The Nashville Ballet and ALIAS Tell the Story of Macbeth Through Kenji Bunch’s Music

A choreographer with a deep affinity for music, Nashville Ballet’s CEO and Artistic Director Paul Vasterling has created more than 40 works, ranging from classical, full-length story ballets to more contemporary one-acts set to the music of local artists. Now he’s joined forces with ALIAS to use Kenji Bunch’s music to tell the story of Macbeth. Vasterling recently spoke to ALIAS Exposed about this exciting collaboration.

Q: Tell us about the upcoming ALIAS/Nashville Ballet collaboration and what the audience can expect from the Macbeth performances?

Paul: We are SO happy to again be working with the wonderful artists of ALIAS. This all started when I heard them play “Drift” by Kenji Bunch, last year. I started to get interested in his music and as I got further in Zeneba, Matt and I decided it would work to collaborate once again, using an arrangement of Kenji’s music for the score of Macbeth. So ALIAS will be providing the music for this production. I’m hoping to bring another level to the story of Macbeth, that is, dance and music can bring a whole other level of feeling to the work beyond what is expressed in the play. So it’s really not the play, because if I was going to try to literally reproduce that, then one may as well go see the play. I want to expand on the themes of power and betrayal.

Q: Are there any musical parts or instruments that specifically relate to the characters in Macbeth?

Paul: Not exactly. It’s piano with strings only, so the instrumental themes will represent different characters at different times. Although the choreography is not started yet, I imagine the instruments and their specific voices will end representing different emotions over a range of characters, but that said, Lady Macbeth’s big sections are important solos for the violinist. One of these pieces is called “Sarabande” and it is only a solo for violin. Lady Macbeth is an amazingly rich character—she’s, sexy, ambitious, blood thirsty and eventually really crazy! And all of that will be represented in the violin!

Q: What is the most challenging part about putting something like this together?

Paul: Right now, I’d say arranging the score, as I had to find existing pieces by Kenji and edit them together to form a whole that feels like it works and is at least somewhat cohesive with the story of Macbeth. Later, when I really get into it in the studio (which happens much closer to performance time than people would expect—six weeks out), I think I will feel that the making of the movements and connecting them together with be more challenging. It is definitely a layering process, so my challenges are spread over time…

Q: What was it like working with the ALIAS musicians?

Paul: The musicians of ALIAS are fantastic—open and curious about what we are doing and very willing to take part in something that is different from their everyday performing. They’re also top notch artists. My favorite perk of working with them is that I get to go to rehearsals and sit right next to them while they work on the music for the ballets. In those moments, when the music is washing over me, and I can literally feel it, they’re rock stars to me!

May 16-18, 2013
The Martin Center for Nashville Ballet
Visit Nashville Ballet for ticket information.