FOOTFALLS – LIVING IN THE PAST

ABSTRACT 

The main objective of this project is to propose a collection of soundtracks for a play called Footfalls, which was written by the famous Irish novelist and playwright, Samuel Beckett. Initially, it was written in 1975, and it was first performed at the Royal Court Theater, London, in 1976, directed by Beckett himself. The play is roughly thirty minutes long divided into four parts. It is a dark sad story about the life of a lonely woman called (May) living with her sick mother. She is in her forties, and spent most of her life taking care of her disabled mother. In the play, we never see the mother, only her voice is ever heard talking with her daughter from her room. We learn that the mother is dying — if she has not already died. Many analysis based on Beckett’s visions often suggest that the mother is perhaps a creation of May’s mind due to some signs of mental disability that May started to experience early in her life, if not her entire life since she was born. In some cases the dialog between the two women is meaningless, which leaves the viewer wondering whether May is deaf or not. She is totally disconnected from the world around her, and like many Irish women after the war, she lacks the presence of a man in her life. Every night, she paces back and forth next to her mother’s room. As Beckett explains, the footfalls of her walking have a very musical structure as a metronome representing the passing of time with no clear signs of hope for a future beside death. Ultimately, there are many ways in which we could interpret Footfalls, but the play clearly represents an essence of tragedy based on real life stories that existed throughout Ireland in the last century, yet more personal stories related to Beckett’s life.

 

 

REFLECTIONS & ANALYSIS

In Footfalls every word, every moment of silence, every step on the stage, every sound of time ticking away, and every music note is a crucial and inseparable part of the play. It is a story of a lonely Irish woman who manages to escape her isolation through her imagination, living beyond the limits of time and space into a new world of limitless freedom. The project would most certainly help to explore some impacts of isolation on women’s identity, which would expose cultural, historical, and ideological themes within the Irish society. More importantly, this reproduction of the play introduces interesting insights in regards to the impacts of social pressure on women’s identity, particularly, some psychological implications of traditional social norms on women’s understanding of their own role within their families. Further, the story would also raise awareness of psychological issues, which existed, and surprisingly still exist throughout societies — not only in Ireland but all around the world.

The play is an astonishing piece of art that involves a variety of Irish themes from women’s perspective. It contributes into Irish cultural scholarship, and proposes interesting insights about Irish identity. As expected for anyone who is familiar with Beckett’s works, the play is very mysterious and emotional. However, the main goal of the play is to explore some aspects of women’s identity and their significance throughout the last century in Ireland, especially after war. The play focuses on some implications of war, and how ideological, traditional, and historical events influenced women’s understanding of their role in family and society. More importantly, it reveals some interesting questions about a theme of isolation among many Irish families, practically, households with unmarried women and/or single mothers.

As a composer, my role is to take the script both conceptually and emotionally and translate that into music. The idea was to abstract the language barrier away from the viewer’s mind transcending the Irish context of the play to represent something more universal. The music score should always express the character’s performance on the stage transforming the rhythm of play both visually and spiritually based on each individual scene in the play. Behind the scenes, the music would contribute to all intended objectives of the play, either those which were set originally by Beckett himself when he wrote the play, or set by the director and his vision of the text. Ultimately, both music, and performance on the stage should interweave perfectly together to enhance audience’s experience.

 

 

PERFORMANCE PIECE(S)

In addition to the main play Footfalls, which i am proposing the soundtrack for, i have also referenced a couple other plays from the Irish theater to explore more about Ireland in terms of cultural and historical context throughout the last century:
Footfalls — Samuel Beckett
Cathleen ni Houlihan — W.B. Yeats & Lady Gregory
Dancing at Lughnasa — Brian Friel

 

One thought on “FOOTFALLS – LIVING IN THE PAST

  1. Liam Sapon

    Firstly I want to say that you’ve done an excellent job on your abstract, as well as adding a catchy title. Your description of the play itself, as well as the music behind it was fascinating. On a similar note (pun most definitely intended), for my COR330 class I analyzed an audio clip in somewhat of a similar fashion. You talk about having music cross language barriers. In my piece I analyzed spoken and sung words in Arabic without translation. I had to use my knowledge of music as well as context clues to come to my conclusions about the audio. I think we both found that the nuances in the music were really what carried the most information, regardless of the purpose or placement of the music.

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