Ask Audrey Ask Audrey
Archived

Simple Souls

"I go on instinct and gut feel"

Sound Designer and musician Ash Walker reflects on the process of creating music for the new play Simple Souls.

Text size
Text size
Company: subtlenuance
Add to favourites

The Sound of Simple Souls

Date: 14 Nov 2019

I remember a conversation with a friend while I was studying something called Sound and Music Design at UTS.

My friend found it so hard to work with theatre directors who knew little about music or the terms used to describe it. Being given the vague brief to compose something ‘dark but upbeat’ had him totally flummoxed. Meanwhile  I was drowning in Root notes, tonics   and Just Intonation, which is some sort of mathematical way of tuning your instruments. Please look it up if you want to give yourself a headache.

As you can probably guess, my approach to music and sound design is still not overly technical.

I go on instinct and gut feel. I am fascinated by how certain sounds create a specific mood or feeling – how the xylophone and glockenspiel evoke childlike wonder, for example.

Paul Gilchrist, director of Subtlenuance Theatre Company, knows absolutely nothing about music, which is why I love working with him.

“Give us some of your magical fairy dust, Ash,” he says. At which point I immediately forage through the menus of my synthesisers to find mallets and other high-pitched sounds. The world’s most famous fairy is not called TinkerBELL for nothing.

It’s been a while since I did music for theatre, so I was quite excited when Paul contacted me about doing the music for Simple Souls. It’s the story of Terri, a woman who wants to stage a sketch comedy of sorts in the hope that it will help her understand the chaotic state of the world.

Ash Walker (and Relevant Elephants)

Paul’s initial brief was for sounds that reflected that certain characters on stage may be only in Terri’s mind. He wanted nothing musical and nothing repetitive. I enjoyed the freedom to create something loose, abstract and experimental after just releasing my second album of techno and breakbeats, Who is the Dreamer, under the moniker Relevant Elephants.

He also wanted a theme for a game show that was “light and stupid”. Damn it, the guy just summed up my entire artistic philosophy.

The game show theme was particularly fun to compose. I started with a military-style stand-to-attention snare loop and ended with a slightly irritating organ loop that never quite finishes when you think. I thought it might be a good running gag to have the actors be  increasingly exasperated by being cut off by the final note as they were about to say their next lines. I’ll have to wait till opening to see if Paul has used this idea.

We’ve settled for a minimalist approach. A piece which once had insect like effects, a synth part, and reverse kick drum stabs has been reduced to a single bass drone. Interestingly, this pairing back with each new version of a piece was also the approach I took when writing some of the techno tracks for my album. I love Minimal Techno.

This is the fifth time I have worked with Paul Gilchrist and Subtlenuance. We are still friends so something much be going right. Personally I think Paul could use more music in his productions than he does but each play is his own unique vision and as a sound designer/musician I have to respect that and do my best to help him achieve it. After all, working with a theatre director with no personal vision would be very dull indeed.

I’m yet to see exactly how my music fits into the show. Can’t wait to find out.

Ash Walker

Content
Kasama Kita
Add to favourites
ArchivedBelvoir Downstairs, Surry Hills, Sydney 20 Nov - 8 Dec 2019

Kasama Kita

It is 1974, and a political uprising that has compromised the safety of millions in the Philippines, brings Nancy, Antero and Cory to Balmain.

Coram Boy
Add to favourites
ArchivedKings Cross Theatre, Kings Cross, Sydney 22 Nov - 7 Dec 2019

Coram Boy

On the cusp of the Industrial Revolution, the wealth of England’s aristocracy is built on slavery - and children are its commodities.

Simple Souls
Add to favourites
ArchivedLevel Up!, Fringe HQ, Kings Cross, Sydney 13 - 30 Nov 2019

Simple Souls

Sick of a society of Twitter and trolls, anger and argument? Marguerite has the cure.

See More

More to see

View All
Krapp’s Last Tape
Add to favourites
ArchivedOld Fitzroy Theatre, Woolloomooloo, Sydney 26 Nov - 14 Dec 2019

Krapp’s Last Tape

Jonathan Biggins stars in Samuel Beckett's glorious dance between performer and tape recorder.

New Breed 2019
Add to favourites
ArchivedCarriageworks, Eveleigh, Sydney 28 Nov - 7 Dec 2019

New Breed 2019

A talented group of emerging choreographers create brand new pieces on members of Sydney Dance Company.

SET A|PART
Add to favourites
ArchivedNewtown High School of the Performing Arts, Sydney 20 - 20 Dec 2019

SET A|PART

A multi-disciplinary choreographic work that combines contemporary dance with visual art in an exploration of place.

The Split
Add to favourites
ArchivedOld 505 Theatre, Newtown, Sydney 3 - 14 Dec 2019

The Split

Jules and Tom are on an old fishing boat. They’ve borrowed it. Will the world they knew be recognisable when they return?

Top