The first day we tried out our audio as a group in the space together didn’t go as planned, quite frankly we couldn’t have picked a worse day. There was a parade of soldiers for the allied food drop at site number 1, the steps were being painted and therefore out of use and there were a team of builders sat on the green, horse and cart rides around the site and unexpected company at site 2! However, this is the beauty of site, it allowed us to plan what would happen if this was our performance and also realise the site obviously isn’t just for our use as the weather gets warmer there is bound to be more people around which we have discussed could be interesting if we were to be approached. We also discovered faults in our audio which we can rectify such as tone of voice and some sound effects which did not work. More recently I have been looking into Fortnight and their understanding of theatre as a “theatrical intervention into … daily lives” (Hui, 2011) which is exactly what we want to achieve and therefore today helped us to see how we could overcome any boundaries that stop us from achieving this. Fortnight understands that “works of art are meant to provoke affective responses – to move and push people to new understandings and new relations” (Hui, 2011) which is exactly what we intend to do with our walk.
After we listened to our audio with Rachel we realised we needed to change our audio slightly. This is so we gauged the correct tone of voice, chatty style of conversation and informality needed to make the audience feel comfortable. Editing this was quite hard so we had the idea to voice record our rehearsal as we felt it was hard to write a conversational script therefore we could talk about the site and write it based on what we said in an informal conversation, almost verbatim like. This friendly, informal tone of our new recording reminded us of our earlier research of audio talks because of the sound effect used in the back ground, we were thinking we should do something similar we felt it adds a sense of intimacy for the audience.
Hui, A. (2011) Art as an everyday intervention: shifting times, places and mobilities in the pervasive media performance project “Fortnight”. The Association of American Geographers’ Conference, New York, 25 February 2012 [unpublished].
The main task for this weeks rehearsals was to edit the phrasing of our audio. During the trial run one of the main comments that were given was that we had over scripted the audio and needed to be more suggestive with instructions rather than formal. The audio also apparently sounded quite patronising, which when listening back I can understand. We understood that we would have to guide the audience around with clear instructions, however I think we underestimated how free thinking they would be. We structured the audio far too much and it therefore the piece lost a lot of its freedom. Our whole concept was for the audience to feel as if they are in control and that whatever they believe it right. However due to the over-structred questions and instructions, it lost the essence of our original intentions.
How we built on the constructive criticism.
That night (after the trial run) we all sat around, deflated and feeling a little lost for ideas. We decided that because we were overthinking the audio, we shouldn’t overthink the rehearsal process either. So we started our evening with a casual chat and a gossip to lighten the mood and subsequently ideas for our audio began to flow. We tried writing down a mini scrip but we quickly found that we fell back into what I call ‘sat-nav mode’, where suggestions turned to instructions and we found ourselves back in the same position. We found that comments that we often said flippently and without much thought, ended up being helpful, yet we could never remember them to put in the audio. I then remembered a moment in a completely unrelated film that I had recently watched, Saving Mr Banks (Hancock, 2013). It tells the story of the making of Mary Poppins and I remembered that during the creation process of the film, all conversations during meetings were recorded so they could refer to them at a later date for inspiration. I then suggested the idea to record all of our meetings on my phone so no comments were lost, and that our thought process wasn’t broken when we stopped to write ideas down. This seemed to work brilliantly and was very beneficial. Below is a short snippet of audio from one of our meeting. You can hear the groups thought processes developing:
We then divided the audio into seven separate audios, and each took one or two home to transcript, and put a new script together. Below is the most recent audio:
After another trial run with the new audio, the comments we received back were much better. We also got a friend (who had nothing to do with our site performance) to trail run it for us as well. We followed a few steps behind him and took note of which directions he looked, where he seemed to get confused, if he went off track (which he didn’t thankfully) etc. This was really helpful as it brought a fresh perspective to the piece and highlighted any issues that an actual audience member would encounter.
I was reminded of verbatim theatre during our tasks this week. Recording live, ‘real life’ conversations and creating a transcript for a theatre piece linked with the ideas and practices of verbatim theatre. Will Hammond and Dan Steward defined verbatim:
‘The words of real people are recorded or transcribed by a dramatist during an interview or research project’ (Hammond et al, 2008)
Despite the fact that we aren’t transcribing the recordings word for word, the creative process is extremely similar. Dramatists use verbatim because it portrays a sense of honesty and truth in the dialogue. This was also our intention as we found that we spoke in a more casual manner when talking between friends, and this friendship/companionship was something we really wanted to get across.
Hammond, W. Steward, D. (eds.) (2008) Introduction in Verbatim Verbatim: Contemporary Documentary Theatre. London: London Oberon Books.
