Music

Sound Design Scrapbook #9

SOUND DESIGN / MUSIC

If you don’t follow the work of Diego Stocco already, check out this video he’s put together showing off the new instruments he’s built. He tends to pull sounds out of all sorts of found, built and natural objects and record them in experimental ways too. There are also some beautiful photographs to go with it…

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THEATRE GEAR

Yamaha announced an update to the Rivage PM Digital Mixing system last week, adding ‘Theatre mode’ - check out the full announcement here

“The Theatre Mode facilitates scene and costume changes with four banks that can be used to store different EQ and dynamics settings for individual performers. In Theatre Mode, rather than storing EQ and dynamics settings in the console’s “scenes,” only the bank number is stored so that any adjustments made will apply to all scenes that use the same bank.“

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MUSIC

I don’t know how I’ve missed these for so long, but thankfully found the NPR Tiny desk series of concerts recently and they are awesome… https://www.npr.org/series/tiny-desk-concerts/?t=1539811025167

Sound Design Scrapbook #8

PODCAST

Another Twenty Thousound Hertz Podcast, this time it’s a peak into the world of writing, recording, designing and producing their podcast. Being an audio based podcast, they go the extra mile to make it as slick as possible!


MIXING MASTERCLASS

If you’re interested in Mixing Orchestral music, the marvelous Jake Jackson is here on stage at the 4th Annual Mixcon event in New York. I’ve seen Jake do a number of these run downs on his mix process for Orchestral work, and they’re always super useful and insightful. Excited to continue learning about it as I spend some concentrated time mixing a bunch of my own tracks over the next couple months.


SILENCE / EXHIBITION

Last year I stepped in for 59 productions to record 2 minutes of silence in a primary school assembly, this amongst a whole array of different recordings has culminated in this beautiful exhibition at the Imperial War Museum, Sound Designed by Gareth Fry.

http://59productions.co.uk/project/moments-of-silence/

 https://www.instagram.com/p/BocAMPcFsfx/?utm_source=ig_share_sheet&igshid=u62jsdh1aa06

‘Moments of Silencee’, IWM London. Created by 59 Productions © Photo: Will Weisner

‘Moments of Silencee’, IWM London. Created by 59 Productions © Photo: Will Weisner

 

Spotify (software 1)

Spotify has to be one of my most used pieces of software outside of DAWs and show control. When I was younger I'd buy music in the forms of Tapes and CDs and of course before that it was in all sorts of formats, but over last 20 years we've moved through a world of evolving music services with speed. The internet being a huge game changer in that, and through it came the iTunes Store, Youtube, Amazon music etc and on 7 October 2008 Spotify was released.

I began using Spotify around the time I was studying Theatre Sound in London 2009. Suddenly I had this incredible repository of music at my fingertips for £5 per month (as a student at least, now we’re talking £9.99, still amazing). On my laptop, phone, anywhere... I began using it as a music research tool and for personal listening, slowly it became a way of testing out ideas in rehearsal rooms due to the sheer amount of music on there and the speed with which you can search through it.

Around the time I graduated, I began using it as tool to broaden my musical interests, I’m sure like many others, I can easily end up listening to the same tracks and artists over and over. That's not such a bad thing, but there is so much more available and I wanted to make use of that... Whilst on tour in April 2013 I started making a new playlist each month with a mixture of music I already liked and artists I’d never listened to before, kind of like the ‘discovery weekly’ playlist feature, but more towards albums than single tracks. I'd gather them either from friend's recommendations or maybe just random genres I didn’t know much about. Jump 5 years into the future and I have monthly playlist for almost every month since then. Spotify recently started sending out this neat year in review post to see your listening habits each year.

Listening to the monthly playlists gave me a memory of where I've listened to certain styles or artists. I’ve found myself remembering listening to a track on a bus in Leicester Square when it was raining, cold and it was kind of wintertime a couple of years ago, maybe 2015... so I can jump back through my playlists and pretty quickly find the track or artist. I've found it pretty useful as an alternative way of retaining information.

