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Explaining what the musical theater piece, "Ghost Quartet," is about is tricky. It's been described as "a song cycle about love, death and whiskey with a murderous sister, a tree house astronomer, a bear and the ghost of Thelonious Monk."
The piece was composed by Dave Malloy, who has won a slew of awards in recent years for his unusual off-Broadway hits. One of them was an electro-pop opera called “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812” based on Tolstoy’s "War and Peace," which will be coming to the American Repertory Theater in December.
"Ghost Quartet" is a deliberately ambiguous piece about life, death and ghosts. The story is told through a series of songs and a mix of musical styles, including rock, spirituals and jazz.
- "We talked a lot about how clear we wanted the plot to be. Ultimately we decided we weren’t as interested in the linear narrative as we were in the pure music, the emotions. So we deliberately lay out enough breadcrumbs: You can piece it together if you want to, but it’s not necessary to the experience."
- "Malloy first read 'War and Peace' six or seven years ago, while working as a pianist on a Celebrity Cruise to Bermuda. 'My girlfriend at the time was living in San Francisco,' he recalled. 'We thought, Wouldn’t it be fun to read a book at the same time?' As they read, they traded e-mails, using subject lines like 'I’m on page 371' to avoid spoilers. Stuck at sea, Malloy found solace in Pierre’s spiritual questing."
This segment aired on September 10, 2015.