The Sound Designer – In the Wings – Stagecraft 101 – WE LOVE THEATRE


In an ideal world I start with a blank palette and then I get to slowly add in all of the ingredients to make the world real I’m Robert kaplowitz and I’m a sound designer on every show sound designers are responsible for putting together the sound system for the show whether it be a musical or a play and then sounds that are also responsible for the sound content in a play so on on a play I often write music and also sound effects but also I’m then responsible for the reinforcement for conveying the sound of the orchestra and the singers to the audience in a way that actually connects the audience to the fundamental text of the play or the musical the whole idea is that we are trying to sculpt an environment that you’re not deeply conscious of for the most part in a musical that you know the old joke is with a sound designer if you notice the sound is on it’s a bad design in essence the sound Center is trying not to be noticed Wow still very subtly often affecting you I can draw attention to a moment in a play by turning taking sound away so sometimes i’m a silence designer I kind of became a southerner because I realized it was the thing I did best uh I did the errand in high school we had a technical theatre class and so I took the technical theatre class and I fell in love with the theater and I had gotten into electronic music and so I was doing all of this sort of really sort of getting into an esoteric sounds and then so with all of that and then went to college I was able to study design as a conceptual merge and when I when I finished college I went out and I was doing you know anything I could to pay the bills of course and i was doing sound design and lighting design and set design and as my work evolved I began to realize that I didn’t care enough about the details of lighting or scenery but at the same time computer editing was just coming out and I remember spending hours zooming in you know to a thousandth or a millionth of a second and literally seeing the waveform going oh if I edit it right there it’ll sound perfect and I said oh well that’s what I care that’s excited by it was a march i remember in whatever member most clearly i suppose march of 1995 and it was the first month i earned my entire living as a sound designer and designed five plays in one month i think was a three hundred dollar fee and a two hundred dollar fee and i remember thinking i actually done it I’ve earned my living as a sound designer for this one in order to be a sound designer the very first thing absolutely is to Alyssa but I think it’s two kinds of listening I think it’s listening to what’s there and it’s also listening to what’s not there it’s listening to the space where you want to add where you want to make more what I’m working on is a production of the play is called the secret of Sherlock Holmes if you’re Sherlock Holmes fan you’ll know he plays the violin what I’m trying to explore is the idea of making textures out of the violin that aren’t necessarily music per se I think that my primary value as a designer us you know far above my composing skills far above my listening skills is is my ability to read a play and understand what it is and what it’s about and how to how to help the audience connect into it so what I’m working with a play that has a lot of sound dictated by the text that’s of course where I start I want to make sure that i’m giving whatever the world of the play requires um anything from you know this guy’s a cellist to does dogs barking and trash cans rattling in the hour alleyway the thing that gets interesting about that is how do I make that take that to an artistically interesting level but sometimes what’s interesting is how do I transform that sonically do I make it you know can I make it rhythmic can I make it tonal can I can I find a way to make whatever these sounds are more connected to this particular world this show that I just did with Annie Kaufman called this white knight I made music out of refrigerators just your refrigerator droning I took refrigerator drones and I recorded them and I put them in a sampler which is a program that allows me to play sounds musically and i wrote a score out of that and i can have multiple samplers you know as soon as we get the freedom to play with that and again working in a way that the audience doesn’t even know what’s happening get ready Oh what I’m doing a musical I’m in no way responsible for the music you don’t to musical you’ve got an Orchestrator you could got a composer first you get an Orchestrator you’ve got a music director get a lot of people on the team already who know very well what they’re doing and then there’s me and my job is to figure out what they’re trying to achieve within the score and find a way to bring that to the audience in fella one of the things that I was really interested in doing was creating an environment that the audience was immersed in the sound in the music and that wasn’t the the music team’s job that was my job that we were working in a Broadway theater there and so the proscenium arch feels like an obstacle to some degree and one of the things you know marina drag EG who did the set really managed to pull the set into the house and Robert would sell who lit it and Peter negrini who did the projections all of them did a lot of work in the house and I wanted to do the same thing so that i created a sound system that could allow us to do a full surround of the vocals and the band without it ever seeming like the actors were behind you and how do I do that still maintain the power of afrobeat still give us a really clear sense of where everyone is in the room because so how do I do that and still embrace the audience wrap the audience with the sound and the tony award goes to robert cap louis ferre I’m insanely grateful to have been a part of a company that made arc so tusa Neil to the Fela company thank you I think one of the reasons i love sound design is it gives me a chance to make an art that i am good at and that i love making in company of others it’s like a fishin you know like a like a nuclear reaction in this very positive little tiny way where that where a bloom of energy is created and bloom of artistic creation happens I said I get to do it live and I get to have the response and I get to let the the design and the soundscape the score as it were developed in collaboration

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