Back in the rehearsal room I tend to build a playlist for each show I design, sometimes with the Director or Movement Director in a collaborative playlist to give us a place to start thinking about and gathering the musical ideas that could be interesting to try. Which can mean anything from music of the time that a play is set, to music that gives some emotional response to the initial stimulus and ideas. Having said all this, there is so much value in finding music in less obvious places too, I’ve found cds in museums that I would never be able to find on Spotify and the same with Ebay, libraries, charity shops, so it’s always worth keeping an eye out of the box to find something unique and not to be too reliant on online options!

I thought I'd share a few random tracks from the last couple of months which I have particular memories for.

I'd love to know how anyone else goes about there daily listening and how using subscription services is changing the way we work in Theatre. I'm sure there are libraries digitised from CD's, Vinyl collections, itunes store downloads etc all used in different ways.

Theres a lot to say about the future of music services for both composers and listeners, there will undoubtedly be changes coming within the next few years and intiatives like Imogen Heap's Mycelia is one of them, check it out. It's such a big subject abd worthy of its own blog post later!

 

In other news, thanks to the brilliant Vlogs of Christian Henson at Spitfire Audio, I've been playing with the Elgato Streamdeck (A nifty keystroke based shortcut device) and as I'm travelling a lot at the moment, the Arturia KeyStep (32 key small keyboard controller/step sequencer), so will do a bit of a run down of those two soon.

 

Next week I'm hoping to head to a Sound Art exhibition called Sonic Arcade at the Museum of Art and Design here in New York and I'll share some thoughts if I make it!

Happy listening!

P

 

 

2017 Round up

2017, Its about time for a round up of last year. This will be the longest post i’ll be doing for a while but I’m hoping to post much more frequently!


I started the year in New York after workshopping The Kid Stays in the Picture with Ben Grant as associate, and Simon Mcburney Directing. We worked with 7 US Actors for a few weeks and it was incredibly fun. At the same time I was stepping in to operate The Encounter on Broadway over New Year, again a lot of hard work but having been part of the show for years previously and now getting a chance to go back in and learn the op again it was very rewarding.


In early January I led my first design transferring to St Ann's Warehouse over the bridge from Manhattan in DUMBO, Brooklyn. An incredble space to work in, with it's own challenges, though the view from the back door has to be a highlight.

The show was Phyllida Lloyd's The Tempest. The third all female Shakespeare piece set in a women's prison. I led a great team at St Ann's and we updated a fair amount of the system compared to the original version in Kings Cross. I also switched from an SD9 to the in-house Yamaha CL3 which took some re-programming but was a fairly smooth transition. After some recommendations I also decided to use Valhalla room through Mainstage as an effects processor and it was great, especially as the cost implications are so minimal. We also went with a pretty much full Meyer speaker system which suited the shows content, the Sound Design isn’t particularly subtle so these provided a good impact for the upfront content to the audience.


In February I came back to the UK and began the rehearsal period for The Kid Stays in the Picture at the Royal Court, the same show we were workshopping at the end of 2016. I loved working at the Royal Court and once again was met by an astonishing team. Ben Grant as Associate. We had a brilliant set of operators Yamina Mezeli and Neil Dewar, alongside David, Maddy and Alice as part of the Theatre team. The show was technically complex for all departments and I had to come up with some interesting ways to react to the show's ever evolving set of needs. It’s a very engaging process to create with Simon and we were constantly reacting and refining throughout.


At the same time Ben and I re-mounted Beware of Pity at the Barbican Theatre, which we had made with Simon the previous year at the Schabuhne theatre in Berlin. It was my first design to be live streamed on youtube outside of The Encounter. They did an excellent job of capturing the audio for the show and I took 3 days of listening and tweaking the final product, heres a link to the Q&A of the Director, Simon Mcburney and Artistic Director of the Schaubuhne Theatre, Thomas Ostermeier.
http://www.complicite.org/live-stream.php


The Kid Stays in the Picture was a highlight of the year and I hope we can go back to the show over the next few years and continue the work we started.


