Theatrical Sound Design

For this collaboration with Buntport Theater Company in Denver, CO, I was invited under the initial titles of “Sound Designer” and “Collaborator”. We began with a series of explorations of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. As we became interested in themes of memory and narrative loops, I wanted this to have a physical aspect in the world of the play. Because of the way magnetic cassette tape decays over time, especially when played on a loop, it felt like the perfect medium to explore this.

There were three main elements which created the sound environment of the production. The first was a series of tape loops which were visibly pulled over long distances through the set, and on which were recorded the major musical elements of the score. The second element was a set of three birdcages, each of which contained only a simple speaker connected to three tape players below. A single tape loop ran between the three, on which was recorded a series of spaced recordings of bird calls such that they would play at various intervals from each of the birdcages, traveling between them,a distant memory of what may have, at one point in the past, inhabited the cages. And third, I played a prepared piano score live alongside the looping tapes.

The other element I built for this show was a tape-playing glove. When the main character expressed her desire to hear the voice of her father, the gloved hand would be placed over her mouth. She would then pull cassette tape through the fingers of the glove on which I’d installed a tape head, and as we’d recorded the voice of the actor playing her father onto this tape—which she appeared to pull from her mouth—the voice would play through the sound system. We rehearsed the move to produce a speed that made the voice and words intelligible, but the imperfection of the move added an element of fallibility to the memory.