Considering original music for your circus act?
“Can you compose me some music? How much will it cost?”
The answer to the first part is simple: Absolutely! Over the years, I have composed bespoke music for Cirque du Soleil, l’École Nationale de Cirque (Montréal, Canada), for award-winning competition performances artistes/duos, and for artistes who make their living performing for corporate/special events.

The answer to the second part is not quite so simple (is it ever?!!). it depends on many factors.
Creating original music for your act is a big decision to undertake. Costs, however, needn’t be so big.
Here is a guide to basic information to get started…
What type of act is it?  

The music for a Juggling act is considerably different to a Straps/Aerial Silk act, for example. In tempo, feel, complexity. A fast paced Juggling/Diabolo act would likely need to be dynamic, and flexible. An ‘adage’ act, such as Hand To Hand, Cerceau, Silk, could be telling a story, and possibly more poetic in nature.
How long is the act?

It goes without saying that this effects the amount of work involved. However, when it comes to changes to something already in progress, just a few seconds can represent a number of musical measures and phrasing. This is all normal, and indeed common. Sometimes the proposed change can fall at the beginning or end of a musical phrase, which is usually fairly simple to handle.
Interview with Eric Dahl, Rock & Review (Fox-17, Nashville, TN)
Is the act already developed and running, or is it a brand new creation?

The former would have an already established template, even a musical guide to work with. If it is a new creation, we can work closer together to create something that fits perfectly. There is a lot more collaboration required for the latter, and it takes more time, but the end result will be tailor-made for the new creation.

Will the music be played by a live band, or produced as a ready-to-play recorded track?

If it is for a live band, I would need to know exactly which instruments will be playing, and will write accordingly. On occasion, I’ve returned to a pre-recorded project and arranged the music for a live band.
Aurelie Dauphin performing her rare Vocal Aerial Silks act, in Cirque du Soleil’s ‘Corteo’.
Music by Maria Bonzanigo,
Arranged and orchestrated by Roger Hewett

Can I just use music that’s commercially available?

You can. However, if it is for a public performance, there will likely be licensing permission required. There are other advantages to using custom music for your act. Aside from originality (i.e. nobody else will be using the same music), the music will build with your performance.

The biggest advantage to creating a piece of original music is this. I’m going to assume your act will not begin with the most complex acrobatic combination, but will build gradually. Your biggest combination will likely happen further into your act, leaving your audience on a high point with the proverbial ‘wow’ factor. Original music will build with your act and follows your action.

A commercially available song will likely not do this, as a song is written with the view of giving musical/lyrical ‘hooks’ as soon as possible.

At the end of the day, there are many varying factors that effect the final cost. However, bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better. For an adagio act, for example, such as Acrobatic Straps, Aerial Silks etc, a simple, well-performed piano piece can move mountains

Add a solo voice or instrument over the top, and magic can truly be created.

Keep in mind that if you plan to perform quality shows for corporate events, or as part of a traditional circus, the investment you make in your training, the creation of your act, your equipment and your music, can support you for years to come. Your investment will pay for itself many times over in a short space of time.

As for me, I will always work within your budget, and will ensure you are happy with the music I deliver. If, after a couple of suggestions and demos, we both realize we are not on the same page, there will be nothing to pay.

Other useful tips and tricks…

Allow some breathing room in creating the act, especially if the music is recorded. Remember, unlike a live band, recorded music will not follow you. A few seconds of excess music can easily be filled with a little onstage movement to allow it to breath. As the act settles, combinations can be added, changed or removed.  Or ultimately, the musical structure can be revisited. 

Do you have a favourite musical instrument you would like to be featured as a solo? In the case of a recorded track, adding a real musician or two is an additional expense, but it can make a world of difference. As an arranger/orchestrator, this is a skill I have completely under control, and can keep extra recording expenses to a minimum. 


The more information I have to start with, the faster I can get you up and running, with fewer back & forths for corrections. A video, an idea of the musical style you are looking for (send me a track or three as an idea), delivery timeframe (based on your training schedule)

Roger, at the pinnacle of his acrobatic career.

Photo: Kari Lynn Hewett
Location: Sintra, Portugal

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