9/7-9/24 | Forward Theater’s THE GARBOLOGISTS runs at the Overture Center for the Arts (Madison, WI) w/ Designer’s Notes on Original Score

Forward Theater Co. Presents:
Playhouse Theater at the Overture Center for the Arts
TICKETS + dates & info

by Lindsay Joelle
September 7-24, 2023

Wisconsin Premiere

Directed by Jen Uphoff Gray

Featuring Alys Dickerson and Danny Jones

Scenic Designer: Sarah Ross
Lighting Designer: Colin Gawronski
Costume Designer: Karen Brown-Larimore
Sound Designer/Composer: Brian Grimm
Props Master/Asst. Scenic Designer: Pam Miles
Technical Director: Tony Lyons
Stage Manager: Tenley Pitonzo
Asst. Stage Manager: Abbi Hess

~ If you see the show and stay for the Talkback, be sure to ask the actors about their ride-along with the Madison Sanitation Department!!

~ Also, be sure get to the show early to check out the visual art exhibit in the gallery area outside of the Playhouse Theater. It’s hosted by Arts + Lit Laboratory and comprises of art pieces made out of trash and recycling!

Some details on the show from Forward Theater:
This off-beat buddy comedy pairs essential workers from two different worlds in the shared cab of a New York City garbage truck. Danny’s a white, blue-collar mansplainer hiding a heart of gold. Marlowe’s a Black, Ivy League-educated newbie learning the ropes from her old-school partner. When they’re thrown together to pick up what the world has discarded, they discover there’s more that binds them than taking out the trash.

“A surprisingly humane and honest play that’s filled with as much laughter as it is drama…and reminds us that we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. We learn that if given a tattered, grimy old volume of text and illustrations, and you take the time to examine it carefully, its value can exceed your imagination.”
– Chicago Theatre Review

 ASL-Interpreted Performance: Saturday, Sept. 23 at 2pm – Reserve here for special pricing and unobstructed view of the interpreters.

 Audio Described Performance: Sunday, Sept. 24 at 2pm – Please email ssafarik@forwardtheater.com us to let us know you’re coming, so we can make sure you have the correct device and a great experience.

🤩 Playwright Lindsay Joelle to attend Wednesday, September 13th talkback!!

Notes on Sound Design and Original Score by Brian Grimm

** Please do not download these files, I’m streaming them here as a preview – if you want a copy of the album, wait for the official soundtrack to come out for purchase on GrimmusiK Records bandcamp. ** Thanks!!! ❤️ Brian

The Music is Trash…

That’s right! You heard me! You didn’t even have to hear it from a critic or local theater review – this is comin’ straight from the source! The original music in this production is entirely made from trash, garbage, and recycling that I recorded. It was an absolute blast to record all of these fascinating sounds to see what sort of grooves naturally presented themselves and then build music cues from there. These garbage grooves feature aluminum cans, milk cartons, yogurt containers, a broken margarita glass, cardboard boxes, paper and plastic cups, paper and plastic bags, velcro, olive oil and wine bottles, an old beat up carbon steel wok and more!

Stage Prop Sounds
I also had a very fun recording session at the Overture Center, where I recorded a bunch of the props that are featured as garbage on stage throughout the production. In the music, you’ll hear a ton of percussion created from a mannequin, cat crate, birdcage, campfire pot, bamboo steamer, suitcase, along with some plastic and metal fans that were in the dressing room!

Kalimba Theme
The one exception in this landscape of trash music is the kalimba thumb piano; which was a delightful Christmas gift from my parents this year! The kalimba theme that I recorded is tied to one character specifically and appears four times throughout the show. That’s all I’ll say to avoid any spoilers. But if you see the show, see if you can catch all of the times this theme appears!

Special Sound Design Moments from Trash
I utilized the trash, recycling and prop sounds a few times in the show that became a mix of sound design, field recording and musical elements. One example is a panic attack moment of anxiety that one of the characters suddenly finds themselves in. To heighten this uncomfortable feeling, I added a crescendo and accelerando of a heart beat sound, which was actually made by striking a cardboard box with my thumb (the sound turned out great!). The feeling grows as the city soundscape also crescendos, accompanied by unsettling birdcage sounds and a distorted and slowed down version of the kalimba theme in the background.

Another example is the lovely quiet Interlude that we get in the middle of the show. A winter storm comes rolling over New York City. To create the atmosphere of blowing winter wind between the buildings I blew on a wine bottle to get a few breathy pitches and I used the ringing sustained sound I got from the birdcage after I would strike it with one end down on the ground and one end up and slowly lower it all the way down as it rang out. It was one of the most fascinating sounds I captured. This is all set in the backdrop of actual sounds of snow falling. Eventually the truck starts moving and the city sounds take over again as we start the next scene and carry on with the play.

