American Theatre Magazine described Roth's work—including his chamber music, opera and music and theatre, film, and more than 200 projects for theatre—as “music one could imagine Charles Ives composing had he lived long enough to encounter rock-and-roll and beat poetry.” Roth’s many projects include work with PBS, Disney, Canada’s Stratford Festival, collaborations with Culture Clash, Sarah Ruhl, Des McAnuff, accompanying Alicia Keyes, Tom Stoppard, two recent projects with Christopher Plummer (The Tempest and Plummer's one-man show, A Word or Two), and many projects with Randy Newman, including their acclaimed SCR collaboration, The Education of Randy Newman (2000), for which Roth was music director, arranger and pianist.
“I am a composer who creates and exploits a lot of sound in my work, so I don’t see them as separate jobs; sound is always a ‘musical gesture.’” Roth adds, “Thrilling as it is to work as often as I have with great directors, actors and designers, the most joyous part of what I do is to get to work with great musicians. They bring a skill set, imagination, and passion to every note you write that inspires and never ceases to amaze me.”
SCR is a special place for Roth—it’s where he first got to work with a computerized sound system back in 1988, when Benson directed Roth’s first SCR production—the award-winning production of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. It included a 30-minute pre-show where Roth changed the “sound picture every 30 seconds. That was the first time I was able use the computer as a compositional tool in a theatre space, something we pretty much take for granted nowadays.”
|Kandis Chappell and James Sutorias in SCR's 1988 |
production of The Crucible.
Benson enjoys working with Roth, saying, ‘Michael is a gifted composer and musician who does fabulous work. I appreciate that when his work calls for music, he brings live musicians into the studio to record.”
Roth’s work often has caught the attention of Orange County Register theatre critic Paul Hodgins. “Michael’s stylistic range is astounding,” Hodgins says. “He shows a chameleon-like ability to create a score that is perfect for the context.”
|Libby West, Sue Cremin and Rob Nagle in SCR's 2014 |
production of Rest.
“For example, in the play, it’s raining all the time, so I had to find ways for the rain to be present without being a distraction. And there are the Jewish themes in the play, as well the Civil War—all of these come together in the score, including the use of the Shofar, recorded voices, strings, trumpet, and piano—all in the rain.”
Roth worked tirelessly in SCR’s studio for The Whipping Man, using the multiple keyboards—computer and musical—in the room.
“When I’m not doing a gig somewhere, I try to compose as much as I can every day. That is what I really like and it's my job—to write,” he says.
He’s never one to be still for long. Roth’s upcoming projects include a chamber music/theatre treatment of Beckett’s Imagination Dead Imagine—which he describes as “my most personal piece, Beckett himself gave me permission to set his text”—a sonata for toy piano, to be premiered in LA in the spring, and a new opera for YouTube.
Find out more information about Roth and his work online. http://rothmusik.wix.com/rothmusik
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