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Mum's kitchen: Scoring loss in a contemporary New Zealand musical


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This paper functions in part as an exegesis of a recently premiered New Zealand musical, Mum’s Kitchen, which was collaboratively written and composed by a team of four creatives (Nick Braae, composer-lyricist; Kyle Chuen, librettist; Jeremy Mayall, orchestrator; David Sidwell, composer). The show centres around three brothers who return to their family farm after their Mum passes away, and they must settle the estate, while processing their various states of grief for their childhood home and family. Mum’s Kitchen treads relatively familiar New Zealand theatrical ground, then, in terms of exploring themes of masculinity, emotional performance, and familial communication.

The question of a distinct New Zealand musical language is one that has occupied writers for many years, and this becomes even more pressing in an idiom (musical theatre) that has such a limited tradition in this country (di Somma, 2016) – in other words, how to write musical theatre songs to tell a distinctly New Zealand story when such a musical language (arguably) does not exist? While the musical was not created to answer this question, the creative responses of the two primary composers (Braae and Sidwell) provides some answers to this question, which, in turn, is revealing of how style and compositional choices are perceived to function in a musical.

Taking its cue from Murphy (2014), this paper analyses the songs in Mum’s Kitchen that directly addresses themes of loss and nostalgia. I suggest that despite the different composers on the project, there is a unified set of strategies as to how loss is “scored” into the songs: use of “anachronistic” styles (such as the country waltz) to evoke a past era, and a collection of contemporary harmonic devices (open chord voicings, harmonic ambiguity) that evoke emptiness and uncertainty.

Item Type: Paper presented at a conference, workshop, or other event which was not published in the proceedings
Uncontrolled Keywords: Style, Musical Theatre, Analysis, New Zealand, Creative Practice
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music > M Music
Divisions: Schools > School of Media Arts
Depositing User: Nick Braae
Date Deposited: 14 Jul 2021 01:33
Last Modified: 21 Jul 2023 09:19

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