Next up was Twelfth Night at the Manchester Royal Exchange. Directed by Jo Davies, I was yet again surrounded by a lovely team and welcomed into what is a weird, yet interesting theatre to work in and a beautiful building. I had the pleasure of working alongside Alex Baranowski who Composed on this one and it was a delight to work with him as a collaborator but also with his fantastic music. We worked closely with 4 musicians he and Jo bought onto the show to create the sonic world of the show.

A few years ago I started taking piano lessons as a way to develop my skills and having worked with Alex, it pushed me to continue to spend some time on developing those skills outside of the the Sound Design world and it's been refreshing to do so.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child had it's first cast change in London spring 2017 and leading that change from an audio perspective was an interesting task of maintanance and preservation, whilst keeping in a position where the actors are changing and adding their own take on the piece, reacting to those updates.

Into June and Frogman, following a lot of research and experimenting with 3D video and audio,  I took a 3 week trip with Jack (Artistic Director) and Milla (Designer) from Curious Directive, to Brisbane, Australia. We worked with 4 young actors in a set made especially for our 3d film content. I took on the whole process of audio production on this project which meant planning, recording, processing all of the audio content from the on set filming. Then the theatre part of the project which was about finding the very best way to give an audience the 360 audio experience in a theatre context.

 

Milla was interviewd for a great piece talking about the Design elements of Frogman here

During those three weeks the Tony Awards Ceremony in New York took place, where Gareth Fry and I were awarded a Special Tony Award for our Sound Design work on Complicité's The Encounter. Not only this, but alongside our award The Tony's also announced that Sound Design categories will resume as a regular yearly fixture after they were axed in 2014. A huge moment in the year and a big step in the right direction for the recognition of Sound Design on Broadway!

Back over to Brisbane to finish off the filming and finally back to London to edit the recordings. I plan to do a set of short walkthroughs of the process so I can get a bit more detailed in that, but for now those interested should check out Facebook 360 spatial workstation. We then created the live theatre side of the show, I should explain that the concept of the show is part VR and part live theatre. Frogman will be back in the UK at Shoreditch Town Hall in 2018 and you can find out more here: https://shoreditchtownhall.com/whats-on/frogman

After a break in august I started working on two more Sound Design projects. The first was Simon Stephens’ adaptation of The Seagull, directed by Sean Holmes at the Lyric Hammersmith in London. The second called White Bike, newly written by Tamara Von Werthern, directed by Lily Mcleish at The Space in Canary Wharf. They were very different projects and both exciting to be leading the Sound Design of.


The Seagull gave me an opportunity to play with naturalistic content against a less naturalistic set and lighting design, working closely with the rest of the creative team, and lovely sound team at the Lyric in a fairly large/mid scale venue. The White Bike was in a much smaller venue and so smaller system also, but it’s content and the integration of the Sound Design had a more abstract sensibility. Again a wonderful creative team and we were pulling together a beautiful piece of work in a short time. We workshopped some ideas in 2016 and we found it useful to start a collaborative playlist on Spotify where Lily and I could form ideas for an auditory world, which grew over the year and played in rehearsals whilst devising, a large amount of which ended up in the show in one way or another.

Once finishing both of these I moved to Hull for a 4 weeks to work on The Last Testament of Lillian Billoca. Written by Maxine Peake and directed by Sarah Frankcom and Imogen Knight. We had been in conversations and meetings about the project since early 2017, it was a large scale site specific project in Hull’s Guildhall, a still fully functioning building in the centre of Hull. We used 4 main rooms and a handful of small auxiliary rooms around the building to tell the story of Lillian Billoca, a controversial, strong campaigner for the working rights of trawler men in the late 1960s.


