This year’s upper school fall play, “Anon(ymous),” will feature musical works composed by Harker students. A unique interpretation of Homer’s “Odyssey,” the play is “full of sense and places,” said upper school music teacher Susan Nace. “The soundscape to the play is huge, traversing oceans and continents. For one person to write all the music would be a daunting task.”
All of the composers – Brandon Yang, Kimberly Ma and Namrata Vakkalagadda, all grade 12; Agata Sorotokin, grade 11, and grade 10 students Jonathan Ta, Alice Wu and Gurutam Thockchom – volunteered without going through a selection process. “I believe that the people we need are the people we get!” Nace said.
The first task for the composers was for each of them to compose a version of the play’s main theme, dubbed “Nemasani’s Song” after the main character’s mother. Although only one student’s version was chosen to go into the play, Nace remarked that every version could find a place in the production. “There is a striking similarity between all the composers’ music, as they honed into the idea of home,” Nace said. “So I believe they all dug into the collective unconscious of what home sounds like.”
Wu was eager to try her hand at composing for the play even though she admitted her experience as a composer is limited. “I was a bit hesitant about whether I could do a good job with it, but after all, what is life without risks?” she said. “For me, I first figure out what I’m composing for and then just kind of let my mind wander. Sometimes I can find a melody by humming random notes or playing around with the keys on the piano, while other times, I just let the idea sit in the back of my head for a while until I suddenly happen to think of one.”
“I was glad to get the opportunity to compose for ‘Anon(ymous),’” said Sorotokin. “The sheer variety of genres and the idea of using music to enhance the audience’s experience, as in films, drew me to this.” The junior, who sings in the women’s vocal group Cantilena and studies piano at the San Francisco Conservatory, likes to record her ideas as soon as they arrive. “Ideas come suddenly and unpredictably,” she said. “This particular play, ‘Anon(ymous),’ has a lot of cultural references, so I like to picture how my musical ideas fit into the script. Also, it is important to keep in mind what feelings I would like to evoke in my music.”
“Anon(ymous)” premieres in late October. Be sure to attend to hear these student compositions live!