I came back from Moogfest in Asheville all motivated to create some new music and sounds for our production of WIT. I sat down and got to work on a specific cue that needed to represent a diagnostic test, as given in a hospital. I created a cool, multi-layered sound – nice and compact with lots of texture. It sounded great in the headphones and on the studio monitors. So far so good.
I took it to the theatre for the beginning of tech week. It felt good in the context of the show – concise but still complex. Two of the actors came to see me after the rehearsal. “It sounds like a fart.” What does? “The sound of the diagnostic scanner.” Ouch! Some of the other cast members who were backstage during that particular scene said, “We heard that sound over the backstage monitor. We laughed every time. It sounded like a fart.”
I was devastated and started to get all nerdy/defensive. But… but… but I worked a long time on that sound cue. It’s got all these awesome layers and… and… and.
“Yeah ok. But it still sounds like a fart.”
They were right of course. I took a step back and listened harder. They were right. How did I miss this? Did it sound different in the studio than it did in the theatre? A little, but it really did sound like a fart. It’s easy to get caught up in the process, the technical challenge, the joy of creating something from scratch and lose sight of the goal of helping to tell the story. Part of telling the story – first, do no harm. If a sound becomes a distraction, if it shifts the focus away from the actors, it’s not right.
Back to the tools. New sound. Everybody’s happy.
Feedback is such a powerful part of the process. It keeps you grounded.