It’s a daunting day dress rehearsal day, but we were prepared for what we were going to encounter. Once again we decided that we should go first so we met up steep hill and set out on our route listening to our audio, I was already slightly apprehensive as I still felt that when editing the audio the build up still wasn’t there enough, however once again we felt it necessary for that outside perspective to relay what we had been saying. I particularly wanted to see if Rachel would pick up on the additional sounds which had been added, I felt they made the piece a lot more realistic as their were parts which almost felt that people were right next to you where as other parts sounded in the distance.
Once Rachel had listened to it once again we met up to discuss her ideas, we were to rerecord the beginning and ending so as to make them sound smoother, as well as to make sure the pronunciation of ‘Derby’ was correct. We were also told to have a silence between the explanation at the start and then when the rest of the audio comes in, rather than creating a transition between them as a paused gives people time to think and digest what they believe to be going on. We thought it would also be best to do this at the end with the letter as well so that it gave our audience a slight pause before they heard the letter and were told what they had just listened to. Rachel found once again that she was waiting at the Cathedral for what she felt was too long and therefore gave us a couple of ideas, whether we would make the route bigger in some way or shorten the audio ever so slightly so that it would equal out when then put together.
We grouped back together and started to discuss the best way to go about our feedback. Sitting down and listening once again I found between 3 and 6 minutes not a lot happened and so it would probably be best just to take that chunk out, I looked into the idea of what Rachel had recommended about walking around Castle Square as well which I thought would work really well as it shows the area in which was destroyed due to the Earthquake and also places which linked into our audio and sound. I feel now we really need to go back and take each 30 seconds listening deeply if they build up in there own way.
Over this weekend we managed to potentially finalise our audio, ready to be sent out on Monday evening. Due to technical issues we had to push back the public release date of the audio from saturday afternoon to monday. We had planned to have a media student record and edit our audio so it sounded professional (and as none of us had ever had any experience with audio editing before), however we were informed that they had exams and were unable to help. This left us in a rather worrying situation as we had four complete audio novices, and two days until the public release. We decided to use the audio editing program Audacity that I had downloaded on my Mac.
Before we could start recording we edited the script with the improvements that we were given during our trial run. We found formulating clear conversational directions particulally challenging (especially around Minster Yard / The White Hart Hotel), and we often fell back into the habit of speaking like a ‘sat-nav’ rather than a companion.
Because I was the only one with Audacity on their computer, editing the recordings and exporting them to Mp3 files was my job. For me this weekend consisted of placing the recordings together, adding sound effects, getting the timings right, editing out background noise etc. It took a long time, was extremely tedious, and often tested my sanity, however it meant that we had a recording that was available for downloading – not necessarily to the quality or standard that we had hoped – but a recording none the less. We then trialled the audio in the site, and the timings were much better.
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.
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].
Our first draft of our audio was complete, and so we all met up steep hill today to see whether it had the effect we anticipated in our site. We began by listening to it as a collective and closing our eyes, thinking about each noise and how it made us feel, I found at certain points my imagination wandered to something else, and then I would suddenly hear something within the audio and I would be dragged back in. Although I was dragged back in, I didn’t want this to be the case, I wanted the audio to be an all round interesting and almost overwhelming experience. constantly keeping you on your toes as to who is goig past and what you are surrounded by as well as what is about to happen next. My group felt similar; however we felt we needed an outside perspective to see if they felt the same.
We met up with Rachel and showing her our route we set her on her path with the audio. Where we met her at the end to discuss what she felt we could change. The main criticism that we were given was that it needed more build up, although there were nice points to it and it sounded realistic, their needed to be more build up to the end result as when you got there it was slightly confusing. We also needed to add more soundscapes in which would make our audience stop or pause fro moments and look, or feel like they need to look in a certain direction etc. As Rachel got to the end of the route within a minimal amount of time and therefore was starring at the Cathedral for the duration it did not have the intended effect, however the end did raise goose bumps which we were happy with. Although we feel we could make this impact a lot bigger if we made the audio before it build up to the main event.