Working with John, the Artistic Director of "TRE" and the director of "RNY", as a sound designer is very different from working with most directors. John and I met at NYU in undergrad, but really began to collaborate while we were both working with Target Margin on Old Comedy from Aristophanes' Frogs at Classic Stage Company downtown. John works with sound in a similar way to David Herskovitz, Artistic Director of Target Margin Theater, who in turn, follows the aural lineage from Richard Foreman.
The sound of a TRE show is primarily loop-based, with accents to punctuate language or emotion in the show (sometimes in support of, sometimes in opposition to...) The sound operator is always onstage, a character somewhat within the confines of the show. While previous TRE shows have used Live or QLab, I wanted to do something different for Rhinbecca, NY. I decided to build a loop-based playback in Max MSP - a graphical programming environment primarily for sound and video creation.
While it's still in development, the basic framework of the Max programming is very much in use in rehearsal. The program can play up to 8 loops at a time, with volume and pitch control per loop. The accents have a global volume control, as well. All the controls for the "patch" (the Max term for a program) are mapped onto two small MIDI controller boards.
The grid of buttons seen on the the top board provide up to 64 different accents to be played instantly.
On the lower board, the knobs allow for pitch control of loops and the buttons start and stop the 8 different loops.
In the end, I've basically re-created the program Live, but in doing so, have learned more about Max MSP and am able to customize the programming to what we want to do in the show. Plus, this patch can grow and augment not just during this creation process, but also during subsequent shows and creations, becoming better and more interesting! And almost certainly more complicated!
But the programming is just the vehicle for the design. My co-designer, Adrianna Brannon, is in every rehearsal, controlling sound and trying out new ideas, new sounds, new combinations of sound. I sit in on most of the rehearsals, offering up options for new sounds and new loops, as well as responding to requests from John: "Hey! We should have liiiike....a little yelping puppy here!" or "hmmm, we need....party music..." It's always a fun room and I love being deeply involved in the creative process from the very beginning - it creates a far more integral and grounded sound design than layering in sound effects during tech.