The Playgoer: All Hail the Sound Designer!

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Tuesday, June 03, 2008

All Hail the Sound Designer!

It took a new Tony category, but the Times finally ran an article (penned by Mark Blankenship) on Sound Design in the theatre.

Given it was pegged to Sunday's Tony-rama promotion, though, the only designers profiled are the ones nominated. For Broadway shows.

Those parameters are a shame, since it's really Off and Off-Off B'way that sound design in NYC has really come into its own over the last decade, partially as a relatively low-budget design solution in a struggling showcase-code economy. (Think about how increasingly effective sound as been in lieu of stage scenery, for instance, to signify location.)

And of course there is the art of the "soundscape" as pioneered by directors like Richard Foreman (still running his cues old-style off some old Casio thingamajig) and Robert Woodruff, where sound is an equal design element in the total gesamkunstwerk, not just function, not just atmospheric, but a virtual character in the piece.

So let's hope they do an article on that, too, one day.

3 comments:

isaac butler said...

hey garrett,

just one note... Richard Foreman's sound set up is anything but old-style. He has two sound board operators, one of which is himself. The first sound board operator has a very sophisticated rig, that is sent to a mixing board that Foreman controls. he also generally has a midi controller that, while it looks like an old fashioned keyboard, is set to trigger many sound effects. OF course, midi controllers have been around since the early 80s, so although they look like old keyboards its actually what they trigger that's important, and in Foreman's case, it's very very sophisticated.

RLewis said...

I nominate Joshua Fried's work in Frequency Hopping for some kind of Sound Design Award. Caught the show after David Bryne's opening at the Battery Maritime building - talk about a soundscape double whammy!

The Playgoer said...

Thanks for setting me straight, Isaac, on Foreman's technique. I was ignorant of the full system. All I know is what I see him doing at the shows. (Which is of course part of the treat of going.)

It certainly sounds awesome, so it must be pretty slick!