musician - teacher

Music

Moonstruck - a wild concert series

Spring - Summer 2019

I coordinate this unique concert series, with the help of a super-talented creative team. Every full moon we present music, poetry, and art in the urban wilderness of the East Bay. All of our concerts explore what it means to call this place home.

For the first concert, I composed and performed an original song cycle based on the geologic history of the Bay Area, featuring a dozen musicians, drummers, and singers.

The next concert is August 16th. Get the map at moonstruck.community

 
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Time Sensitive

April + May 2019

An original play, produced by Ragged Wing. As a core ensemble member, I contributed song arrangements and quadraphonic sound design, immersing the audience in a half-mythic world where the city rages and time bends upon itself.

The play combines clockwork choreography, rhythmic fugue and melting ice into a fantastical tale that urgently asks: How do we hold a moment if we constantly crave the next big thing?

Learn more and buy tickets here!

 

Sita’s Gift

March 2019

A world premiere musical play, written for 11 - 14 year old students at Prospect Sierra Middle School. The script was written by Amy Sass and Akaina Ghosh, with myself assistant directing and contributing original music. The two songs I contributed, “Bad Follows Bad” and “The Cost of Friendship”, each featured 20+ kids singing and playing instruments. Such fun! I also composed and conducted live underscoring.

 

A tunnel concert

December 2018

An entirely improvised concert, performed in a darkly reverberant tunnel for an adventurous Berkeley audience. Avant-jazz meets ambient electronics. Daniel Goldberg on tenor saxophone.

 

New folk songs

December 2018

A major project for 2019 is to write a suite of original songs, with pared-back instrumentation and a focus on lyric and voice. Here I’m accompanied with Tom Edmonson (voice, sruti box) and Aziz Yehia (percussion) performed at a Stoop House concert.

USF Dance Ensemble

November 2018

A new work by Eric Garcia of Detour Dance

Music composed by Jaren Feeley

Performed @ University of San Francisco

Uncle Vanya

Sep + Oct 2018 @ Cutting Ball Theater

Original music arrangements and sound design

Imagine that Uncle Vanya took place in a humid dreamworld, underscored throughout by drones, wildlife ambience, and a 1970’s Cuban dance band. This was the challenge set for me by our director, Paige Rodgers. The final product had nearly 200 sound/music cues, and incorporated the most underscoring and sound design I had ever created for a play.

The thing that excited me most was the potential of the Cuban dance ensemble, which contains three string players, a flutist, a bassist, and a gaggle of percussionists. We opened the play with a big Cuban dance number, which estbalished this interesting sonic blend of classical and African style instrumentation. As the play developed, I was able to write underscoring with strings and flute, and then smoothly pivot to shakers, claves, and congas–without it feeling incongruous.

This production taught me an immense amount about sound design. I had already sound designed many plays before, but never had I been asked to create so much sonic underscoring, and to focus so much on texture and atmosphere. Writing music for the production was a big undertaking, but creating the sonic atmosphere the underscored dialogue was ultimately much more challenging. I’m grateful to have had a supportive and inspirational design team, and for the incredibly patient and kind mentorship of local sound design legend Matt Stines

Living Love

September 2018

A mysterious event hosted in Berkeley once a year

For this annual event, I contributed original music and new arrangements of traditional pieces. The piece I’m permitted to share here contains samples from recordings made in the 1970’s at the Living Love Center.

Resonance, MT

Surviving through the unspeakable

In August 2018, Dara Silverman and I traveled to the Pacific Northwest to begin an artist’s residency at the Lookout Arts Quarry. We were writing an original musical, based off of the work we did in 2017 with the Agile Rascal Bicycle Touring Theatre.

Set in the small mining town of Resonance, MT—our musical follows the plight of a town that depends on harvesting “resonance” from the earth – the raw material that’s used to make sound. The people of Resonance are proud and profuse with their resource, which gives them language, poetry and music, but is also used thoughtlessly and wastefully. When an accident at the mine forces the town’s people to reckon with their dwindling resources, Junior, an opinionated 7 and ¾ year old, and Gordon, their mysteriously mute best friend, decide to save the day.

