer feels most at home in the world of musical theatre and opera, where sound merges seamlessly with words and gestures; and vice versa.‘All things considered, music is about gesture,’ explains Zuidam with a faint trace of a Rotterdam accent.
‘Even the thoroughly constructivist scores of the post-war avant-garde are brimming with it. Take, for example, Ligeti’s Kammerkonzert . All that chromatic wriggling on a postage stamp and then, abruptly, a unison sound spanning four octaves. As a listener you would have to be completely deaf to miss it.’
According to Zuidam, musical gestures are very important in vocal music. For one thing, the text is expressed in the notes, whichever way you look at it. Equally essential is the presence of voices. ‘The impact of the human voice is immediate; also because it is inexorably connected to the body.
During a performance, the voice is always the centre of attention, which implies there is an element of theatricality. Such dramatic tension is a constant factor in opera, music theatre, and recitals. Actually, there does not need to be any singing at all. Often the mere presence of a singer suffices.