I had to put together a strong team for what was a difficult venue to implament a design into, production engineer Guy Colletta, who worked with Gareth Fry and I on The Encounter, took on the production engineer role and getting our system into this none theatre building was a bit of a challenge but Guy is the master at this. We worked with live Music from The Unthanks in two of the rooms, one room was an audio/movment led sequence with a headphones and each room was very different in style and size. Part of the challenge was to decide how best to link or unlink the rooms and corrioors, depending on the audience experience and route around the building. It was a great situation to work our way around and we came away with something to be very proud of.

In December I decided to focus on music and composition. I went to the Tune Up event on the Southbank, which was an inspiring day, I took time learning more about the many sample libraries I’ve not delved into before and went much further into MIDI in Logic X. I've now begun writing music aimed towards media for a brilliant European publisher. This time away from Sound Design has been helpful to focus on my own projects outside of theatre, and I’m looking forward to bringing focus back into theatre again this year.

There are a lot of exciting Sound Design projects on the horizon, in and out of theatre, the UK and abroad. I plan to post more often, to put my thoughts down about projects I’m working on, software and hardware I pick up along the way, walkthroughs for things like 360 audio capture, sync, and getting that to a live theatre audience, composition, sound design content creation,  etc… Though, one of the hard things about posting about the show you’re working on in theatre is the secrecy behind it, especially before press have been in and reviewed the show, you want to keep the excitment. So I’m aiming to work around that and show the parts of my own process that I can. Some people pull this off in a very slick way so hopefully I can find some ways.
P

 

Free Ghanaian Gyil Kontakt instrument - PMvst001

Since the last post about recording Stephen Hiscock's Gyil (Yes I was spelling it incorrectly! O dear) I took some time to edit and put the resulting hits into Kontakt. Here is a link to the Current Ghanaian Gyil V1.0,

Free Ghanaian Gyil download
Free Ghanaian Gyil download

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Specifications:
309 samples
5/6 velocity layers for each note
2x Round Robin for each note
3x patches
            - Original pitch                   
            - Tuned scale (CDFGBb)       
            - Chromatic scale pitched  

2x Beater options- Rubber (Rubber malletts made from Tires)
                                               - Sticks    (The wooden side of the malletts)

Requirements:
210MB Hard Drive space
Full version of Native instruments Kontakt 5

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Feel free to download and play with it if you're looking for something authenically african and I'd love to hear any feedback.

I don't want to dive too deep into a 'How to create a velocity sensitive instrument in Kontakt' post, but there's few thoughts from the process I thought it'd be interesting to note.

My main DAW's are Ableton Live and Logic, but I decided to try using Ableton for this process. The first step was to record the Gyil into Ableton through my SD 702 and soundcard. I only had two Preamps available at the time, so used an XY setup about a metre away from the top of the Gyil. The first note, having a few different mic positions would probably help with integrating the sound of the Gyil with other libraries, but starting with a fairly dry, close recording is great starting point.

The Gyil has 14 notes and I wanted to try 2 round robins of each and have 5/6 velocity layers for each note played with both ends of the beaters. So that's 336 individual samples to edit.

Manually this takes a while and is fairly tedious. Both Logic and Ableton have a feature which slices a piece of audio from its transient markers and creates a new MIDI instrument. However, neither of these cut the audio up usefully for Kontakt. Logic does have a 'Split Silence' feature that does a better job at slicing the regions, with a bit of tweaking, by transient. Either way there is an amount of time spent finessing this, as the hits need to be very closely trimmed to the start of the transient.

Logic Strip silence
Logic Strip silence

Once each hit was edited and ready to slot into Kontakt, I set up a new instrument and using the mapping editor placed the 6 velocity layers  for the first note on it. Spreading them across the 127 potential velocities.

Again this could take a while, but you can quite easily copy and paste one set of 6 velocity samples onto another key on the mapping editor, then re-locate each of the copied samples to the next note in the sequence to save time (I didn't find this out until I'd spent a good few hours on a fairly bumpy flight trying to be precise with my trackpad... Bad idea!)

