The Art & Science of Sound Design for the Theatre

January 7, 2018

Practicing the art of Sound Design is becoming increasingly complex as technology and expectations evolve; however I see the purpose of Sound Design for the theatre as simple. Sound and music must serve to raise the level of the audience’s understanding of the story on a macro level (the overall statement the playwright is making) and on a micro level (specific moments.) We must never attempt to make the audience feel or think a certain way. We must help tell the story and allow the audience members to interpret the theatre experience in their own unique way, encouraging everyone to participate in a conversation, (not a lecture) that continues long after the curtain comes down.

How does the Sound Designer do that? We choose music and effects that set tone, mood, tempo, intensity, time period, geographical location, etc. We become masters of our tools – the delivery system (sound systems, microphones, speakers, etc), recording technology and computer networking, for example – so that we can use them in an artful way.

All sound and silence an audience hears must be as deliberate as the words and pauses the playwright puts into the script, the timber and tone the actors use, the costumes, lighting and set. Sound Design is wholistic in this way, as it must work in harmony with all the other elements of the theatrical event.

My ultimate goal: to raise the audience’s level and depth of understanding of the story we intend to tell.