Hancock, J.L. (dir.) (2013) Saving Mr Banks. [film] Walt Disney Pictures.
Once we had recorded the new audio that was conversational (an example below is of the first audio piece), we again chose to test out the newest working version of the performance within the site.
Not only did Rachel listen to the new tour, but we also asked a fellow student studying the module to walk around the site, enabling us to have someone with no experience or prior-knowledge of our performance be an audience member. Both of these reviews and comments after the practice performance were postivie and helpful, and I feel we can now record the audio professionally and work towards the run through for our dress rehearsal. There are a few adjustments and changes that were suggested we make, such as using bird noises at the end of the last audio to fade out, perfecting the pauses within the direction and reworking some of the words we use. We also informed Rachel of our plan to scatter scallops around the performance area, which Rachel suggested we keep contained to a smaller encapsulated area. These are minor details that can be easily worked on, and overall I feel confident that our performance is nearly ready. As Paul Allain and Jen Harvie say, site specific performance is “to alter the conventional spatial practices of performance to enhance both the relationship between performers and audience and the performance’s engagement with its space and site of production” (Allain and Harvie, 2005, 148), a statement which I feel reflects what we hope our performance achieves.
For our dress rehearsal, we need to include and show Rachel:
the introductory speech that begins our tour
the final recording of the audio in its completion
all of the subtle moments of coincidence
where and what we as the performance will be doing in the tour
Alain, P and Harvie, J. (2005) The Routledge Companion to Theatre and Performance. London: Routledge.
Using the advice from Rachel after our first run-through, we decided to re-write the audio script to have a conversational tone. Whilst we had previously written what we planned to say on paper and read it out for recording, this time we did not want it to sound too scripted. Thus, we recorded our entire conversation of our meeting as we went through every part of the audio saying ideas for what should be said. This naturally allowed for the words to sound friendly and relaxed, and helped us to experience what our audience would hear from our idea suggestions. After recording our conversation, we each went away and wrote up sections of the audio we now had. An example of the transcript I made is here:
“Why don’t we move on from this space to the next part of our journey, and press play on audio 2. (Audio 2) Lets turn around to face the picnic blanket where we started off our journey. If you look to your left there’s a black railing, why don’t we follow it around the corner of the Cathedral and see where it takes us? Keep an eye out for portals to Narnia and little pixie huts. Have you found what you were looking for? I’ve come this way before, if I remember right there’s a statue on the left of a man with his dog. Why don’t we go and find it? Why don’t you have a break from me for a while, and press pause whilst you make your way over to the statue.”
Once we have the entirety of the new audio script, we plan to record it again and do another run-through with the new audio, the planned moments and “guinea-pig” audience members.
In thinking of how to make our audio conversational, we all thought of the “Every day moments” podcasts that we had listened to in class. The podcasts were created by individual artists as audio pieces to listen to in particular moments and settings in the day. I went away and listened to two of them, one by Adrian Howels and one by Lemm Sissay, for inspiration. The first podcast, found here by Adrian Howels, is “designed to be listened to in the early hours of the morning, in bed with a hot drink”. (Howell, 2011) One aspect I found similar to what we wanted to use in our audio was the use of background noise, whether it be the noise of static, the television, a slurp of drink or a yawn. We also want to use sounds in our audio, such as the sound of birds or wedding bells, and hearing our idea used likewise has shown how effective they can be in enhancing an emotion or thought for the audience. The second podcast, Late Night Rain, found here by Lemm Sissay, is “designed to be listened to exactly then – late at night”. (Sissay, 2011) The tone of the voice in this audio is how I think we should aim to sound in our piece: talkative and fouced on the listener. The language used was simple and yet effective in portraying what they wanted to to the listener, which is what we also want to do. Listening to these podcasts was an effective way of understanding and hearing how our audience can experience our audio, by making myself an audience member to a different audio piece.
Howels, A. (2011) Everyday Moments 11: audio drama for private performance. The Guardian. [online] Available from http://www.theguardian.com/culture/audio/2011/nov/21/everyday-moments-podcast-adrian-howells [Accessed 24 April 2015].
Sissay, L. (2011) Everyday Moments 10: audio drama for private performance. The Guardian. [online] Available from http://www.theguardian.com/culture/audio/2011/oct/21/everyday-moments-podcast-lemn-sissay [Accessed 24 April 2015].
Theres been many moments over the last couple of days that have ‘thrown a complete spanner in the works’. I knew that the devising process was always going to be hard, but working with audio make that devising process even more complicated.
Orchestrated serendipity and The Happenings.
