African Gil – Recording session

For the past couple of months I’ve been working on a show called Lionboy with Complicité and we’re coming to the end of our run at the Tricycle Theatre. The show had a live percussionist on stage, so this week I’ve decided to record Steve’s (our percussionists) Gil.

The Gil is an African ‘tuned’ percussion instrument that steve plays in the show for a few of our ‘African’ scenes. It’s not the most common instrument I’ve ever come across!
The notes are pentatonic and so, as Steve usually suggests, you can play almost any notes and they will likely fit together! Steves instrument was made by his teacher in Africa and has gaudes underneath that amplify the sound. It has a bit of a weird unique buzzing sound on some of the notes and watching people play them on YouTube it’s really meant to be part of the overall sound of the Gil. To create the buzzing sound there is a spider egg membrane covering holes in the gaudes which vibrate, strange but true!
African Gil, last years version
So having decided to record the Gil properly Ive also thought it would be interesting to learn how to make a kontakt instrument using those recordings, so have taken a bunch of different takes at differing dynamics and will have a go soon. I managed to find a few hours without anyone else in the theatre and got recording. Wanted to get some use out of my sound devices 702 and a pretty neat pair of DPA 4011’s which we use in the show.
Here’s a dry clip of me messing around on the Gil, i’m no percusionist so forgive me!
Now on to editing the single hits and trying to make a virtual instrument from it!

War Correspondents 2014

During April of this year, I worked with Helen Chadwick and Steven Hoggett on a project Helen has composed called ‘War Correspondents’. A sung theatre piece about the lives and experiences of War Correspondents over recent years. The lyrics of the sung music were taken from interviews with War Correspondents talking about situations of conflict they had covered and their thoughts on ‘War Journalism’.

From a sound perspective there is a lot of interesting material to play with from the original interviews as well as finding the best way to integrate the voices of the interviews into the music and between songs. We also worked with Sound effects with specific pitches hidden as an extra layer so the singers could catch a pitch to work with for the next song they are heading into.

Movement is such a big part of the show alongside the music that I decided to bring a Leap Motion device into rehearsals to play with. Using the LEAP with a piece of software called GECO, it allows the user to manipulate effects and trigger cues using the movement of your hands, In our case pushing downwards towards the device triggers a filter effect which is dialed up and down depending on the height of the singers hand, when it is lower it allows a recorded musical Drone through, but when its higher we hear a helicopter and no drone, the singer has direct control over this mix during the scene and uses it as an instrument to accompany his song.

Leap Motion/GECO GUI
Leap Motion/GECO GUI

The show initially toured around the UK in spring this year, but will also now be playing in London in October with a few dates around the UK after that.

War Correspondents @ Birmingham Rep 2014
War Correspondents @ Birmingham Rep 2014

The Noise – Digital Playscript Phase 1

The Noise (Unlimited Theatre), a show I co-sound designed last year has been turned into a digital playscript. We took a few days to go through the Sound Design for the show and added cues into the text – which hopefully represent what would have been heard in the theatre to a certain degree – alongside a whole array of awesome features that make the script a much better representation of the show than a paper version. Making a more engaging and easy to follow script to take away from the show!

Pop some headphones in and check it out here!

The Noise Digital Playscript
The Noise Digital Playscript

The Noise @ Northern Stage

noise_blockThis week I’ve been teching Unlimited Theatre‘s The Noise in Newcastle’s Northern Stage (Stage 2). The story is a “sci-conspiracy thriller”, and on the island of Whitley the most notable feature is the constant ‘Noise’ being emitted by the island. Working as Co-Sound Designer with Gareth Fry, we’ve been playing with different types of Noise and how much of it we can push the scenes by using different styles of ‘Noise’. There is real anger in the characters of Whitley caused by these relentless and ever changing  sounds they can’t get away from and it’s been really interesting in finding how to achieve this whilst still allowing the clarity of the story to come from the actors. There is also composition by David Edwards (AKA Minotaur Shock) which has been a pleasure to work into the show and if you get a chance check him out!


The Noise opened here in Newcastle on Friday 4th Oct and runs until 12th October. It then tours to Warwick Arts Centre and West Yorkshire Playhouse in November.

