music process

How To Make Images With Only Sound

A Sound Design Project For Theater

I just started working on creating sound design for Fordham University’s theater department.  It’s a mainstage production of the play Magnolia, by Regina Taylor, which is a re-telling of the Cherry Orchard in 1963 Atlanta, Georgia.  It takes place right in the midst of the civil rights era and the sounds of that time period.

The biggest challenge is creating this sonic montage which is to open the piece.  Taylor, who is also directing, wants to evoke a backwards countdown from present day into the past.  It’s challenging and exciting.  Given all the events in the news lately regarding racial discrimination, it feels very timely.

To start with, I began gathering source audio to sample in this newsreel type audio event.

Here’s some of the sources i gathered:

Watching these videos, I found it impossible not to get caught up in the moment.  Especially the coverage of Bobby Kennedy’s assassination.   I got so choked up.

After exporting some of these audios using an online tool, I had a file folder from which I could import into my digital audio workstation of choice, LogicProX.

Here’s a screenshot of my session today.

How To Make Images With Only Sound

What a crazy mess!  I started by just laying down a basic beat and bass line to give some kind of structure.  Later I’m going to add a tempo map that ramps up to add to the excitement.

As we were listening to these ideas, my assistant engineer (my 14 year old son Alejandro), suggested a possible unifying idea:  to take each President’s oath going backwards in time from present to 1963.  Brilliant!

So that’s where we’re at so far.  I have a terrible first mix that I don’t want to bore you with just yet.  Lots more to do and in the process of updating my sonic palette by updating my Spectrasonics Omnisphere.  That’s a way cool virtual synthesizer.   Ok, more later!








Sex and God, now that’s a title!

I’m about to start working on a new theater production of a play titled “Sex & God” with the wonderful cutting edge Son of Semele Ensemble in Los Angeles.  This will be my third collaboration with these folks and I am as always, honored and grateful to join.

The Scottish play is by Linda McLean and features intercut monologues of 4 women spread over time.   The accents are wonderful!  I feel a brogue coming over me!

The playwright has written into the work an old Scottish tune that has become like a folk song, though it was originally written as a commercial jingle.  It’s called Coulter’s Candy and apparently old folks from the Highlands all know it as well as Americans know “Mary Had A Little Lamb.”

So my job is less as a composer and more as an arranger/producer and sound designer of this piece.  Still haven’t figured out what I will do, but it will be some kind of underscore in different tempos and feelings as well as a few featured jingle-anthems.

Here’s what the song sounds like as found on YouTube.

Update – April 3, 2014.

Here’s my work in progress on the score.