Monday, October 6, 2014

CORALINE: The Creators

Stephin Merritt (composer, lyricist) is the principal singer and songwriter for the American indie pop group The Magnetic Fields. Among his other compositions is a song for the film Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. He produced the score for the silent film version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea performed at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco in 2010.

 For Coraline, Merritt specifies ways in which one of the pianos is altered, or “prepared” (the word John Cage used when he invented this technique.) The modifications involve placing various devices—including screws, rubber erasers, playing cards, pipe cleaners and sleigh bells—between the strings to change the pitch and timbre when the corresponding piano key is struck.

 The effect, according to Merritt, is to make each key sound like a small percussion instrument. “Like Gaiman’s book, Merritt’s instrumentation draws on both the everyday and the otherworldly,” writes the Village Voice. “The auditory result is uncanny, lending even the simplest tune the feeling of an eldritch [weird and sinister] lullaby.”

David Greenspan (book for the musical) is an award-winning downtown New York actor and playwright who Tony Kushner called “probably all-round the most talented theatre artist of my generation.”

 “My first experience of the theater was as a listener.” he told the New York Times, describing a childhood of listening to his father’s home recordings of Broadway musicals off the radio, and imagining what the plays were about and what they looked like only from the songs.

Greenspan often performs in his own plays, including the original production of Coraline, in which he played Other Mother.

Neil Gaiman (book author) is a British writer (now living in the US) who works in many styles and media. He first became famous with his comic series Sandman and while he continued to write comics he also published novels and short stories, wrote for theatre, radio, movies and television, including episodes of Doctor Who. He's a presence on the Internet, including a long-running blog.

  Even his works within a single form are either genre-breaking, genre-making or genre-defying. He described his novel Anansi Boys as “magical-horror-thriller-ghost-romantic-comedy-family-epic.”

 He’s written picture books for children as well as children’s novels such as Coraline. “Prolific” seems a modest description of his output.

 For all its contemporary edginess and fairy tale horror, Neil Gaiman’s Coraline falls easily within the specifically British tradition of children’s stories. Its situation recalls Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass and even C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, but as the story of an adventurous child in a seemingly ordinary middle class house and family, it harks back to E. Nesbit in the late 19th century, and such contemporary variations as Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.

 With its magic stone and helpful figures, it has strong roots in folk tales and hero myths. Coraline combines the grimness of the Brothers Grimm and their undiluted tales with the upbeat imagination and humor of one of Gaiman’s own heroes, Douglas Adams.

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