Composer Spotlight: Ben Cleaveland


Ilana Lydia’s family friendly fairy tale, “Rumplestiltskin’s Fire” opens this week at the Brelby Studio. Collaborative artist, April Rideout, set out to ask frequent Brelby collaborator, Ben Cleaveland, some questions about the show and his role composing original music for the piece.

Which of the three tales that Rumplestliltskin tells the Hand Maiden are you able to relate to the most?

I feel able to relate to the second tale because at times I feel like each of my different desires and ideas are different unique things inside of me trying to sway me to do one thing or another. Plus just the idea of a whole bunch of guys trying to control a clumsy body frame is hilarious to me.

What has been your favorite part of the process composing for Rumplestliltskin’s Fire?

My favorite part is coming up with a musical idea and just toying around with it until it lends itself to more variations, harmonies and countermelodies. I almost feel like composing is just choosing which gears to crank, and once I set it in motion it all sort of writes itself. My whole musical philosophy is to avoid “forcing” things to work together, but just to let it all play out.

Which musical artists did you draw inspiration from in composing the music for this production?

For this particular production Danny Elfman, (who inspires me to make sweeping erie compositions) the talented members of Sigur Ros (they just express emotions so well in their music), and of course my musical idol John Cage (who inspires me to take risks and do my own thing).

Which instrument(s) do you use to capture the essence of this retelling of a fairytale classic?

The mandolin and glockenspiel. They pretty much are the sound of magic, so they fit very nicely into a fairy tale.

Describe the overall impression you want audiences to get from your compositions in Rumplestliltskin’s Fire.

I want the compositions to enhance the show, and the audience to be able to take away the messages presented in the story. My interpretation of the show as I was composing the score was this, “Don’t live your life assuming you are the most clever cookie in the jar.”


Be sure to catch “Rumplestiltskin’s Fire,” performing May 29-June 1st.

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