Music by Jaren Feeley

Lyrics by Jaren Feeley & Dara Silverman

Book by Dara Silverman

I Am Bach

A sacred rave.

Set in Oakland in 2018, this rave-opera follows the pitiful plight of JS Bach, a down-and-out music producer who is known in the warehouse scene for his eccentric wigs and wild performances. Disillusioned by his lack of success and the pervasive feeling that he doesn’t belong, Bach’s only source of meaning is a mysterious midnight party, at a venue known as “The Church”.

Music by Jaren Feeley

Libretto by Baylor Obadashian

 

Good. Better. Best. Bested.

June 2018 - A world premiere @ Custom Made Theatre

Sound design and original music by Jaren Feeley.

"GOOD. BETTER. BEST. BESTED. is a one-night journey down the Las Vegas strip, an interwoven story of bachelorettes, magicians, street performers, addicts, tourists and historical soldiers. As the nighttime festivities get under way, a nuclear war erupts between India and Pakistan. In the midst of this unprecedented tragedy and the chaos it unleashes, the characters must reckon with how much they will let it disturb the vacation weekend they had planned."

"a hilarious, hyper-real cacophony" - SF Examiner

"Noteworthy sound design by Jaren Feeley adds much to the overall production quality, with the well-timed entrances of voices swelling in the background and cellphone sound effects so realistic that members of the audience were seen reaching to check their own devices." - Aisle Seat Review

"crecendos as beautifully as its title [...] hysteria on a luxurious golden platter" - Berkeleyside

"The sounds of the bustling Vegas environment flood in waves via the design of Jaren Feeley" - Theatre Eddys

Far Away / Brainpeople

April 2018 @ A.C.T.'s Costume Shop

Two surreal plays, one night.

This project had me creating original music and sound design for two plays through A.C.T.'s Fellowship Program, both of which imaged dystopian futures. Far Away imaged a world on the brink of war–a world in which everyone and everything was suspect, even the birds in the sky and the wind in the trees. I carefully blended nature sounds to create a whiff of danger in the air, and imagined how the factories and civic places of a totalitarian state might sound.

This is music created for the theatrical production of "Far Away" at the A.C.T. Costume Shop in San Francisco. The music and projection is meant to accompany live choreography, during which prisoners are marched to a death camp while wearing ridiculous hats.

Our director for Far Away, Nora Zahn, wanted me to create bespoke "propaganda music" for a military parade scene. We both studied old USSR military parade videos, and I figured out which musical elements might work in our scene: the triumphant trumpets, the crackle of snare drums, the descending string motifs that reek of empire. I then chopped up some of the sonic motifs from these videos, combined it with my original orchestrations... and then added trap beats. Because let's be real: the composers of our dystopian future will almost certainly be commanding crowds from behind an MPC.

For Brainpeople, director Nailah Harper-Malveaux asked that I create a Latin-noir atmosphere. The play is set in a penthouse in near-future Los Angeles, where a Puerto Rican heiress is throwing a mysterious dinner party. The play opens with the sounds of five matches being lit one-by-one, with each phosphorous sizzle briefly illuminating a tableaux onstage. The whole play took place around a dinner table, so there was much room for the sound design to transport the audience during various dream sequences: to various evocative Pueto Rican locales, and inside the schizophrenic mind of a character who has been mentally broken by the hellish conditions of the near future.

A Different Long Stretch of Earth

April 2018 - A world premiere from Ragged Wing.

Original songs, music, and sound design by Jaren Feeley.

Read about how it was made: “How to Soundtrack a Western”

"The American cowboy. Hero or villain? Casanova or colonizer? Either way, his myth rides on. And in this rural Montana town, everyone must reckon with his long, stooped shadow. But Brucie has other plans. The resident 13-year-old with an appetite for apocalypse is throwing a birthday party. The theme: Doomsday. Be there...or else."

