Radiohead’s Thom Yorke Writes Moody Music For Broadway Play

Radiohead’s Thom Yorke has written original music for the upcoming Broadway revival of the play “Old Times” by Harold Pinter, in what its director calls the combination of “a beautiful piece of theater and a true rock star.”

Director Douglas Hodge, who won a Tony Award as a drag queen in the 2010 revival of “La Cage aux Folles,” said Wednesday that Yorke has contributed shards of keyboard-based instrumental music for the beginning and ending of the 90-minute piece, as well as scene transitions.

Photo: AP Photo
Optimus Alive! Festival, Passeio Maritimo De Alges, Lisbon, Portugal

“The play is a very poetic, free-flowing piece and it needs help in explaining and I think sometime the way music fugues and goes back in on itself – the way Thom writes – almost elucidates some of those themes in the play. It just seemed a perfect fit,” Hodge said.

The play about love and memory will be produced by the Roundabout Theatre Company and star Clive Owen, Eve Best and Kelly Reilly. Previews begin Sept. 17 at the American Airlines Theatre.

In “Old Times,” a married couple welcomes the wife’s old friend for a visit, which kicks up old memories, verbal games and classic Pinter amounts of menace. It’s a love triangle about sex, love, jealousy and memory.

“People who love Radiohead might come and get turned on to Pinter. You’ve got two great geniuses there talking to each other about similar themes,” said Hodge. “If I get just a few more people in the theater who wouldn’t have possibly turned their head to that kind of writing before, it will be a real success.”

Hodge reached out and coaxed Yorke to the project as a huge fan. Yorke fell in love with the play and the two emailed, with the director explaining what kind of music he was anticipating and the musician sending “thrilling” compositions.

Because the play is set in 1971, Yorke recorded on synthesizers from 1971 and some of the passages of music are inverted, looped and played backward. Though there is no singing or lyrics, there are shards of songs featuring Yorke’s falsetto. Hodge must now match the pieces of music to his staging.

Yorke follows other prominent musicians to write for Broadway plays, including Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmanlij (“This Is Our Youth”), Branford Marsalis (“The Mountaintop”), Terence Blanchard (“A Streetcar Named Desire”), and Alicia Keys (“Stick Fly”).

Yorke has cemented his place in rock’s pantheon as an inventive progressive with such albums as Pablo Honey, The Bends, OK Computer, Kid A and Amnesiac. He’s also formed the band Atoms For Peace.