Sound design: Happy New

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Straight on after Drowned World I completed sound design and composition for Brendan Cowell’s “Happy New”. Directed by Ben Harkin and performed by three sprightly and effusive actors (Dai Paterson, Angus Sampson, Jude Beaumont) it pulls into alignment the paranoiac junk culture of our time.

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If you haven’t seen a play for a long time, or haven’t seen a play at all this one’s a startling icebreaker.


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The play is set during the millennium NYEve. It has a special potency for me as we were in East Timor at the time. That is an a story worthy of a play, if not a book in itself.

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Every production presents one with entirely new challenges. In this piece, production time was limited. Regardless, Ben and I developed a strong working relationship. Ben knows enough about sound to both explain what he wants and to understand what I need, what I’m developing and how it is to be cued.

The final piece is, for both of us, a work in progress. The sound pieces for add an almost filmic quality to the play, almost chilling and frightening in places. To see the actors respond so directly my work encouraged me to work harder to tweak the 30 or so cues that Abdul, the sound operator, was left to work with.

This was the first play I’d used my laptop during rehearsals, speeding up production immensely. I could work on the length of individual pieces and compose on the spot if need be. I used Ableton Live for production and Audiomulch for sound and composition. Although terribly fast to work with, not being able to mark off regions in Live can make it frustrating as one has to keep a text file of track names, bar lengths, etc.

Media: The Age, June 5 2004
The Program, June 15 2004

Happy New, produced by Trunk Theatre, is on at the Store Room, St George’s Rd, Fitzroy North, June 4 – 20 2004. Phone 9481 8496 for bookings.

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3 thoughts on “Sound design: Happy New

  1. Grace

    Looks great, do you think that a play like this could travel to tasmania?
    That would be excellent

  2. Hey Andrew – thanks for taking us out to see Happy New on Thurs! The play was mind-blowing, and a great re-introduction to live theatre! I used to attend a number of plays when I was studying drama and semiotics at Uni, and this is one of the more powerful pieces I have seen. The intimate atmosphere, amazing script and power of the actors (and the sound/lighting, etc!!! ;^) all combine into powerful commentary on the dreams and culture of modern life. It would be great to see this production tour!

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