Kontakt 5 Mapping editor
Kontakt 5 Mapping editor

A similar process applies to the second takes (Round Robin takes) this was fairly simple. The mapping editor works in groups, for each round robin you create a new group and set that group to be a certain either the first or second set of round robins. Again copying the already mapped first takes and pasting that into a new group meant I could re-locate the samples within this second group with the second takes.

I did the same thing with the hard wooden end of the beaters and placed those into two new groups. Had a play with photoshop and added the Attack and Release knobs through looking into the inner workings of other Kontakt instruments scripts.

A little messing with key switches and it was prett much there.

So please do have a play with the Gyil and enjoy

African Gil - Recording session

For the past couple of months I've been working on a show called Lionboy with Complicité and we're coming to the end of our run at the Tricycle Theatre. The show had a live percussionist on stage, so this week I've decided to record Steve's (our percussionists) Gil.

The Gil is an African 'tuned' percussion instrument that steve plays in the show for a few of our 'African' scenes. It's not the most common instrument I've ever come across!

The notes are pentatonic and so, as Steve usually suggests, you can play almost any notes and they will likely fit together! Steves instrument was made by his teacher in Africa and has gaudes underneath that amplify the sound. It has a bit of a weird unique buzzing sound on some of the notes and watching people play them on YouTube it's really meant to be part of the overall sound of the Gil. To create the buzzing sound there is a spider egg membrane covering holes in the gaudes which vibrate, strange but true!

So having decided to record the Gil properly Ive also thought it would be interesting to learn how to make a kontakt instrument using those recordings, so have taken a bunch of different takes at differing dynamics and will have a go soon. I managed to find a few hours without anyone else in the theatre and got recording. Wanted to get some use out of my sound devices 702 and a pretty neat pair of DPA 4011's which we use in the show.

Here's a dry clip of me messing around on the Gil, i'm no percusionist so forgive me!


Now on to editing the single hits and trying to make a virtual instrument from it!

Music world of October

Each month I setup a new playlist on spotify full of bits of music I've never listened to before, I thought i'd share a few that stood out over the month and some more recent finds. I'm really interested in some of the Orchestral/Electronica crossovers going on and becoming more aware of it, so these are aimed in that direction.

Koan Sound & Asa - Mix of Small orchestral arrangments with electronic beat taking focus.

 

Phoria - Chilled out acoustic version of this track - original version here

 

New album from A Winged Victory for the Sullen

 

Clint mansell came to The Barbican earlier this month and I'd never heard this before and loved it


Enjoy!

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The Noise @ Northern Stage

noise_blockThis week I've been teching Unlimited Theatre's The Noise in Newcastle's Northern Stage (Stage 2). The story is a "sci-conspiracy thriller", and on the island of Whitley the most notable feature is the constant 'Noise' being emitted by the island. Working as Co-Sound Designer with Gareth Fry, we've been playing with different types of Noise and how much of it we can push the scenes by using different styles of 'Noise'. There is real anger in the characters of Whitley caused by these relentless and ever changing  sounds they can't get away from and it's been really interesting in finding how to achieve this whilst still allowing the clarity of the story to come from the actors. There is also composition by David Edwards (AKA Minotaur Shock) which has been a pleasure to work into the show and if you get a chance check him out! IMG_3942

The Noise opened here in Newcastle on Friday 4th Oct and runs until 12th October. It then tours to Warwick Arts Centre and West Yorkshire Playhouse in November.

I thought I'd share a few interesting bits of research I came across, whilst looking into science related sound inventions, firstly the ishin-den-shin  http://www.ivanpoupyrev.com/projects/ishindenshin.php

Secondly the Hypersonic sound speaker invented by Woody Norris . hard to show the workings of online,  but pretty cool nonetheless! http://www.ted.com/talks/woody_norris_invents_amazing_things.html

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HF9G9M0cR0E&w=560&h=315]