Creating a Western: The Music of Sandalwood

As we head into the final weekend of Sandalwood, we share some time with Maxwell J. Shults, the show's Composer and Sound Designer, and Tympanic company member, whose work for our little western has been praised as "an existential aural dream" (Chicago Theater Beat).
You can purchase Maxwell's soundtrack here! All proceeds go to Tympanic.
Tympanic Theatre: What in the writing of the play helped inspire the music?  
Maxwell J. Shults: I didn’t want to go with a traditional western soundtrack a la Ennio Morricone (whom I adore), but I still wanted to evoke the sparse and barren texture of the desert and the desolation often felt by those who inhabit it. The sound design is pretty realistic in terms of what you would actually hear in the spaces depicted in the play, but there are definitely elements that are of an enhanced reality, given the supernatural elements in the script.



TT: Can you speak a little bit about your process creating the soundscape?

MJS: The music used in the transitions is composed almost entirely of guitar textures (no keyboards whatsoever), which is one of my favorite things to do. I love making instruments sound unrecognizable, and I definitely got to do that here. I also got to do an insane freakout on my drum kit, which was extremely therapeutic.

I was finishing up my own album (which came out on April 1st and is available at ) while working on everything for the play, which is pretty drastically different. My personal music tends to be very dense, full of dark lyrics, and is usually pretty loud (but still pretty). The scores I do for theatre tend to be more sparse, but I still try to inject the same amount of emotional content.

TT: What do you enjoy about writing music for theatre?

MJS: I love writing music for theatre because it affords me the ability to do some VERY different things, but also to get more of my original music out there. There aren’t too many storefront theatre productions (to my knowledge) that have full, original scores behind them, so I think it’s really cool to be able to bring that element to the table, and help Tympanic stand out from the crowd.

TT: Are you a Western fan? Why or why not? Any favorite Westerns?

MJS: I like westerns, but I haven’t seen too many. I’d say I’m more a fan of the music. I also love western homages like (the original) Assault On Precinct 13.

TT: And lastly, why should people come see Sandalwood?

MJS: Mayhem, magic, & mouthfuls of peppers.
Sandalwood March 27-April 20 Thurs-Sun at the side project

Get tickets here!