Of Farms and Fables combines the efforts of professional and non-professional artists by engaging artists in farm work and farm workers in storytelling and acting. The result will be an original performance in October of 2011 which will engage performers and audience in dialogue about local agriculture, farming, and the future of small family farms in Maine.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Addition of Voice (Seth Asa)

Last Sunday I had the pleasure of meeting the cast that will perform "Of Farms and Fables," as well as other members of our production team, for our first full read-through of the play.

The first read is always exciting for me as a Sound Designer. This is my introduction to the voice of the piece. When I read a script, all characters have nearly the same voice, i.e, mine... I have many talents but acting really isn't one of them! Thus, when I am graced with the sound of the actors - their timing, the tones of their voices, and the human personality they breathe into the artful spirit of the printed word - I can begin to compose the aural landscape of their lives.

A week ago I was reading this play and hearing vocal tones limited by my own experiences and community. Because of the gift of voice given by our actors on Sunday, I now hear lives of toil; ecosystems of marriage; stresses and rewards of enterprise; frenetic exuberance of youth; and the curious wonder of innocence.

The sonic environment is an important part of one's disposition. For example, many people find the sound of the ocean to be relaxing. For one person, the dull roar and crash of surf may be a reminder of beach vacations of youth. Another person may be calmed by the white noise; the ever-present static that washes out all negative sonic space and engulfs the auditory consciousness. For a third, the sound may subconsciously recall the ebbs and flows heard inside the womb. Whatever the reason, the listener is calmed by the sea... and peace can do wonders for human interactions.

Likewise, moods shift with changing seasons. When the earth is teeming with new life at the start of spring and into summer, the lively sounds of birds (and bees) introduce us to our days, while the crickets and bats chirp us goodnight. Whereas, in the somewhat subdued sonic landscape of winter, the absence of living voice can foster disharmony and melancholy.

How does the sound of a farm affect a person? Do farmers have near-instinctual physiological responses to roosters crowing or cows lowing? Does the well-tuned ear distinguish a particular rustle of leaves as the herald of an impending storm? And how does a lifestyle of interdependence with rural nature affect voice, versus the mechanized stop-and-go of an urban backdrop? If we pay close enough attention, can we hear a person's whole life in the tone of their voice?

Tomorrow I will visit Jordan Farm and Broadturn Farm, where I hope to answer some of these questions... by listening to their worlds! Recordings to come... :)