The Birth of a Sci-Fi Rock Opera
Catherine Asaro had an epiphany about a third of the way into writing her book, Diamond Star: “Duh. It’s about a rock singer; I need rock songs.”
So began what has become a multi-media fusion of music and storytelling that best-selling, Nebula Award-winning science fiction author Asaro has performed in the United States and abroad. Based on her book Diamond Star, the project encompasses the book, a music soundtrack, and a rock opera. She and her ensemble will showcase songs and passages from the project at the Capital Fringe Festival this July.
Catherine and I talked about her motivations for the Diamond Star soundtrack. “I’m an author, so I wrote lyrics first for the main character’s songs,” she says. “The words offer insight into his character and history. He’s a rock singer in the future, the younger son of interstellar royalty who would rather sing rock songs than sit on a throne. The story not only follows his rise from an unknown singer to fame, but it is set within the larger backdrop of the politics and intrigue swirling around this young man—until he sings the song that could start an interstellar war.
“I enjoyed writing the lyrics, but I struggled because I didn’t know how they would fit with music. Song lyrics aren’t really the same as poetry, although they have a lot in common. So I wrote some music, too. It was fun, but I felt out at sea, not sure how to make the music I was writing on my computer into a full song. I needed musicians to give life to those pieces. Originally I worked with Point Valid, a Baltimore rock band fronted by Hayim Ani. He wrote some of the music on the CD, I wrote some, and we collaborated on many of the pieces.”
Concept projects such as Diamond Star often display a unified musical style or motif that repeats throughout. But The Diamond Star Project is more eclectic than most, in part because Catherine’s books appeal to such a diverse audience. “My readership,” Asaro explains, “ranges from teens to retired engineers, with just about every demographic in between, both male and female.” One challenge in presenting Diamond Star came in combining the power of rock music with the more lyrical elements of other songs on the CD. “We’d like the audience to feel the emotion of the music during the performance,” she notes. “But they don’t need the acoustic weight of a ninety pound amplifier metaphorically landing in their laps.” As a result, the soundtrack achieves a striking balance of lyrical and driving forces, including its spectacular finish, “The Carnelians Finale,” which has outsold every other song of the CD by more than three to one.
As a former professional jazz and ballet dancer, Catherine is having fun as she adds movement to the songs. At the Fringe Festival, she will showcase at least one and possibly more dance sequences with the musical scenes. Her Fringe show will also offer a vocal world premiere, the first live public performance of the song “Deep Snows” from the soundtrack to her next book.
After Point Valid finished Diamond Star, the band dispersed as its members scattered across the world to attend college. Catherine is currently working with jazz and rock musicians in the DC and Baltimore area to build Diamond Star into a full rock opera. She will be joined at the Fringe Festival by guest artists Carolyn Powers and Seth Polansky from the band blindtillnow, Daniel Lu from the jazz group Capital City Voices, and band members Greg Adams (piano and band leader), Darrell Dunning (drummer), Lloyd Moore (lead guitar), Mitch Marcus (rhythm guitar), and Alex Weber (bass).
Excitement is building for their performances at the Warehouse Theatre – 645 New York Ave NW, Washington, DC.
Purchase tickets here by clicking on the following performances:
This production is presented as part of the 7th Annual Capital Fringe Festival – July 12-29, 2012. A program of the Washington DC nonprofit Capital Fringe.
Catherine Asaro’s website.
Catherine Asaro on facebook.