We recently caught up with Portland composer Kenji Bunch, who wrote the music for Eugene Ballet Company’s new production of The Snow Queen opening at the Hult Center this weekend. It’s not every day someone composes a brand-spankin’ new score, so we had a few questions for Bunch.
When you’re composing for dance, what are the primary constraints?
The challenge of a project like this ballet is trying to tell a story wordlessly, with just movement and music. Opera and film music can rely on text, and purely instrumental concert music isn’t expected to deliver the same promise of a narrative required of a story ballet. So making sure every note is in some way serving that story is the unique objective I always had to keep in mind.
What’s exciting, and what’s challenging, about the collaborative process?
The exciting thing about this project was that Toni [Pimble, EBC artistic director] and I spent most of our time talking and thinking about something that didn’t exist yet. That could seem an unusual activity for many people, and it takes a special kind of creative person to collaborate in that way, to share that trust in seeing a vision become reality. I really enjoyed trying to find the right sounds for Toni’s visions of movement on stage, and I’m really proud of what we were able to do together.
What inspired you in creating this work?
With this work it was important to stay focused on the original source (Hans Christian Andersen’s tale) and on Toni’s ideas for the sequence of events. To find the right orchestral approach, I really drew inspiration from the great masters of symphonic ballet scores, Prokofiev, Ravel and Tchaikovsky among them.