Armadillo’s composer and sound designer Anna Clock has created an “auditory feast” (★★★★ Broadway World). Here they dish out the details on their process and how their “evocative” soundscapes (Exeunt) were created.
We were really keen from the outset not to go naturalistic in exploring a lot of the themes in Armadillo. For example, a lot of the time instead of actual gun sounds what you hear are beats and bass. I composed these in order to say something about Sam’s emotional, mental and physical relationship to the objects that trigger those sounds in the show, and the power they hold in her world. It was important for the sound and music to complicate the external world rather than explicate it. In this way they become a strange and secretive voice for some of the silenced aspects of her story. A lot of the sonic ideas help to express the complexity of Sam’s internal world and all the contradictions present for her and being evoked in the audience as they experience the show. In Armadillo we interrogate several aspects of humans’ incredible capacity for contradiction and hypocrisy- for example, how we can desire the things we fear, and be aroused by things and people that we hate.
Sound and music are experienced viscerally and tap into a really primitive, pre-linguistic part of our brains. There are lots of big moments in this show where compositions and sound design help evoke strong emotions and strange worlds, but there’s also a lot going on that most audience members won’t necessarily hear, but will feel. At any one moment there is a mix of at least two sounds being played. These sounds shift incrementally from moment to moment and scene to scene, and are designed to help track the fluctuations of tension through the plot as well as keeping the world afloat and engaging.
“At any one moment there is a mix of at least two sounds being played.”
The entire production and design was a genuinely collaborative effort between the whole team, including of course Sarah Kosar and her brilliant script. I took a lot of inspiration from Jasmine Swan’s set design, composing music with instruments created from recordings of water and metallic sounds. Also, I often sat in rehearsals with movement director James Berkery and director Sara Joyce so that I was able to respond directly to movement sequences, gestures and the actors’ interpretations – and vice versa. Jessica Hung Han Yun’s lighting and Ash J Woodward’s video designs were really fun to work with – For the big video pieces, Ash would make a first edit which I would then take away and play about with sound and music, then once he had heard what I’d made he would re-edit, responding visually to some of the sound. Jessica’s ways with colour and rhythm are really exciting, and we spent a lot of time in technical rehearsals playing about with timings and textures together. The only way you can develop design languages and realise how they work is to play around and actually do things in the room. So sometimes we would spend ages syncing something and then suddenly have the realisation that sound and light should play against each other and do different things in this particular moment – and then we’d undo everything we’d just done!
“The only way you can develop design languages and realise how they work is to play around and actually do things in the room.”
One of my favourite moments in the design is a really small thing – without giving away anything, there’s a particular sound you hear all the way through at various times throughout the show, then only in the last scene it is connected to a gesture that one of the characters enacts. I find it a really exciting and satisfying moment – every time the character makes this gesture I shiver.