The work, "Perhaps Bears" is out now! This is one of my favorite pieces, was on the show, "Brian KM Live!" and was my first collaboration with another artist. I worked with Claudia Minor Troyer to bring a voice to the piece. I wrote most of the music at the start, and then worked with her to add music, edit the language, and eventual add her voice acting performance to the work. I am so proud of the result, and I want you all to have an opportunity to hear from more than just me, especially with this piece, so I asked Claudia to answer a few questions about her role in the piece.
Claudia Minor Troyer is a Brooklyn-based actor, writer, and musician with a passion for exploring the magic of collaborative storytelling. Raised by the Blue Ridge Mountains and forged in the fires of NYC, Claudia takes inspiration from both environments and feels equally at home in the depths of the wilderness and the heart of the city. Other interests include bikepacking, climbing things, archaic poetic forms, and raucous folk jams.
Want to hear the piece? Click on the player below, or search for Brian KM on Spotify/Apple Music.
Can you describe the main character in “Perhaps Bears”? Who is she, where is she, and who is she talking to?
She's a young woman, about nineteen or so, who has recently begun going on longer and longer solo backpacking trips. She revels in the inspiration and self-confidence she gains from these excursions, though she's still pretty new to hiking and camping alone and sometimes gets anxious, especially at night.
I imagine her having this conversation in her mind as she's driving or riding the train back from the trailhead. You know the way we mentally rehearse the stories we're excited to share with others, particularly stories about experiences we had while totally alone? We often write these stories in our brains, half in images, half in elevated, flowery language that's a good deal more formal and poetic than our regular way of speaking.
So she's imagining sharing her journey with the people she's close to--her best friend, her parents, maybe a sibling--but she's also talking to herself, reliving the experience of being out in the wilderness and drawing new conclusions about what it made her feel, what she learned and discovered out there.
When you are writing lines that you will eventually perform as an actress, do you have any special considerations? How does the writing (or acting) change?
I developed a habit while working on this project of reading every thought aloud immediately after typing it. A sentence that looks great on paper might sound ridiculous when spoken, and it's impossible to tell for sure without trying it!
There were definitely a number of rewrites based solely on how smoothly or stumblingly a particular phrase rolled off my tongue. I've used a similar process in the past when writing plays, but I think since I knew I was writing this script specifically to perform myself, I took a freer rein in ensuring the lines and the language flowed naturally for me.
How about working with music? Does writing become more difficult when attempting to pair it with music that has already been written?
I've never undertaken a project quite like this one before, and I think I did have trouble at first figuring out how to approach it. I'd sit down, press "play," listen to a few bars of music, and slowly realize I was trying to force myself to feel a particular way or imagine a particular scene. There was definitely a part of me that was like, "This wild, gripping auditory journey already gets its story across so effectively; what could my voice possibly add to it?"
So after a few attempts in that vein, I tried a completely different approach: I sat down and visualized the first solo backpacking trip I ever took, the first experience I had of being alone in a tent at night. I remembered how the sounds of the forest and my overactive imagination blended together into this phantasmagorical cocktail of possibilities both terrifying and exhilarating.
Once I had a pretty clear reconstruction of how that felt--the simultaneous wonder and trepidation that comes with being fully immersed in the wilderness while also feeling like a total intruder--I pressed "play" again, and the words just started flowing. Brian even ended up writing a whole new intro for the piece based on the opening lines of dialogue I came up with. It was such a delight to discover how the music and writing were able to inform and influence each other.
Do you have a favorite line?
My favorite line is "Bears have their own agendas." The resolution to the narrator's internal conflict (and the balm for her anxiety) is contained within that one realization, in just those five words, which I think is neat. Simplicity is underrated!
It also kinda makes me imagine the bears suddenly bustling around with briefcases and dapper hats, frowning down at their day planners while trying to decide if they have time for a coffee break before the next meeting.
Is there anything unasked that you’d like to say about this work?
This was such a unique, challenging, energizing, and rewarding project, and I'm thrilled to have been a part of it and with the way the piece turned out! Thanks for collaborating, Brian!