Sunday, June 19, 2005

Sound Off

posted by Doug Newell at 2:00 PM
We’re now in our fourth weekend of Tearing the Loom and the sound design for the show continues, sort of. The last couple of nights I’ve had a problem with the second cue (from the Prologue to Act 1). For stylistic reasons this cue is run through a CD player to a Yamaha receiver to a speaker on-stage rather than through the computer to the Mackie sound board to the powered speakers above the stage. When the time has come for the cues I’ve pressed play and then the following happened: Nothing…cut-off piece of sound…nothing…sound starts slowly…nothing…track finally plays correctly. After that happened on Friday I tested the CD on another player several times and it sounded fine. Sure enough when it came time for the cue the player behaved the same as the previous piece of equipment. I think the problem may lie in the fact that there is only one track on the CD (since this is the only cue run in this particular way). My new fix will be to burn another CD with the track duplicated several times in case it’s just a matter of the player not liking where the track is physically burned on the disc. If it works it will be another lessoned learned in this area of the theatre for me.

It’s been an informative experience providing the sound design for the last two shows. After tackling props design for Chimps and Scenes from the Big Picture I was excited to move on to sound. The God Botherers presented me with the task of helping transport the audience to the fictional country of Tambia Africa. I’ve worked as a sound technician recording and checking mixes, but this was my first foray into theatre sound design. For The God Botherers I decided a good place to begin was to listen to all the African music I could get my hands on. After a couple weeks I had assembled quite a bit of raw material which combined with Richard Bean’s references to the BBC, The Clash and cicadas filled out the rest of the sound. The discovery after this period was great because tracks can sound great on headphones in my apartment, but until they are played over the set and in the atmosphere of the play’s production you won’t know if they work. 10 months are covered in that script and there were 14 distinct scenes in the show. In the end we had 38 sound cues! To provide a comparison the current show has 3 scenes and 6 cues. However that doesn’t mean the current show was easier to do.

The God Botherers was a comedy and choosing the pieces of music and sound to use came fairly easily once I got going. Tearing the Loom is a hard hitting, dramatic and emotional play and was difficult every step of the way. The director and I wanted to keep the sound design simple as to not clutter an already powerful script. Every piece of music I would find kept sounding too melodramatic and didn’t sound simplistic enough for what the script called for. We finally decided to stay away from musical pieces and use environmental sounds. We felt the best way to transport the audience to an Irish rebellion was to use the sounds of winds howling, swords colliding and guns being shot. Once we made this discovery the sound came together in a form that wasn’t too melodramatic and provided a feel that I believe is appropriate for the show’s tone.

Hopefully next time I do sound design it will be a light-hearted two act play. And hopefully I can get every track to play properly.


Post a Comment

<< Home