I thought I’d share a few interesting bits of research I came across, whilst looking into science related sound inventions, firstly the ishin-den-shin

Secondly the Hypersonic sound speaker invented by Woody Norris . hard to show the workings of online,  but pretty cool nonetheless!

Lionboy: London Unicorn

Lionboy logoA few weeks ago it was Lionboy’s final week playing at the Unicorn Theatre in London. After 8 weeks on tour it all ended with a great last week of performances in London and it was nice to be back in the city!

Being on tour has been an amazing experience with a lovely team and cast it was a great place to get the experience of attempting to produce same show in very different venues. Listening to different house systems and how they were set up for each venue was really interesting. The unicorn perhaps one of the more fiddly setups with it’s curved auditorium and not a lot of space for front of house positions. Luckily this was one of the venues on the list with a centre cluster in it’s FOH setup which helped a lot in separating voice-overs and music for intelligibility purposes.

The hardest thing to judge from venue to venue was the mix between our live Percussionist (Stephen Hiscock) and the playback music, along with the Voice-overs on top of all that. Making sure the narrative was clear whilst keeping the drums and music at a level that drove the scene on was always a difficult one to achieve, each venue reacted differently to the drum kit particularly, Wales for instance had a stage about 4 times higher and wider than the Unicorn, pretty cave-like in its acoustics, but again was an interesting challenge.

Lisa Kerr & Adetomiwa Edun
Lisa Kerr & Adetomiwa Edun

Lionboy Tour: Bristol

LionboyComplicité have just began the tour of Lionboy a new show for kids based on the trilogy of books (with the same name) by Zizou Corder , which tells the story of Charlie Ashanti, a boy who can speak to cats, and his journey to free his parents from the “corporacy” which also leads him through a circus where he meets a pack of lions and sets out to liberate them…

I’ve been working as Associate Sound with Tom Gibbons as Sound Designer, and i’ll be operating the show for the rest of the tour. The show, so far, has been well received and we had a lot of fun finally getting it onto the stage in-front of an great audience.

From a sound perspective the the story is illustrated using sound effects and music that reacts to the particular form of storytelling that has been conceived for this show. One of the interesting parts for me is having a live percussionist (Stephen Hiscock) on stage, jumping from a full drum kit to traditional Ghanaian instruments, to provide underscore and musical accompaniment to the action on stage.

Lionboy will be touring around the UK, and the next stop is the Liverpool Playhouse for a week (week commencing 3rd June), followed by Oxford Playhouse, Warwick Arts Centre, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Wales Millenium Centre and ending with a 2 week run at the Unicorn Theatre in London.


Catch up on 2013

As i’ve been pretty bad at updating lately I thought i’d pop an overview of the year so far for a bit of a reference and sharing, and will hopefully be a bit more detailed about each soon!  🙂
Ccomplicite open workshop 1omplicité Open Sound Workshop

To start the year off I was part of a Complicité open sound workshop with participants from all over the world taking part. We took a week to work with sound as a rehearsal tool, led by, Complicité associate, Catherine Alexander. It was a really interesting chance to see how sound can effect the way a rehearsal process can evolve, how it can be used to analyse characters and scenes and map out sections of stories, to reveal new stories. Some really interesting sound experiments with both recorded and live sound/music.

Inspector Sands, Rock Pool
Working as Associate Sound Designer to Elena Pena, on a show for 3 – 5 year olds, the show was created by the company and Directed by Lucinka Eisler. The age range for the show created a bit of an extra challenge for us, but an interesting one! The show is set in a tiny rock pool, where a crab and prawn have been washed up and find themselves stuck! We used a mixture of Sound effects and Music (composed by Tom Mills) to create the audio world of the rock pool and the outside human world too, using props on stage to help make the music come from the stage and turn into playback music.

RSC Hamlet
Hamlet fencing 2
Photo by Keith Pattison

At the start of the week Hamlet began its run at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford Upon-Avon, Directed by David Farr the production will run until September 2013 in rep alongside As You Like it and Alls Well That Ends Well. It was great to work with the team at the RSC, some lovely people and just a nice a place to be. It was a learning experience I really enjoyed. The theatre itself is in a thrust configuration since its renovation a few years ago, which was an interesting space to work in.