Over the past few weeks, I’ve been madly working on a number of projects. Classes started up at UCI, Venus in Furs has been in tech in Hartford, and I’ve been madly working on a new play called Build at The Geffen Playhouse in LA.   Build is a new play by Michael Golamco, and the sound design has been full of new challenges for me.

 

Build is about two video game programmers, and in early conversations with director Will Frears, it became clear that the show didn’t want traditional music in transition. I suggested that we look into the glitch music genre for inspiration. Glitch music is a subset of electronica that features sounds made from hacking, rewiring, or otherwise repurposing electronic objects (think see’n’says, old video game consoles). I did some research for Will, and we decided that glitch was an interesting way to go with the music.  So, the transition music for Build is built out of glitching and abstracting various electronic sounds.  Because the play is new, it was constantly in flux structurally, so there was no value to building specific pieces of music for specific transitions. Instead, I built over two dozen transition pieces, each in multiple parts and in multiple lengths, and as we went through tech, I’d make suggestions for transitions. Will would listen, we’d talk, and I’d revise.

 

The big challenge for me on this show is what we’re doing with a wireless microphone.  One of the characters is a piece of artificial intelligence, and Will and I wanted to do something to her voice to give her a sound that was a bit unusual. To make this effect, we put a wireless mic on the actor playing the AI, and I used a program called MaxMSP to create a little bit of code to mess with her voice.  When the AI speaks, the software separates her voice into 26 separate frequency bands. Each band drives the amplitude of a separate sine wave oscillator so that the human voice is joined by a chorus of sine waves.  The result is a series of ringing tones that match the voice precisely.

 

We just started previews last night, so there are still weeks to go before we open.  Still, it’s been an interesting process, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the show progresses.

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