The sound of Antigone, Interrupted | Q&A with Sound Designer Luke Sutherland
Wednesday 12 Feb 2020
Luke Sutherland is the Sound Designer of new Scottish Dance Theatre production Antigone, Interrupted - we sat down with him to ask about the process of creating the soundscape for this exciting new production.
Q: Can you tell me a little about the process of creating the sound for Antigone, Interrupted?
A: The score for Antigone, Interrupted began in the rehearsal studio using sounds made by the body.
Joan Clevillé’s piece is partially embedded in the notion of civil disobedience in contemporary democracy and the role of the body at the forefront of that dissent. The idea of using the body as an instrument to create sound, ties into that idea, helping to express that Antigone is putting everything she has on the line.
To capture these sounds, we used a handheld stereo microphone in the main. Recording in dance studios had its pros and cons. On the whole, the rooms we were in weren’t soundproofed, so many of the recordings featured background noise. My first thought was to simply use these recordings as a guide and redo them in a more controlled environment. But once I had edited and treated them, I found that this sonic residue lent an extra texture which somehow made the sounds more physical.
Q: What is it that made you want to try this?
A: In short, the position occupied by the body, not just in the narrative of Antigone, Interrupted, but in the wider thematic context. As per the demands of that context, the choreography and Solène’s performance of it is startlingly physical. I felt my best role might be to try to augment and at times amplify that physicality. Because the source material of the sound score was created by bodies, my hope is that one is constantly reminded of the power and vulnerability of Antigone’s (and hence any protester’s/dissenter’s) external and internal physicality, and that, by extension, one is kept aware of what is at stake: her life.
Whether or not the audience is conscious that the sounds are made by a body or bodies, I hope that at some psychological level it will be apparent.
Q: What kind of things did you do to create the sounds?
A: We recorded voices, breath, the sound of hair whipping through the air. We also managed to create some growling that is really quite guttural – Joan and Solène used their voices in the first instance, then I pitched everything down quite severely and further modified the results with varying degrees of harmonic distortion.
Q: Which sound made the best effect?
A: There was a point where we felt there could be more percussive sounds in the piece. We’d tried recording footsteps, but none of the results were particularly satisfactory, so we attempted to record Solène’s heartbeat after she danced through the opening of the show. The fact that we were successful was an enormous thrill.
I was also surprised by the dripping water sounds we managed to create. Solène and Joan made clicking/popping sounds with their mouths which we layered together to create something that sounded like water droplets. That was a great surprise. On a couple of occasions, after time away from the rehearsal space, I mistook them for the real thing.
Q: So how does it go from recording noises to being the dramatic soundscape for the show?
A: After we had recorded the sounds, I took the raw material, dropped it into a program called Logic and started to piece things together. I’m used to working with music more than sounds of the type that feature in Antigone, Interrupted, but I approached the arrangements as I would a musical composition.
Q: How did the choreography and the text inform the sound to be created?
A: There was usually some choreographic element or key idea, to begin with. Often, I’d respond to those in the rehearsal room – heartbeats, growling, water droplets. We’d patch sequences together which I’d take home and arrange over time, referencing videos of Solène in the space, mapping sounds to how she was moving. I’d bring those arrangements back into the rehearsal room where they’d re-inform the choreography and so on until we were happy.
Q: What’s it like to work so closely in collaboration in a piece like this?
A: I think Joan and Solène are singular artists. It’s a privilege to be invited into the room with them. They’ll work flat out all day and then spend the evening talking about what went on and what they can carry through to the next day. Their drive, vision, energy and generosity are astounding; their physical and psychological commitment to developing material a beautifully impressive spectacle. To witness how their friendship, trust and mutual respect infuses the work, is at once very inspiring and moving.
Find out more about the Antigone, Interrupted tour dates here!