The way that the city sounds, and musical sounds interact are very similar to a piece I composed back in 2018 called “They’re Still Here”, a 30 minute long Musique Concrète élégie honoring loved ones who’d passed that year. This unique piece of music dealt with how we handle (or don’t handle) the grieving process our modern society – which actually ties back into one of the themes of this play.

Sound Design
Obviously, there are a lot of garbage truck sounds and city soundscapes throughout the play. It’s about a 50/50 mix of sounds that I recorded and sounds that I collected from archives elsewhere. I did spend an entire morning waiting in my driveway for the recycling and garbage trucks to come by so I could record them. One big mistake I made; I forgot to charge my field recorder the night before. So I had it plugged into the side of the garage to get some charge and then every time I heard a garbage truck making a turn down a nearby street in the neighborhood I quickly yanked my recorder out of the outlet and ran over to our fire hydrant (right next to the trash cans) and hurriedly whispered which take and what type of truck was coming by. Then tried to play it cool by hanging out with my dog in the front yard as Anne did some weeding in the garden. We would celebrate (silently) with big fist pumps everytime a big, loud, fun garbage truck sound was captured.

Similarly, the city street sounds & construction sounds were about a 50/50 mix of recorded and found. But in the bar scene, Anne and I went on an undercover field recording mission at a local bar! I won’t name the establishment, but I will say that for a 7pm on a Monday night, it was a lot more crowded and way more drunk than I anticipated…

One of the main issues we faced with all of the garbage truck sounds I recorded and collected is that they were the type of trash collection where the truck grabs the garbage can with an mechanical arm and dumps the trash into the hopper – whereas the NYC sanitation workers are manually loading bags into the hopper. This made it difficult to use the longer stretches of garbage trucks driving, because they all had frequent stops with mechanic arm and dumping/crushing sounds. It made for a lot of stitching, layering, and editing together individual pieces of many different sound clips to create the one fluid sound that you hear in the show from one garbage truck sound to the next.

A Nod to Inspirations from Recycled Music Makers Around the Globe

One of my starting points of inspiration for the music, knowing that it would be heavily percussive and utilizing trash was the famous percussion show on broadway called “Stomp!”. I thought of that vibe as a good launching off point. Something percussive, from NY, with a lot of energy that can move us forward from scene to scene. However, the true main inspiration for taking all of the trash and recycling and creating music exclusively from those items came from various ensembles around the world that have done just that. For instance the “Landfill Harmonic” in Cateura, Paraguay; which is a youth orchestra who built their instruments from trash in their local landfill. Making beautiful music from the ugly and discarded junk that finds its way to their home. In the play, the character Danny explains that you throw something away and it might be shipped to a landfill in India, etc, your discarded trash may see more of the world than you ever do in your whole life. And who knows how it affects the people where it ends up.

I had remembered this orchestra in the back of my head when we started this project and thought of them and how they use the trash of their landfill in such a positive way as a major point of inspiration. I also was thinking of the Eco-Afro-Futuristic punk ensemble Fulu Miziki @fulumusic (roughly translates to “music from garbage”) that I started following in recent years on instagram who also hand makes their instruments and performance outfits out of trash and recycling.

About the band:
Fulu Miziki is a collective of artists who comes straight from a future where humans have reconciled with mother earth and with themselves. This multidisciplinary collective of artists is based in the heart of the Congolese capital city Kinshasa and was founded by Pisko Crane. For several years now, it’s founder Pisko has spent an amount of time conceptualizing an orchestra made from objects found in the trash, constantly changing instruments, always in search of new sounds.

Making our own performance costumes, masks and instruments is essential to their approach of Fulu Miziki’s musical ideology. Their unique sound supports a pan-African message of artistic liberation, peace and a severe look at the ecological situation of the Democratic Republic of Congo and the whole world. For Fulu everything can be recovered and re-enchanted.

There’s also a singer who goes by Mc-Deive @mc.deive_ that I started following on instagram. I don’t know much about him other than he seems to sing about Brazil a lot and is maybe in Angola, Africa? Maybe someone can help me out here. All I know is that he sings super catchy songs while accompanying himself on an empty plastic water bottle with his camera man/hype man and that you should follow him!

As a follow up I’ll say that I wasn’t specifically trying to emulate the genre of music after any of these groups, it was purely the concept of trash music that I was taking as inspiration. All of the music genres I created for the show I let occur naturally. I let the trash tell me what grooves it wanted to play and went from there. There are some similarities to Fulu Miziki’s style, but that is more the nature of both projects exclusively using trash as it sounds, and being primarily percussive in nature – which will lead to some similarities. However, it was not my intention to copy their music style nor did I listen to them or any other groups when I was recording and composing this music.