The Music of Metamorphoses

Hello! My name is Steven Tran, and I am the composer/music director and pianist for Metamorphoses. I graduated from Princeton University just two weeks ago, where I was an active member of the theater community as an actor, director, and musician. You might have heard my original scores this past year in the Lewis Center’s productions of The Magic Rainforest (also directed by Maeli Goren) and Red Noses.

The incidental score for Metamorphoses is largely inspired by 20th century classical piano music – Bartok, Debussy, Glass, and Rachmaninoff, for example. The result is a piano/synth based score that is occasionally grotesque and dissonant, but also ethereal and mysterious.

One of the techniques I used in the compositional process was the prepared piano, pioneered by John Cage in the 1940s. Cage was an avant-garde composer who experimented with placing objects such as screws and bolts in between the strings of the piano in order to completely change the timbre and sound of the notes – I experimented with this technique in order to create an entirely new, bizarre, and unexpected soundscape for certain moments of the show. Keep an ear out, and you might hear some pretty unique sounds coming out of that onstage piano!

Beyond these classical inspirations, however, you might also hear some folk music, electronic music, and musical theater inspired moments: Maeli and I wanted to create an eclectic musical world that changed with each of the stories, but that was unified by a sense of wonder and mystery.

The compositional process for Metamorphoses was entirely in response to the actors and the world they created. I sat in rehearsals for the first week simply observing the development of the blocking and noting what the sound of each moment felt like. From there, it was a matter of artful improvisation, conversations with Maeli about what did and did not work, and a bit of trial and error until we arrived at just the right musical language for each story in Metamorphoses.

Thanks for reading, and I look forward to sharing my music with you!