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Mackers 2010 and the Waterphone

As I mentioned earlier, I revisited Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Macbeth this summer, having done a sound design for it at another school a year and a half previously. The challenge as I saw it was not to repeat myself or simply regurgitate my own sound design and music. I think I was pretty successful at that. The music and ambient sound for the 2010 production is not as heavy and industrial as the one I did in 2008, but still manages to be creepy and unsettling.

For this new Macbeth, I made liberal use of Todd Barton, Joel Henigson, and Richard Waters’ Waterphone sample collection. It’s set up for Kontakt, but I don’t own that software, so once I’d bought the sample set I built 2 sampler instruments in Reason, placing the samples where they seemed to make sense (one of the sample sets, Todd’s I think, came with a handy .pdf that showed how he mapped the samples in Kontakt, so I just aped that layout in Reason). I also threw some of the bowed samples way down in the lower octaves and they gave me some fantastic drones.

For $15 the Uncharted Waters Waterphone sample set is a great sound design tool. I recommend it highly.

I’ve also posted a montage of sounds from Macbeth on my Soundcloud page:


If I had it all to do over again…

And, as it turns out, I do.

I’ve been doing sound design for theatre in and around Chicago for about seven years. It’s a little strange that in that time I’ve never had to design the same show more than once (I have re-mounted shows, but that’s different). I know lots of designers who have done multiple productions of the same show over their career. I almost had two back-to-back productions of Shakespeare’s Measure For Measure last year, but the director of the second production changed his mind and put up As You Like It instead. At the time I was actually looking forward to the challenge of doing one show, then immediately tossing out everything I’d just come up with and starting again from scratch. For good or ill, it didn’t go down that way.

This summer, though, I’ll finally be re-visiting a show I’ve done once before: Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Macbeth. I did sound design and music (with a little help from Beethoven) for Oakton Community College’s Macbeth in 2008, and now Moraine Valley Community College is putting it up for their summer show. Not quite back to back, but it will still be a new challenge.

The upside is, I already know the show pretty well. The downside, of course, is that I still have associations that tie my previous design to the show. I generally avoid looking at other versions of a show (or filmed versions) when I’m working on it, to avoid stealing. Maybe this time I should watch a couple of movie versions of Macbeth, just to cleanse my palate.

One thing I know is going to be different is that on this show I am going to explore Tonehammer’s new Waterphone sample library to create the music for the show. That will definitely give this production a different sound and I’m pretty excited about it.

Designers and directors, please chime in: how do you approach a second –or a third or fourth—production of the same script? Do you worry about repeating yourself? Do you embrace the possibility of trying stuff you wish you had before? Do you ever deliberately recycle?

You Never Give Me Your Money

EMI has decided to sell off Abbey Road Studios, possibly the most famous of their assets. The studio is, of course, well-known as the place where the lion’s share of The Beatles’ albums were recorded (some sessions were done at other London studios such as Olympic for various reasons). But the legacy of Abbey Road studios goes back to the 1930s and includes recordings by the London Symphony Orchestra, Glenn Miller, Cliff Richard and The Shadows, Pink Floyd and Radiohead, among many others.

There is no way to know what the new owners –whoever they may be- will do with the EMI studios building once it has changed hands. The two most likely options are 1) it will continue to be a functioning studio business, and b) it will become a museum of 20th century recording arts, focusing primarily on the Beatles. (Whether, in either case, the new owners also have the rights to the name “Abbey Road Studios” is another matter entirely.) Other options that involve removing the existing studio structures are possible but too awful to consider.

As big a Beatles fan as I am, I’d prefer that Abbey Road not become a museum. And if it does…I hope it’s not so Beatle-centric. The history of EMI studios at Abbey Road is deeper and richer than just one band, even if that band is the biggest pop band in history.

Plus, the idea of walking into Studio 2 and seeing a permanent “Beatle” exhibit, with wax dummies holding Rickenbacker guitars, and Vox amps strewn about—as if the lads are about to roll tape on “Ticket To Ride”…I find that monumentally depressing.

On the other hand, if there’s a George Martin action figure or a Geoff Emerick Control Room playset in the gift shop, I’ll be there in a heartbeat.

(this entry was also posted over on the DWLB blog)

If you’re not automatically redirected…

…click the link below. Actually I know you won’t be redirected, so just go ahead and click it.

Last night I attended a very cool panel discussion sponsored by The Recording Academy and Shure, featuring record producers Mike Clink, Ron Nevison and Keith Olsen. These guys have recorded the Who, Led Zeppelin, Guns N’ Roses, Heart, Bad Company, the Rolling Stones, Whitesnake, Fleetwood Mac, and countless other amazing bands. I’ve written a little bit about it over at the Donny Who Loved Bowling blog because, well, it seemed to make more sense over there. Feel free to check it out and let me know what you think.

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