Traditional Theatrical Sound Design
sound design for straight plays, I must always refer to an article
by Richard K. Thomas entitled "The Function of the Soundscape" (TD&T, winter 2001,
"The first pair of synonyms are the words
"composition" and "design." In the context of this paper,
either term refers to the organization of sonic or visual
elements for the express purpose of communicating with an
audience. The second pair of synonyms are the words "music"
and "sound.' these refer to audible events organized for the
purpose of communicating. By defining these terms in this
manner, the paper does not differentiate between music
composition and sound design. They are the same
and can be used interchangeably.
The last pair of synonyms are "speech' and "song." In this
paper, these terms refer to vocal communication combining
words and music."
It is with
these words in mind that the sound designer must "orchestrate" his
assembly of effects in a musical and interpretive fashion. Just as
words carry much of the intellectual discourse of the play, it is
the realm of the music and sounds to deal with the heart and feel.
Not just a doorbell ringing, but a bell that musically contributes
to the inner life of the play; what the characters feel about their
situation and themselves more as much as what they are saying.
I believe that
a good underscore can be the actors best friend. When they join
forces, they can be a combination far more powerful than the sum of
Dancing at Lughnasa
at Lughnasa” is a play by Irish
playwright Brian Freil. It is a memory
play from the viewpoint of the adult Michael. He recalls, from age 7,
growing up with his unmarried mother, four maiden aunts and his mentally
confused priest uncle in 1936 rural Ireland. The play takes place on the
occasion of two visits from his father.
Of all the
theatrical sound designs I have done, this
is my all time favorite design for one of my all time favorite
productions. Directed by Monica Bell for Kent State University, Dancing at
Lughnasa, while not a musical, is a play with much musicality. There is much
called for music that is played mostly through a radio named "Marconi" that starts and
stops seemingly with a will of it's own. Plus, the poetry of the dialogue
combines with the sound of the Irish brogue to truly define the Richard Thomas
synonyms of "speech" and "song."
The Rehearsal CD
is my belief that the sound designer's role in theatre should be a part of the
interactive collaborative process from the first production meeting, through
blocking rehearsals, character development, and design coordination until
opening night. This is how a truly unified production is developed.
The playwright shows two time periods in conflict and comparison and calls for
music from each. After researching this music, I
organized a CD of traditional Irish music. It consisted of political songs, love
songs, military songs, and even some songs in the original Gaelic. I distributed
a copy to everyone in the cast as well as to all the designers with a
play it as environmental music; around the house, in the car. I believe it
helped everyone in their understanding the people and time of the world of the play
It also served the more
practical need of hearing the Irish accent in a natural, approachable, and
The Sound Design
This is by no
means the design in its entirety. I found a wealth of music and sound from the
rich Irish tradition that made the research on this one a delight.
Please click on the links
below for more details and concepts of my design for
Dancing at Lughnasa.
This was also the
debut of Professor Steve M. Zapytowski and my collaborative design for an 8
channel surround system in Wright-Curtis Theatre. For you techies who like such
click on the links below.