This production was the most time-intensive I've ever worked on, as I was called upon to fully embrace the roles of songwriter, music director, composer, and sound designer. Director Amy Sass and playwright Addie Ulrey entrusted me with adding original songs and substantial underscoring to the production, so beginning in January 2018 I began sending in demos of songs and instrumental pieces with a rural-doomsday vibe. After trying many options, we settled on three songs: a simple folk-pastoral, a sad country waltz, and a rockabilly barroom brawl. Addie and I co-wrote the lyrics, and then I began teaching the songs–which included intricate harmony parts–to our talented ensemble of eight.

Composing for doomsday

As the songs shaped up, I began composing the underscoring. This play was a composer's dream: we needed extended pieces of music to accompany video projections, scenes which relied heavily on physical theatre, and a surreal dream sequence. The instrumental palette blended dark chamber orchestration (bass and contra-bass clarinets, flutes, violins) with bright country music instrumentation (banjo, whistle, lap steel string guitar, saloon piano, tambourine, acoustic guitar, drums). I wrote and recorded a large surplus of music – near the end of the process I noticed that I had produced over 100 .wav files of music, of which we used only about 8. A couple of my more grandiose pieces were unceremoniously (and quite rightly) cut by our director, who suggested I save them for a big budget Hollywood film. I'm still waiting on that call!

Berkeleyside praised "the sonorous sound effect of herds of bison rumbling across the prairie."

"The ensemble sings and performs choreographed movement to Jaren Feeley's original score, with skill and verve" - Theatrius

Agile Rascal Bicycle Touring Theatre

May - August 2017 @ the state of Montana

Just after sunset on May 24th, 2017, I rolled up to the Oakland Amtrak station on an unusually long bicycle. Attached to the bicycle: a 73-key synthesizer, banjo, 1,000 watt amplifier, bicycle-powered generator, tent and sleeping bag. Under my arm: a guidebook for identifying distant storms and dangerous animals. In my hand: a one way ticket to Montana.

I was headed to Great Falls, where I had a rendezvous with seven other individuals–writers, actors, musicians, and designers from different corners of the country. I'd be serving as composer and musical director for a one-of-a-kind performance project. For the next 7 weeks we'd be creating a new piece of theatre from scratch. Once we had a working production, we’d spend the rest of the summer traveling across Montana–through vast prairies and over steep mountain passes–to perform for audiences in towns large and small. The kicker: the whole journey was to be done on bicycle. This would give our journey a human pace, and open us up to conversations and new perspectives as we made our way across the state, one pedal at a time.

Video and performance music composed by Jaren Feeley

photo by Rion Sanders / Great Falls Tribune

photo by Rion Sanders / Great Falls Tribune

Composing for a bicycle-touring theatre troupe

This was too much fun. Since we were bicycling, we weren't able to bring a ton of instruments and noise-makers, so every little drumstick and bucket was used to maximum effect. Wanting to travel light, we also made a lot of music with our voices. Half the folks on the team had little or no singing background, so there was a lot of rehearsal. Even when we were on the road, we'd rehearse almost every day–either at a truck stop or a in some remote campground. To compliment the rough-and-tumble acoustic instruments we were using, I lobbied the group to incorporate electronic music in the production. However, it became clear that we wouldn't have electricity available at most of our shows. The solution? A bicycle powered generator! We pedal powered our way through a few bass-heavy tracks. The incomparable Kean Haunt would play live saxophone over many tracks, giving many tracks a delicious retro-futurism.

Selected Press: Last Best News / Billings Gazette

The project continues at agilerascaltheatre.com

Let the Wild Ones Run

December 2016

The story of two boys who fell in love at a sexual conversion camp.

Produced by the award-winning team of Meritocracy, Let the Wild Ones Run follows sexually confused and curious teenagers after they're sent to Camp Galilee, a fundamentalist Christian summer camp, to ‘pray the gay away’. There, the campers form friendships and relationships despite the claustrophobic and often truly baffling environment. Desperately torn between being true to their faith or true to themselves, the campers find no clear path ahead of them.  After all, what’s one lifetime in the face of eternity everlasting?

Composing for summer camp

For this production I wanted to put the audience in the southern countryside. Balmy nights with soft cricket chirps, gurgling streams with trees whooshing overhead, the sound of far off cars passing on the interstate. Also the sounds of summer camp: acoustic guitars being strummed and tapped, folksy children's choirs, the fuzz of a walkie-talkie conversation, and late-night sing-a-longs around the campfire.

