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].
Before we broke up for the Easter holidays, we created a detailed script of what would exactly be said on the audio files. This allowed us to understand exactly what the audience would hear and produce trial runs of the performance, allowing us to see any places where improvements would be needed. It also made us go through the performance idea with a fine toothcomb and really understand what each site means and what our intentions were for each site. We really tried to make the text as guiding and encouraging as possible, with specific terminology and phrasing that wasn’t harsh and ordering. We did this because we wanted the piece to feel quite casual yet with clear enough orders so the audience can get as much out of the performance as possible. Therefore certain phrases like ‘please be aware that you will be crossing public roads, so take care’ and by using ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ it makes them feel at ease.
We then broke up for the Easter holidays and each had tasks to do ready for when we arrive back. Fleur typed up the script into a really clear format so that it was clear for not only us to read, but also Rachael so she would get a accurate understanding of what would be exactly said and give valuable feedback. (Script attached below)
I gathered recording of the Cradle Song and the seven ages of man speech from my young family friend who read the Tennyson poem, and my granddad who read the Shakespeare monologue. (Both files attached below)
The Cradle Song
The 7 Ages of Man
However, despite our enthusiasm for using the 7 ages of man speech to finish our performance, Rachael said that the symbolism of the circle of life isn’t clear enough to justify the grand speech. She said that we would have to make the transitions between the ages more fluid and less extreme (e.g, jumping from an infant at site two, to marriage at site 3). This would allow the audience to realise the gradual journey, rather than suddenly skipping a significant chunk of life as it may make it hard for them understand what is being portrayed. We them looked specifically at the seven stages of life that is spoken about in the speech and worked our way through each stage, creating a site for each age.
The infant … (the cradle song poem)
The schoolboy … (commenting on the school that is on the route, the bustling streets at 3:00pm, and also asking them to reflect on their schooling experience)
The lover … (confetti scattered on the floor and wedding bells playing over the audio)
The solider … (walk to Castle Square, look at the people ‘marching’ in the street, very patriotic)
Justice/ peak of life … (walk to the three arches and stand in front of the highest peaked arch, rhetorical questions in present tense reflecting on the journey they have embarked on both during the performance and also before they arrived)
Mature/ elderly man … (walk through the arch and stop outside the west face of the cathedral, the same rhetorical questions are read but in past tense)
Second childishness … (the seven ages on man speech, completing the cycle)
To achieve this level of detail, we needed to change the route of the performance. Instead of turning left into Misters Yard, the audience would carry on straight and head back into town and into Castle Square. This therefore allows the forth age of the solider to be incorporated. This change of route also highlights the fifth and sixth age of reflection and the peak of life through the three archways, which symbolise a change in time when the audience pass through them.
To enhance the different stages of life we decided to incorporate some orchestrated serendipity, chance encounters and coincidences. Several scallop shells would be drawn, hung or placed somewhere in each site (possibly on the Tennyson statue, hung around the head of the gargoyle coming through the wall, on the railings of site one etc). By scattering them around the route it connects everything up and also reassures the audience that they are on the right path. As well as the scallop shells, chance encounters will be places around the route, such as a small knitted Easter chick toy outside the Tennyson statue, a lost child’s glove on the fence outside the school, confetti scattered on the ground outside the church, one of us in a ‘Help the Hero’s’ t-shirt collecting money (which will be donated to the charity by the castle etc). Once again this enhances each of the ages of life. Theatre company Proto-type’s performances of Fortnight (Proto-type, 2014) used chance happenings within their site specific performance. ‘Each location offers a brief encounter that illuminates the everyday’ (Warwick Arts Centre, 2014). This enhancement of each site is what we aspire to achieve.
Mark Storer and Anna Ledgard’s Boychild (Storer and Ledgers, 2007), performed on Fathers Day 17th June 2007. This performance is extremely similar to our own. It is a site specific piece where the audience each have a headset and are taken on an audio guide around a building, stopping at curtain areas to consider either an instillation of some kind or listen to voice recordings. This piece is not only similar to ours in regards to the layout, but also their intentions. This piece ‘takes the audience on a journey around the building and a journey through life from fetus through sprouting puberty to old age’ (Gardner, 2007). Both our piece and Storer’s plays with the power performance can have over the perceptions of a site. Many theorists discuss the difference between place and space, how something can be a space (lacking in personal understanding) or a place (a site which holds a personal understanding). In reference to Boychild, Helen Nicholson stated that ‘space is never empty; it always carries social connotations and it is always someone else’s place’ (Nicholson, 2009, 61), thus we have to understand that people will hold different interpretations of the site we are working in.
There is so much difference and variety in the way we live our lives, but life takes us all on the same pathway which leads us all through the same stages of life. Regardless of our individuality, we all finish the journey at the same place.
During Rachael’s visit we ran through the script with her whilst she pretended to be an audience member. This was very helpful as she listened from a fresh outsiders point of view, and pointed out aspects of the script which didn’t make sense or needed tweaking in order for clear understanding. We spoke to her about our idea of having the famous Shakespearian monologue ‘all the world’s a stage’ playing as the audience make their way round the final leg of their journey back to the beginning. We wanted there to be an underlying message of the journey of life, and we thought that the words in that monologue reflect exactly what we wanted to portray. ‘First childness’ as a baby, and ‘second childness’ as an elderly person, in parallel with our tour starting at the picnic green and finishing there too. One interesting comment that Rachael mentioned was that the green where we are intending to have our starting picnic is actually a mass burial pit where bodies were dumped during the plague. This gave us the idea to remove the picnic blankets and anything lighthearted whilst the audience are on their journey. Therefore when they arrive back at the place they started, it is bare, empty and a reflection of the death that’s been underlying their journey from the start – much like the journey of life itself.
To ensure that this theme of the life cycle is evident and justified we needed to place audios or objects around the site that would represent adulthood and retirement between the Tennyson statue (childhood stage) and the final picnic green (death). We walked along the route and decided that adulthood could be represented by marriage, and we would use subtle coincidences to represent it. We are looking to scatter confetti on the ground on the corner of Minsters Yard where there will be another audio track, which is very different to the previous ones. This audio represents when we reach midlife, the crossroads where you question life and start on your inevitable decline. The audio will ask them to reflect upon their journey and ask a series of rhetorical questions with the sound of wedding bells in the background. Phrases such as ‘as your journey draws to a close’ and ‘you have reached the peak of your journey, please continue on towards the finish’ it echo’s the peak of adulthood. As well as adulthood we also focused on the elderly stage of life, the final stage, which will have audio that will be listened to when they reach the west face of the cathedral whilst they make their way back around to the green. We thought that this would be a good place to have the ‘all the worlds a stage’ speech and we are going to have an old man (my granddad) reading it. The last section in the speech talks about ‘second childness’ that we thought could be read by the girl who read the Cradle song. Representing the life cycle.