As a group we decided that we needed more substance to the performance, not regarding the audio, but external happenings that could influence the audience. We started to research into how to create subtle coincidences around the walk. If an audience member whiteness them it may make them stop and wonder if it was pre planed or just an extreme act of fait. Im personally fascinated by these moments of coincidence that makes you wonder if it was just random, or wether fait has brought you to it for a reason. We wanted to plant these moment within the performance and create moments of ‘orchestrated serendipity’, allowing the spoken meaning within the audio to occasionally reflected the ‘outside world’. Rachel Happe’s definition of the term orchestrated serendipity is clear and helped us considerably to understand what we would do to create such impacting moments. She stated that ‘you or an entire organization can create an environment where serendipity and luck are likely to occur, where you will notice it, and where you can effectively take advantage of it’ (Happe, 2008). This then led us to look into Prototype theatre company’s project Fortnight. They held two week long pervasive media performances in cities such as Nottingham and Lancaster where they would create ‘complex geographies of encounters – some which feel strange, some which feel theatrical, some which feel immensely personal’ (Allison, 2011,18). Allan Kaprow’s Happenings were also something that inlufenced our thought process regarding coincidence. He commented on his work stating that ‘the line between The Happening and daily life should be kept as fluid and perhaps instinct as possible’(Kaprow, 1993, 62). This fluidity is something we want to include as we don’t want the moments to be too obvious so they are still questionable.
Creating the audio.
Over the last week we created a trial run of the audio in order to test it out and find any flaws in the timings etc. We recording Fleur’s voice for each audio track and then I took them home and edited them on Audacity. I added some sound, adjusted the timing of the pauses, edited the background noise and added in the external voice recordings. Below is an example of our first trial run at the audio:
We decided that rather than it being half an hour or more with just a single voice, sound effects and music would enhance the audio. We added the sound effect of children playing, wedding bells, marching, and musical instrumental to accompany the final speech. We looked into new audio recording performances and back over the Everyday Moments podcasts. Josie Long’s everyday moment podcast (Long, 2011)was to be listened to whist shopping in a supermarket. In the background there were sounds of tills beeping, the hustle and bustle of people shopping. This use of sound effects was really effective at portraying where the listener should be, so we tried out our recordings with subtle sound effects that correlated to the specific age we were representing. Michael Pinchbeck’s project Sit With Me For A While And Rememberused slow hypnotic music to enhance the spoken words, and personally it made me engage with the topic of conversation more. I found this really interesting and so inserted a music track under the final speech:
Our intention was to hammer home the idea of inevitability of death (as depressing as that sounds) and we believed the music really enhanced the words of the speech.
Trial run through of performance.
On Tuesday 21st April we invited Rachel to become an audience member and take part in a trial run of our performance. We decided to go an hour prior to Rachel’s visit to trial it out for ourselves. As we arrived the cathedral grounds were packed with priests, solders, and local families for the revealing of the commemorative memorial for the 1945 food drop in Holland. Many of our sites were occupied by the ceremony such as the judgment gates, the pathway to site 2 and to site 3, and the green we start on. This forced us to change the route and meant Rachael couldn’t experience it fully.
However on our trail run we noticed that most of the timings of the pauses were off (especially audio 2), and it made the whole thing quite overwhelmingly confusing. We decided then that we would need to limit the amount of description we give for instructions as we can’t predict where the audience will be when we say ‘to your left and you’ll see a lamppost’. When I followed the instructions, I hadn’t even made it round the corner and the lamppost wasn’t even in sight.
After Rachel complete the trail run, she gave us feedback on how and what to improve. The overall concept seemed to be solid enough, however the way we had phrased the audio and the tone of voice that was used came across patronising, which was far from our intention! Over the next few days we will re-recording the audio as a companion accompanying them on the journey, changing the tone of voice, and suggesting instructions rather than abruptly telling them what to do.
Happe, R. (2009) 5 Ways to Orchestrate Serendipity. [blog entry] 8 December. Available from http://www.thesocialorganization.com/2009/12/5-ways-to-orchestrate-serendipity.html [Accessed 20 April 2015].
Hui, Allison. (2011) Art as an everyday intervention: shifting times, places and mobilities in the pervasive media performance project “Fortnight”. Hong Kong: Hong Kong Baptist University.
Kaprow, A. (1993) Essays on the Blurring of Art and Life. California: University of California Press.
Long, J. (2011) Everyday Moments 8: audio drama for private performance. [podcast] 23 August. Available from http://www.theguardian.com/culture/audio/2011/aug/23/theatre-josie-long [Accessed 20 April 2015].
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