Sound Design using Propellerhead’s Reason Software

Posted in Practice on October 11, 2011 by fgitler

Just came across this article: How to create post production sfx using reason

Cut and Run

Posted in Practice on August 23, 2011 by fgitler

I contributed the opening snippet of music to a collaborative sound experiment conducted over a five month period with a group of people I’ve only met on the internet. Each person created four bars, but the next person only heard the last bar of the previous piece of music, and then created their own, transitioning out of the previous part. In the end it was far less chaotic than some might have imagined. This is surely a testament to the individual contributor’s skill and ears.

Beckett Below, 4 years later

Posted in Practice on May 25, 2011 by fgitler

The music (and text) I am writing about below can be streamed or downloaded at this link.

In 2006, four directors joined forces to present an evening of four short plays by Samuel Beckett, and I was asked to create the sound design, including original music. Performed in a small basement theatre on St. Mark’s Place, in New York’s East Village, the group of plays was presented as “Beckett Below”. In running order, Play was directed by Peter A. Campbell, Act Without Words II was directed by Ariane Anthony, That Time was directed by Tim Lee, and Footfalls was directed by Eve Hartmann. I had worked with Tim Lee previously—our first collaboration was when I designed sound for his production of Beckett’s Rough for Theatre II, and we had also worked together on a production of Waiting For Godot. Milt Angelopoulos had played Vladimir in that Godot production, and would now be the recorded voice, and voiceless stage presence of the lone character in That Time. (My photos taken during dress rehearsals accompany this posting.)

Milt Angelopoulos in That Time. Photo by Fitz Gitler

In addition to consultations with the directors, I went through my own process of imagining what inspiration I could draw from. I read the scripts, of course, but in trying to find the unifying thread for the overall sound design, I researched the playwright’s own preferences in music.

Beckett forbade the presence of music being added to his works in general, though he did strike a friendship with the modern composer Morton Feldman, who created scores for some works by Beckett. They met while Beckett was at the rehearsals for That Time and Footfalls in 1976. More of that story can be found here. But Feldman’s works with Beckett were and exception. In general Beckett (and his estate) forbid adaptation, alteration, or deviation from the staging directions as written. No music is present during any of the plays that I’ve read, and sound effects are few and simple.

There are, however, other pieces he wrote that call for the use, extensive and sometimes exclusively, of pre-recorded voices. That Time is one of these. (Also see Krapp’s Last Tape and Rockabye.) For That Time the actor and director rehearsed extensively, and then finally his vocal performance was recorded in a sound booth at a recording facility that records audio books. He did several takes, and I was provided with a DVD of Aiff files. The director selected his edits with me and then I sequenced the different parts as they needed to be sequenced, with each of the three voices being read each occupying a different sonic space, though use of different panning and reverb settings. When played the in the performance space it sounded different. And different again when the space was filled with an audience. You can listen to an excerpt of Milt’s performance here.

A scene from Footfalls. photo by Fitz Gitler.

Beckett was known to be a lover of classical music, and played piano himself quite well. Much of his family was also musically inclined. I tried to imagine Beckett the piano player, who often played for friends and family, but also thinking of the more somber moods of plays themselves. I listened to piano music (both recordings and midi files) by Leos Janacek and also by Brahms, whose piano compositions for four hands I had owned since high school. In an early experiment I took a midi file of a Brahms composition and slowed it way down. I tried all sorts of manipulation of piano sounds in different experiments. In the end I just had to play the sounds on the keyboard until it felt right. I wanted the sound to be spare, open, allowing room for the sounds to drift and sink in. I added violin to the compositional palette as the work progressed, as well as percussion in some places and other drones and background textures in parts of the pre-show.

I had never thought I would write music for piano and violin, but that’s exactly what I did. Not coming from a classical music background, this was a stretch for me, but in the end very rewarding one. I’ll always think of it as a pivotal moment in my work–not so much because I worked in an unfamiliar style, but in that it showed me that style was not something I should be worrying about. Working to get the sound that feels right is the most important thing.

The whole sound design was composed and produced in Propellerhead’s Reason software. The violins were mostly from a sample set created by Kurt Kurasaki aka Peff.

My Sound Design for Buried Child

Posted in Practice with tags , , , , , , , on March 10, 2011 by fgitler

Tomorrow (March 11th, 2011) is the opening performance of Sam Shepard’s Buried Child, directed by Timothy Trimingham Lee.

It is being performed at Upstairs at The Gatehouse in Highgate, London.

Buried Child

For this show I was asked to create several different kinds of rain sounds, including a sort of rain symphony of the sound of rain on and around an old farm house, for 20 minutes of Pre-show. Creaky porch doors, birds, and electric clippers transformed into a nightmare were other sounds required. I’ll try to describe more about the construction of these sounds in another post soon.

Tickets and more info

More free or cheap sound software

Posted in Practice with tags , , , , on January 3, 2011 by fgitler

Happy New Years to you all.

Just stumbled across this interesting looking multi-track recording shareware software

It’s worth noting that Apple’s online audio software section contains lots of Freeware and Shareware.
Take a look here.

This sound converter caught my eye.

PA Systems 101

Posted in Practice with tags , , , , on November 15, 2010 by fgitler

I found this terrific document on Stumbleupon:
PA Systems; Things not in the users guide
It explains the hows whats and whys of PA (Public Address–sound) systems. A must read for anyone just starting out dealing with live sound of any kind.

another free music application

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on November 15, 2010 by fgitler

I just came across Myna, the audio editor from Aviary.
I’m just amazed that all this stuff is out there and free now.


Aviary software's Myna audio editor