Music to watch shows by

So there we were, crumpled contentedly on the sofa, itunes whirring down the alphabet. Through conversation and tiredness the music was simply washing over us. But suddenly with only the first five seconds of a song we didn’t even know the name of, we were somewhere else entirely. The song was French duo Air’s Don’t Be Light but to us it wasn’t really a song any more, it was a chunk of memory, a slither of Action Hero’s Watch Me Fall torn from its context and sat here with us in the living room.

This was more than just a nod of familiarity. This was pop music equivalent of a tea-stained madeleine. This was transporting, like those songs that make you 14 or in love again. Because this song wasn’t an accompaniment to a show, an accessory, a well-chosen aural flourish. This song was a vital part of the whole experience of being there; the power of its whirring, accelerating beats and its distorted vocals a necessary element of the show’s unsettling, euphoria-baiting climax.

A song in a show is always an alien body. It is another work of art smuggled in. The power of a good show is in acknowledging that. In admitting that any work of art is a collage of borrowed thoughts and ideas, half-remembered quotations, conscious and unconscious allusions and echoes and pastiches and the memory of everything that might have happened in that space before you. The most thrilling, exciting, beautiful shows revel in that, in being a startling combination of the strange and the familiar, the borrowed and the new.

These shows understand what good pop music can do when it’s given a proper part to play. When it is knitted into the fabric of the show, when the two are inseperable so that you hear that same song in a living room six months later and you the whole show is suddenly there in your head.

The more we thought about it, the more we realised that a lot of our favourite shows, those truly sublime experiences that live you fizzing with excitement, used music in this way. We found that many of our best show memories were formed when a brilliant song merged into, was an essential part of, an incredible theatrical moment. We started to tally them up in our heads and then as the list grew and grew we did what felt like the only appropriate thing – we decided to make them into a mix tape.

Which is exactly what we have done. Below are the results, by ‘song (musical artists), theatre artist, show‘. These were our rules (because a mixtape is NOTHING without rules).

1) You can only have songs you love
2) from shows you loved
3) The song has to be an integral part of the show, not just background or interval music
4) and when you hear it it must send you skidding back to the show itself
So, this is what we have. These are our selections. If you so wish, all the songs are available on itunes.

What was that song she played in the sad bit? [A Mix Tape]

1) How Fucking Romantic (The Magnetic Fields) – Rosie Dennis, Love Song Dedication

2) Billy 1 (Bob Dylan) – Little Bulb Theatre, Crocosmia
3) The Predatory Wasp of the Palisades is out to get us (Sufjan Stevens) – The TEAM, Particularly in the Heartland
4) Gulag Orkestra (Beirut) – Gob Squad, Saving the World
5) Set Yourself on Fire (Stars) – Nic Green and BAC’s Young People’s Theatre, The Fire in the Woods
6) Sing, Sing, Sing (Benny Goodman and His Orchestra) – Punchdrunk, The Masque of the Red Death
7) Don’t be Light (Air) – Action Hero, Watch Me Fall
8) Let’s Dance (David Bowie) – Jerome Bel, The Show Must Go On
9) First Breath After Coma (Explosions in the Sky) – Ontroerend Goed, Once and For All We’re Going to Tell You Who We Are So Shut Up and Listen
11) The Power of Love (Frankie Goes to Hollywood) – Uninvited Guests, Love Letters Straight to your Heart
All of which we are very pleased with. Problem is however, as any mixtape lover will tell you, 11 is no kind of number for a mix tape. It has to be 12. So we want your suggestions. What have we missed? What are the songs that have you tingling with remembrance? Leave your favourites in the comments and hopefully we can build ourselves a whole library of music that can make up the soundtrack to Forest Fringe this summer.
[This mix tape was put together with the brilliant Laura McDermott, who has seen more music gigs and more theatre shows than is probably healthy.]


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