Our American Mavericks: Break the Rules series by Columbia University's Music Humanities students continues with Kellie Gergoudis's Moonlight Montage—a mash-up of Beethoven, Moonstruck, and Romeo and Juliet.
Beethoven was a dynamic and talented composers whose pieces demonstrate a startling amount of depth and complexity. His 14th Piano Sonata possesses such a bittersweet, romantic, and mysterious tone that it has been dubbed the "Moonlight" Sonata and remains popular to this day. While listening to the sonata and contemplating which pieces might fit in well with it, I felt strongly that I wanted to connect all the pieces of my montage with a common theme—that of the moon and moonlight.
I wanted to use each piece to explore a different aspect and interpretation of the moon. Once I decided that my common thread and theme would be moonlight, my first instinct was to think of the movie Moonstruck, in particular the romantic scene between a man and his wife of 25 years. In this scene, the moon is a powerful aphrodisiac and reignites the love between the couple. Right after this scene, an old man also worships the moon with his dogs. Yet again, the moon is extremely powerful, but in this case it is the mysterious aspect of the moon that is highlighted. The man and his dogs feel an uncontrollable urge to howl at the moon.
Once I united the scene from Moonstruck and the "Moonlight" Sonata, I began to contemplate what the final piece of the puzzle would be. I realized that I wanted to highlight the bittersweet feelings that the moon can instill, and my first thought was to include a monologue from Act II, Scene 2, of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. In this scene, Romeo calls the moon "envious" and "sick and pale with grief," then proceeds to compliment Juliet's beauty and how much he wishes they could be together (Shakespeare, 2:2). The monologue epitomizes bittersweet love.
The thematic connections between the three different works were a strong motivator, but the works were also chosen for the way their sounds connected. The "Moonlight" Sonata has a very steady melody and provides an excellent base. The scene from Moonstruck is extremely slow and sporadic. Halfway through when the scene changes, the old man begins to speak in Italian, adding yet another dimension to the compilation. Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet is different because it is spoken in a completely different manner and is written in Old English. Finally, the grainy quality of the entire audio track is deliberate. The moon is a mysterious symbol, very complex and shrouded in obscurity. For this reason, my overall composition is also grainy and mysterious, with many different aspects that the listener can either strain to hear individually, or simply lay back and enjoy the overall effect.
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