There’s more to theater sound than meets the eye – City Hub Sydney


Sound design requires a delicate touch. Image: pixabay

By DAVID IVANI

There is one element of theater production that has changed over time more than any other: sound.

Sound is anything auditory, whether it’s the voices of actors, background music and soundscapes (i.e. a moving train car), sound effects, or silences ( that heighten the emotions of the public). These sounds are either generated live (voice), outsourced via the internet, copies of CDs, or created/recorded before a play.

Sound Design is about selecting, from endless options, a sound that perfectly reflects every emotion, scene and moment – gunshots, ringing of telephones and doorbells, car engines, music.

Speaker placement is a science. Picture: pixel

It works to captivate the audience and bring them into the realm of the play. This greatly contributes to the physical scene, filling the audience’s sense of involvement. For example, the sound of modern nightclub music will strike a completely different tone from 1950s jazz music.

Good sound design adds fluidity to the mood of the scene, while logically supporting the visual side of the piece. Music can act as exposition, informing the audience of what to expect in the upcoming moments on stage and helping them make that mental transition quickly and effortlessly.

From a technical point of view, the sound should ideally come from the same direction as the performers, in order to ensure consistency in the visual and auditory aspects. Technology, such as ‘directional speakers’, ensures that sound travels along a defined path to improve room quality, rather than spreading across the entire audience landscape.

About James K. Bonnette

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