The show is Directed by Neil Bettles, Designed by Andrzej Goulding, Lighting Designed by Zoe Spurr and Costume Designed by Lily Arnold, an awesome team! I Sound Designed the show and it’s now on a UK tour having just finished at it’s third venue the Liverpool Everyman picking up some great responses. Next up is the Traverse in Edinburgh. It arrives in London in January as part of the second half of the tour, so catch it there if you can. The show is ace and I can’t recommend it enough!
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…
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.“
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
The last few months I’ve been fairly flat out concentrating on Sound Designing Frantic Assembly’s The Unreturning with Director Neil Bettles Directing a completely awesome company in one of the most collaborative processes I’ve been involved in for some time, it was such a delight to be part of and I felt very lucky to be involved.
This was a bit of a dream working process for me, being in the rehearsal room from day one (for 3 out of 4 weeks of rehearsals) and being part of the creation process even before that with Neil, Andrzej Goulding (Set and Video Designer), Zoe Spurr (Lighting Designer) and Lily Arnold (Costume Designer) and the rest of the team, it’s exactly how I love to work.
The show opened in Plymouth on Monday 24th September and will be on tour around the UK, you can find the dates on Frantic’s website here, and info on the whole team there too.
I’m half way through writing up a bit of a series about the equipment and processes I use for workshops, rehearsals and how I use Ableton and QLAB in those situations. I used a similar set up in rehearsals for The Unreturning and eventually programmed everything into QLAB, but will wait to go into detail about that until I’ve finished.
There was a lot of content to create for the show, we recorded the excellent actors for some part of the Sound Design too, and worked with a bunch of different music tracks. It was an extremely good example of how to integrate Spotify into the process, as I suggested in a previous post, it can be such a useful way of collaborating and evolving a musical palette. Our playlist started with Anna Jordan (Writer), who added some tracks as she wrote the piece, which allowed us into her world and how she was feeling about the piece. Then Neil added as he read the and I joined, threw in my own thoughts and we all continued to add to the playlist even up to the final days of previews, it was part of my job to then expand on this and integrate some of the musical palette into the show.
I like to be part of the rehearsal process early on as I enjoy working with everyone in the rehearsal room and allowing the whole team to influence parts of my Sound Design process, and I hope the Sound Design can influence decisions in other departments too, its fair to say it’s not always possible to be around full time, but it’s always super interesting to see what inspiring ideas come out of that collaboration.
Jon Hopkins singularity album out last month has some awesome work on it, check it out on here.
The NY times interviewed the Sound Designers nominated for the newly re-instated Sound Design Tony Award, they all provided some excellent SFX and montages of their shows. I worked as Associate on both Harry Potter and the Cursed Child with Gareth Fry and 1984 with Tom Gibbons, Both are incredibly deserving of the nomination.
Spitfire audio have had a change in their Labs Scheme recently. The most recent update sees the beautiful Soft Piano and newly recorded 'Strings' patches with a newly designed user interface. As it's for free, download them here...
Last week I was at Shoreditch Town Hall with ‘Frogman’ a play I first worked on with Curious Directive last year which took me to Australia for 3 weeks of on site recording for a 360 film that becomes part of a live theatre show. It’s been an incredible learning curve for me to work with VR content, not only that but being able to support 50 audience members having an individual auditory experience whilst also collectively allowing them the experience the live theatre piece.
There are huge hurdles to overcome and still some more to work on as the show progresses, but as an experiment within multi disciplinary theatre its been a super interesting challenge and well worth a watch/listen, especially if you’re interested in VR.
The show just finished a 2 week run at Shoreditch Town Hall and will play at Arts Depot in Finchley for another week. Check it out here:
I’ll be posting a little more about the process soon, a few photos and trailer below!
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.
Adam Savage. Editor of Audio Media International Magazine wrote to ask a few questions on my work on The Encounter with Gareth Fry, as well as about the challenges we faced on Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and asked me to talk a little about the industry as a whole. I felt privileged to be included in the May/June 2017 edition of Audio Media International. Thanks to Adam for getting in touch!
Here's the link to the online version of the interview:
This week I've been working on two Complicité pieces. One is 'Beware of Pity' at the Barbican Theatre, we made the show over a year ago in Berlin at the Schaubühne Theatre with 7 of their ensemble of actors and it's in London this week.
Its been a very swift couple of days to get that up and running whilst rehearsing the next Complicité show, which will open in a few weeks at The Royal Court called 'The Kid Stays in the Picture.'
Beware of Pity will be live streamed on YouTube this Sunday and it'll be available to watch for following two weeks all at the following link:
Check it out if you can, it's been a pleasure working with the amazingly talented Schaubühne actors who really are what make the show.
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!
