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Jessica Wing

Jessica Grace Wing was a founder and the resident composer for Inverse Theater. She died on July 19th, 2003 surrounded by friends and family and in the midst of doing what she loved most: composing. She wrote music for five of Inverse's plays, and for the past two years worked with Kirk Wood Bromley on Lost: The Musical. She completed the final composition several days before her death.

Chad Gracia, Executive Director of Inverse Theater Company conducted the interview. Jessica  filed her cyberspace interview Friday, July 18, 2003.

Lost:  The Musical begins performances on August 9, 2003 at the New York International Fringe Festival.

What was your first composition?

In San Francisco, I wrote a string trio called "Have Kabe Angst." I developed this piece at NYU in the summer of 1996 at a composer's seminar. I would call this my first significant work. At NYU, each composer had his/her composition played by a professional ensemble. For me, hearing my score brought to life by such talented players was one of the most thrilling experiences I'd had, and I was hooked. I realized then that this was my dream - to create a work for others to perform rather than to perform myself.

Lost is a retelling of Hansel and Gretel. Why did you choose to create a musical based on a fairy tale? Is there something in the story that resonates with you?

The idea of lost or abandoned children seems to resonate with my generation and subsequent ones as traditional family structures have eroded. The idea of innocence is lost.

Tell us about the musical style of Lost.

At the beginning of the process, I thought much about the musical style of Lost. I thought about pulling from opera, from traditional American folk music, from Southern religious music and other sources. Then when it came to the writing, I threw these ideas away and wrote what I felt best expressed what was in the text and the character's emotions. I think you can primarily hear a pastiche of romantic-era opera, art song, and bluegrass.

Your musical styles are so varied -- from Gregorian chanting to bluegrass to punk -- why is this?

An established genre provides you with a ready-made vocabulary, and many seminal musicians from whom to draw. For me, writing in a specific genre is fun, and has allowed me to gain a deeper understanding of that formula. This is a starting point, but the true challenge is to establish a style that I find truer to my own leanings. I judge the success of my works not by how close or far they are from a particular genre, but by how closely and powerfully they fulfill their function, whether that is to emphasize a work's emotional content, to build suspense, etc.

You've been composing music for Inverse Theater productions for nearly five years, what has that been like?

It has been great to have a steady outlet for my work. For a composer who loves to write, and hates to self-promote, it has been an ideal situation. Bromley and I have established a comfortable means of collaborating with each other since we both like to write in solitude, and give each other a lot of space in which to do so. I find his poetry consistently inspiring and challenging, whether I am writing a melody or a song or a general underscoring for a scene.

How did you come up with the melodies for the songs in Lost?

While sitting around, while sleeping, while on the subway, while staring off into space...

What is your favorite composition in Lost? Why?

My favorite song is "You are Wrong." It is still a little mysterious to me and i don't know if anybody else will like it. In this song, I pay less attention to having the song be beautiful and more attention to the character's inner state. I wrote the song based on the first line of an early draft of one of Bromley's poems. The melody wasn't set to the tempo of a piece of text but rather to a non-verbal, emotional rhythm, then Bromley wrote a new set of lyrics to match the song. As it turned out, the words are brilliant.

What effect, if any, has your experience of being sick had on the music and/or story of Lost?

Being ill takes a lot of time, between paperwork, phone calls, doctors visits, and just feeling badly. Then again, having a job takes a lot of time, too. Aside from the inconvenience, I've tried to avoid getting too mixed up in the obvious parallels one could make between the story of Lost and the facts of my illness.

Last update: 26 July, 2003




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