After the intro music (which aimed to evoke a religious backdrop for the narrative), I wanted each piece of interlude music to evoke the location the audience was moving into, such that each place got it's own theme music. For example, every time we moved to the Cabins set, there would play a slow folksy guitar melody, while the Camp Director's Office got a propulsive piece that drove the tensions and story forward. Each set-piece develops over the course of the play in hand with the narrative action. Throughout the play, the themes would re-appear in different ways. For example, the Cabin theme, which played before scenes in which the teenage characters displayed vulnerability and openness with each other, later appeared as underscoring during a suicide at the end of Act 1. Sometimes the narrative needed some comic relief. For this, I suggested the audience "overhear" the walkie-talkie conversations of two young camp councilors, which played during scene transitions. The audience loved these characters, and seemed to enjoy the joke interludes...

The directors wanted to add a song they loved, "There is a Dark Place", which was to play as the final scene ended. In to introduce this piece in a way that felt natural to the sound-world of hte production, I did a simple remix of the song, having our camp choir hum a high pedal tone that slowly merged into the opening harmonies of the song. In the end this production required 32 pieces of music and sound, which were used for for interludes, underscoring, effects, and atmosphere.

Composed, recorded, and produced by Jaren Feeley.

The Tempest

November 2016

Caliban as played by Florence Kimberly

Caliban as played by Florence Kimberly

In September 2016 I was approached by director and longtime collaborator Sara Malik about doing a radical production of Shakespeare's final play, The Tempest.

The play begins with a shipwreck on a mysterious island--secretly orchestrated by the powerful Prospero. When the play begins, we find Prospero--himself a marooned Italian nobleman--in full control of the island's inhabitants, whose pleas for freedom are scornfully ignored. Throughout the play, Shakespeare represents the psychology of power and oppression with great nuance, making this play a rich vehicle for explorations of colonialism.

Sara wanted to dive deeper into the worldview of enslaved characters like Caliban and Ariel, but without substantially rewriting the script. I suggested that we seek out young London performance-poets, and challenge them to respond to Shakespeare's action through original poetry. Sara was game--and so we spent 3 weeks scouring London's poetry scene for performers, and then 6 weeks in intensive rehearsals.

Maya Sourie, poet and SLAMbassador champ.

Maya Sourie, poet and SLAMbassador champ.

Composing for live musicians + poets + actors

A score that incorporates the flow of the script

A score that incorporates the flow of the script

Blending together three creative teams for The Tempest was a tremendous creative and logistical challenge. The actors at least had the assurance of a script, and began working together in early October. After a long search and many auditions, our four very-talented poets arrived in November, with 6 weeks to create their characters and their lines. I began working with live musicians around the same time, testing compositions out on a marimba, cello, and small choir.

It was not easy getting the actors, poets, and musicians together in the same room--this was an unpaid production, and many team members (myself included) were working other productions simultaneously. When we did get everyone together, we quickly had to figure out how to most efficiently use our time. We aimed to give a lot of creative agency to our poets, so they could respond to the representations of oppression from a personal place--and so we were challenged to balance a sense of creative openness with the need to make steady progress in every rehearsal. We were also challenged to start from scratch when a few important cast members drop out of the production at a late stage because of the intense rehearsal schedule.

Through the challenges, we discovered a few things that helped make the production a success. The director was indefatigable. Late at night, when rehearsals ended, we convened and talked about what we learned, and prepared new techniques and processes for the next rehearsals. We began to do intensive work-shopping with the poets, musicians, and actors in separate groups before bringing everyone together. And the actors and the poets naturally pushed each other and gained one anther's respect. It was magic: the poets would shyly introduce a new piece to the actors, and then the actors in return would perform their scene with a new intensity. Then poets would bring back an ever greater ferocity to their lines! It was a truly creative environment, and respect was earned.

