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‘Funnyland’: Randolph student, professor collaborating on song cycle

This story is part of an ongoing series featuring the work of faculty and students participating in Randolph’s Summer Research Program.

Aaron Scott ’24 is composing the score for his song cycle this summer with guidance from professor Emily Yap Chua. 

Randolph professor Emily Yap Chua and Aaron Scott ’24 are exploring the artistic process—in more ways than one—during Randolph’s Summer Research Program.

Scott, a creative writing major with a minor in music, is writing a seven-song cycle, titled Funnyland, which is based on how the artistic process can impact an artist’s relationships.

“The narrative follows a protagonist, who is the narrator, as he works as a standup comedian and falls in love with another performer, a singer in a band,” Scott said. “It’s about how the industry brings them together and also tears them apart, critiquing entertainment and how the fast-paced nature of the industry affects interpersonal relationships.”

Scott already wrote the lyrics for each of the project’s seven songs, which have titles like Comedy Isn’t Funny, Laughter, and What Good Is a Microphone. This summer, he is composing the score with guidance from Chua.

“I am helping Aaron manifest his vision,” said Chua, the Catherine Ehrman Thoresen ’23 and William E. Thoresen Professor of Music. “This is his project, and he’s the person creating the story and the content.”

Scott usually comes in with his latest drafts, and Chua then offers feedback.

“It’s not a directly linear process,” she said. “There’s a lot of going back and tweaking.”

The plan is to complete a full draft by week three, roughly halfway through the program, so they can send the songs to two composers Chua knows for feedback.

“They both write in really contemporary voices and are well-respected in crossing over opera, art song, and musical theatre,” she said. “I wanted him to get input from people who do this all the time, who think about how to set the text and construct a narrative from one song to the next. They are really good sounding boards for this.”

Once the feedback comes in, the tweaking will continue, culminating in a performance of the entire cycle with Scott on vocals and Chua on piano.

Songwriting has always been one of Scott’s interests, and having the time to explore it more deeply during the Summer Research Program, alongside Chua, has been invaluable.

“I’ve been writing songs since high school, but they were never as fleshed out because I wasn’t well-versed in piano or music theory,” he said. “That’s something I have become a little bit more skilled in since I came to Randolph and took classes with Dr. Chua. I probably wouldn’t be able to write seven songs in a semester. Now, because it’s the only thing I’m focusing on, it makes it so much easier.”

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