Music is universal and integral to our lives. It can transport us to a moment in time, amplify or suppress emotions, or even force us to reflect in the stillness. The creators of The Guest & The Host, Spencer Williams and Andrew Heringer, have incorporated their love of music into an intimate 90-minute immersive experience that anyone, even the not-so-musically-inclined, can enjoy and participate in. Haunting sat down with Williams and Heringer to discuss what makes The Guest & The Host: Make Music so special to the hosts of the experience, and to the guests that experience it.
A Beautiful Duet
Williams says he met Heringer 13 years ago and they’ve been a part of each other’s lives ever since. “I collaborated with Andrew on his band Milo Greene’s debut album. [Heringer] has done music for me for almost all of my major projects, from soundtracks made onset to every installment of my immersive series Walk the Night (now in its 5th installment).”
Heringer chimes in, “I was really inspired by the immersive theater experiences that I had taken part in. I loved the idea of an active audience. So Spencer and I started talking about what it would look like to guide someone through an immersive music experience.”
“This piece came naturally to us,” Williams continues, “from a desire to merge our crafts into what we both love about immersive theatre (interaction, journey, discovery, connection) with how we connect together with music (reflection, play, emotional expression). We wanted a piece without pretense, which built on the magic inherent in music, to deepen all of our relationships to music based on complete immersion.”
“The goal is always to have an experience accessible by anyone, with a range of choice, and an ability to meet the audience where they begin on their journey as they are, rather than forcing them into something without their consent. So allowing inclusivity for guests to connect with music in their own way – whether an inexperienced “non-musician” or a professional – by validation and interaction was the main thing I brought to the table. I wanted to thread that needle between passivity and activity, magic and play,” explains Williams.
The Orchestration of an Experience
Williams laughs that The Guest & The Host: Make Music pretty much is the title: “you, our guest, come to us, your hosts. We make music together. From that, we get a song.” He expands upon this concept, describing that it’s a process; “a recording experience that literally anyone can participate in. It’s funny, this piece is the simplest I’ve ever made on the surface, but it has a sort of infinite conjugation. Each session is as unique as the person in that time…”
The experience is made accessible to everyone, regardless of musical aptitude, by “merging psychology and the basic human journey, while letting go of the expectations for a professional. Not everyone knows recording, but everyone has a relationship with music. That relationship has existed their whole lives, and will always exist. Everyone relates to another human being they share a space with; and one they collaborate with. We built on that, from the ground up.”
Williams speaks of Heringer, “it has done amazing things in expanding his abilities as a producer – right down to incorporating the process we created into full albums with some artists. The instruments he’s drawn to shift from session to session; he sees what guests are drawn to (voice, drums, guitar, violin, etc.), and lends that sort of infectious desire to them.”
“There is a good chunk of time spent reading them (specifically, their submission answers), looking over the notes taken during the session and listening to the song they created. While Andrew does the final touches on what will be their piece, we’re talking about what his experience was and what I noticed. From there, based on our guest following through with a last step for one final piece of interaction, we combine those into the results.”
Heringer adds, “We allow our guests to walk away with a song that they have fully participated in creating over the course of an hour. I run my own recording studio and write and produce music for artists every day; that background is fundamental to my ability to navigate the Make Music process.”
Thank You for the Music
“The experience,” Heringer muses, “has really influenced the way I approach ‘play’ / collaborating with others. The whole process has to be rooted in listening and being aware of how someone else participates in play.”
Working with guests in such an intimate one-on-one setting, Williams says, “makes for a rich experience, a connection that expands craft rooted in feedback rather than that sort of insular production that can lead to art for art’s sake (which, while I love, is set aside for different projects).”
Williams explains that guests will leave with “a song that holds a memory, and a picture they can look back on – for happiness, or inspiration – that can follow them and that they can share. We want them to have a sense of accomplishment and connection. But most importantly: We want them to feel more deeply the way they feel about music. With immersive, I myself love the pieces that let us discover ‘what we didn’t know we knew,’ to quote a favorite poetry professor.”
In the future, Williams sees The Guest & The Host progressing the way he sees “a boutique, brilliant Tattoo artist, or a restaurant, combined with music production. The greatest of those have reservations and waitlists a mile long, and open for submissions the way a school does. Submissions come in, we read them, see whom we connect with instinctively. We accept those submissions and set times, then we close down submissions. Imagine a music studio that allowed you to make a track, that quilted those tracks together into an album (I have to give props to that phrase to my friend and collaborator, Larry Powell, who came up with the term “Film Quilt” for another project we’re working on). And you have it: The future of The Guest & The Host: Make Music.”
The Guest & The Host Make Music – Spencer Williams & Andrew Heringer
The Guest & The Host is accepting submissions through their website. When accepted, 1-2 person sessions cost $90 for a 90 minute experience.