The skills of the musicians were also essential. They met with the poets and the actors with less than a week before the final performance, and in that first group rehearsal I discovered that many of my interlude compositions and underscoring needed to be seriously reconsidered. That final week we basically composed on the fly together--the musicians often improvising off of my suggestions and the sketches I brought them. These collaborative pieces were some of our finest, as the musicians all opened their ears to each other and to the actors, and like a jazz ensemble we had a nimbleness when the performance night came.

Composed and live conducted by Jaren Feeley.

Vocals: Katie Edward, Carys Hughes, Connie Stride and Jaren Feeley // Cello: Harvey Gibbons // Marimba: Matthew Law and Christia Lau

The Seagull

October 2016

“The King’s Players’ production of Chekhov’s classic play ‘The Seagull’ is about to begin... We hear a melody on strings, wavering and overlapping with something darker and warped. It sets the tone for the rest of the production’s design. All is subtle and slightly distorted.”

— Roar News

Composing for Chekhov

The Seagull was a challenging play to write music for. Chekhov's characters posses nuance and complex humanity, and among the large cast of The Seagull there are always reactions and transformations occurring on multiple levels. The result is a kind of narrative fugue, that precludes any basic mood music (e.g. joyful, eerie, disappointed). Rather than create music to support the audience's emotional responses, I worked with our brilliant director Isabella Hubbard (of Edgar and Annabel) to create a humid atmospheric score for the audience, an atmosphere pregnant with romance, and yet with an undertow of foreboding...

Composed, recorded, and produced by Jaren Feeley.

Trumpet and cornet: Laura Wormington

The Crucible

May 2016

This classic production, staged at The Anatomy Museum @ King's College London by the King's Players, was given a twist by the addition of video projections and surround sound audio. The audio-visuals, layered over the choreography of the actors, drew connections between the hysteria of Salem and the prejudices and fears of today.

The music utilized extended techniques on Salem-era instruments such as the cello, viola, flute, and voice. Samples of wildlife were used to emphasize the nearness of wilderness in colonial America. Modern day instruments and sounds accompanied images of contemporary urban protests.

Composed, recorded, and produced by Jaren Feeley.

Vocals: Anna Rodriguez and Beth Mabin // Cello: Fred Moore // Viola: Dominika Rembowska // Flute: Michael Alampi

The Afterlife of Richard Dawkins

April 2016

Richard Dawkins awakens, disorientated and confused, to find himself conversing with Death in an office. What follows is Richard’s journey upward through the climbs of purgatory and heights of Heaven in this dystopian version of the afterlife, all to find God and give him a good telling off.

This original play, written by student Danny Shanahan, was performed at Tutu's @ King's College London, by the King's Players. The music for this production juxtaposed an angelic choir with the sounds of modernity, with video game sounds alluding to Dawkin's "leveling-up" the circles of heaven. The chilling final scene was set entirely to music.

Composed, recorded, and produced by Jaren Feeley.

Vocals by Anna Rodriguez and Jaren Feeley // Cello by Fred Moore

Meritocracy

March 2016

Performed at the London Student Drama Festival, where it received the awards for ‘Best Writing’ and ‘Best Direction of an Ensemble', and at Tutu's @ King's College London, by the King's Players. Meritocracy is a story about academia, and the pitfalls of intellectual hierarchy and ambition.

The collegiate setting is provided from the start by a musical mise-en-scene: percussion from printers, scribbling pencils, keyboards and staplers, texture from the sipping of tea, and the dignified use of strings.

Composed, recorded, and produced by Jaren Feeley.

Cello: Fred Moore // Viola: Dominika Rembowska

 

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Edgar and Annabel

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November 2015

A love story set in a dystopian surveillance state. Directed by Isabella Hubbard, and performed at Tutu's @ King's College London, by the King's Players. The music and sound design expressed the paranoia of the characters, and alluded to their surveillance through the use audio recordings taken from rehearsals. Moments of tension were aided by the use of two massive sub-woofers, which were normally used for club nights.

"I was also particularly impressed with the play’s sound design. Warped samples of dialogue and music are intertwined to remarkably impressive effect for a student production."

-Roar News

Composed, recorded, and produced by Jaren Feeley.