During April of this year, I worked with Helen Chadwick and Steven Hoggett on a project Helen has composed called 'War Correspondents'. A sung theatre piece about the lives and experiences of War Correspondents over recent years. The lyrics of the sung music were taken from interviews with War Correspondents talking about situations of conflict they had covered and their thoughts on 'War Journalism'. From a sound perspective there is a lot of interesting material to play with from the original interviews as well as finding the best way to integrate the voices of the interviews into the music and between songs. We also worked with Sound effects with specific pitches hidden as an extra layer so the singers could catch a pitch to work with for the next song they are heading into.
Movement is such a big part of the show alongside the music that I decided to bring a Leap Motion device into rehearsals to play with. Using the LEAP with a piece of software called GECO, it allows the user to manipulate effects and trigger cues using the movement of your hands, In our case pushing downwards towards the device triggers a filter effect which is dialed up and down depending on the height of the singers hand, when it is lower it allows a recorded musical Drone through, but when its higher we hear a helicopter and no drone, the singer has direct control over this mix during the scene and uses it as an instrument to accompany his song.
The show initially toured around the UK in spring this year, but will also now be playing in London in October with a few dates around the UK after that.
The Noise (Unlimited Theatre), a show I co-sound designed last year has been turned into a digital playscript. We took a few days to go through the Sound Design for the show and added cues into the text - which hopefully represent what would have been heard in the theatre to a certain degree - alongside a whole array of awesome features that make the script a much better representation of the show than a paper version. Making a more engaging and easy to follow script to take away from the show! Pop some headphones in and check it out here! http://uneditions.com/
This 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!
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
A few weeks ago it was Lionboy's final week playing at the Unicorn Theatre in London. After 8 weeks on tour it all ended with a great last week of performances in London and it was nice to be back in the city! Being on tour has been an amazing experience with a lovely team and cast it was a great place to get the experience of attempting to produce same show in very different venues. Listening to different house systems and how they were set up for each venue was really interesting. The unicorn perhaps one of the more fiddly setups with it's curved auditorium and not a lot of space for front of house positions. Luckily this was one of the venues on the list with a centre cluster in it's FOH setup which helped a lot in separating voice-overs and music for intelligibility purposes.
The hardest thing to judge from venue to venue was the mix between our live Percussionist (Stephen Hiscock) and the playback music, along with the Voice-overs on top of all that. Making sure the narrative was clear whilst keeping the drums and music at a level that drove the scene on was always a difficult one to achieve, each venue reacted differently to the drum kit particularly, Wales for instance had a stage about 4 times higher and wider than the Unicorn, pretty cave-like in its acoustics, but again was an interesting challenge.
Complicité have just began the tour of Lionboy a new show for kids based on the trilogy of books (with the same name) by Zizou Corder , which tells the story of Charlie Ashanti, a boy who can speak to cats, and his journey to free his parents from the "corporacy" which also leads him through a circus where he meets a pack of lions and sets out to liberate them...
I've been working as Associate Sound with Tom Gibbons as Sound Designer, and i'll be operating the show for the rest of the tour. The show, so far, has been well received and we had a lot of fun finally getting it onto the stage in-front of an great audience.
From a sound perspective the the story is illustrated using sound effects and music that reacts to the particular form of storytelling that has been conceived for this show. One of the interesting parts for me is having a live percussionist (Stephen Hiscock) on stage, jumping from a full drum kit to traditional Ghanaian instruments, to provide underscore and musical accompaniment to the action on stage.
Lionboy will be touring around the UK, and the next stop is the Liverpool Playhouse for a week (week commencing 3rd June), followed by Oxford Playhouse, Warwick Arts Centre, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Wales Millenium Centre and ending with a 2 week run at the Unicorn Theatre in London.
As i've been pretty bad at updating lately I thought i'd pop an overview of the year so far for a bit of a reference and sharing, and will hopefully be a bit more detailed about each soon! :)Complicité Open Sound Workshop
To start the year off I was part of a Complicité open sound workshop with participants from all over the world taking part. We took a week to work with sound as a rehearsal tool, led by, Complicité associate, Catherine Alexander. It was a really interesting chance to see how sound can effect the way a rehearsal process can evolve, how it can be used to analyse characters and scenes and map out sections of stories, to reveal new stories. Some really interesting sound experiments with both recorded and live sound/music.
Inspector Sands, Rock Pool Working as Associate Sound Designer to Elena Pena, on a show for 3 - 5 year olds, the show was created by the company and Directed by Lucinka Eisler. The age range for the show created a bit of an extra challenge for us, but an interesting one! The show is set in a tiny rock pool, where a crab and prawn have been washed up and find themselves stuck! We used a mixture of Sound effects and Music (composed by Tom Mills) to create the audio world of the rock pool and the outside human world too, using props on stage to help make the music come from the stage and turn into playback music.
RSC HamletPhoto by Keith Pattison
At the start of the week Hamlet began its run at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford Upon-Avon, Directed by David Farr the production will run until September 2013 in rep alongside As You Like it and Alls Well That Ends Well. It was great to work with the team at the RSC, some lovely people and just a nice a place to be. It was a learning experience I really enjoyed. The theatre itself is in a thrust configuration since its renovation a few years ago, which was an interesting space to work in.