David Byrne: the Music

I decided pretty early on to use traditional instruments, because so much the CIVIL warS draws from historical characters and historical events. I decided to use instruments that could have been played at the time of the events which are portrayed. The instruments would not be too specific to a particular time and place. There are some parameters though, that I had to work within: the music had to be loud enough to drown out the noise of scene changes and had to be able to be performed on a platform. The performance had to be able to be set up and dismantled quickly. For example, it couldn’t involve heavy pianos coming off stage.

The Eight Camps by Nakamura Gyogan, 1926 The Eight Camps, a puppet play by Nakamura Gyogan, produced at the Bunraku-za from Masterpieces of Chikamatsu, Lonson, 1926

Some of the music for the Knee Plays was written independently from the action. Some of it, though, was written when we were working in Japan, in the workshop in April of 1983. I got to see a rough walkthrough of some of them, so I had an idea what might be happening. I had already talked with Bob, and I got to see little bits, so I wasn’t working completely blind. Five of them were fairly complete. The others were still in the concept stage. I was more or less on my own from there.