How Australian theatre is failing its sound designers and composers

A white middle-aged man in a theatre, with a guitar and headphones, frowning

“In the last couple of years, I’ve seen a lot of my colleagues drop out of the industry; a lot of them burn out and suffer serious mental health crises,” Edmondson told the ABC.

“David White’s letter resonated with me. We’re not far off that situation happening in Australia and I’ve seen people come uncomfortably close to that kind of point in their life because of the pressure in the job, and lack of understanding and support.”

Two jobs for the price of one

“Sound and composition … has the ability to truly creep its way into the back of the minds of the audience and help shape their engagement with the play, without being particularly overt. I think that’s a lot of the reason why it’s often overlooked,” Edmondson says.

Sound designers are responsible for all the sound elements in a production, from sound effects and mic-ing up performers to setting up speaker systems.

Edmondson, whose recent credits include Sydney Theatre Company’s award-winning six-hour epic The Harp In The South (sound designer, working with composer The Sweats) and Blackie Blackie Brown(assistant sound designer, to designer/composer Steve Toulmin), says sound designers often resort to unexpected sounds to achieve the desired effect.

In Blackie Blackie Brown, for example, Edmondson had to ask himself: “What is the sound of a giant pair of testicles exploding? … You’ve got to get creative.”

One solution? The “mating cry of foxes” — which when slowed-down sounds “low and haunting”.

A grey-haired middle-aged man with headphones around his neck gazes moodily into the cameraPHOTO: Stefan Gregory is a composer and sound designer who has been working in Australian theatre for 15 years. (ABC Arts: Teresa Tan)

Composers, meanwhile, write and arrange music for a production — but in today’s theatre, the roles of composer and sound designer are often combined.

Stefan Gregory, who won Best Sound Design at this year’s Sydney Theatre Awards for his work on The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui (STC), is a composer and sound designer who has been working in Australian theatre for 15 years.

Gregory says the trend towards combining the two roles emerged within the last 10 years, as composers increasingly began to work electronically.

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“The composition/sound design is expected to be fed actively into the room right through the rehearsal process,” Edmondson says.

After the day’s rehearsal, the sound designer/composer writes and mixes the music before programming it into the software. Then (hopefully) the director approves — or they’re forced to go back to the drawing board.

“Once you hit the theatre [for tech week] … you tend to come in for a 9am start and you’ll tend to work through till the theatre closes, which is generally 11pm. But larger productions you might not be out the door until midnight,” says Edmondson.

“If you’re a composer, you go home and sometimes rewrite a whole piece of music and you might be up to 3 or 4am and then back into the theatre early again.”

Gregory concurs, saying that in the final weeks of rehearsals he often works between 90 to 100-hour weeks.

And it’s not just the hours that are taxing.

“You’ve got to put your soul into this music — with the knowledge that someone’s going to listen to it for about three seconds and go ‘Nup, that’s not right’,” he says.

He estimates the ratio of music abandoned as opposed to used in the production as 10:1.

“The sound designers and composers I know all work extraordinarily hard and kill themselves, pretty much.”

Living ‘hand-to-mouth’

J David Franzke is a Melbourne-based Green Room Award-winning sound designer and composer who has worked in the industry for 25 years. Last year, he worked on Melbourne Theatre Company’s production of The Architect; currently he is working on Malthouse’s forthcoming production of Cloudstreet.

“If you’re working as a sound designer in live theatre you’re doing it as a passion. It’s not a sensible career choice,” Franzke says.

A middle-aged white man sits at a desk working on his computer, a dog in his lapPHOTO: Franzke describes his financial circumstances as “hand-to-mouth”. (ABC RN: Hannah Reich)

“I feel like I’ve spent the best part of 25 years with my nose down, tail up, just boring along working. I’ve popped out the other side and gone: ‘Oh! Where are all the things you’re meant to have when you’re almost 50?’ Like a house or a car, I don’t have any of that.”

Franzke works for 6-week blocks at a time on shows.

He describes his financial circumstances as “hand-to-mouth”.

Edmondson says he’s able to make a living wage but that he puts his “hourly rate for theatre work at between $15 and $18 per hour”. In his Facebook post, he said: “The janitors make more money out of my shows than I do (no shade to janitors, of course).”

Gregory says the hourly rate for being both composer and sound designer is “not good”, and says he chooses to work for companies that pay on the higher end of the industry’s spectrum.

“I will be going back to finding work as computer programmer this year — despite being one of the most in-demand in my field and having plenty of shows offered to me in Australia and overseas — because I want more free time to work on projects that are meaningful to me.”

The changing scope of sound design

A hand with wedding ring and watch adjusting knobs on a sound deskPHOTO: Sound design has changed significantly in the last 10 years. (ABC Arts: Teresa Tan)

“Sound designers/composers are paid a flat fee and that hasn’t really changed much at all in the last 10 years,” Edmonson says.

“It’s been fairly static — as have most of the fees of other creative departments — but unlike other departments, sound design has changed a lot in its scope in that time.”

With the rise of prestige TV, theatre audiences have come to expect more complex and immersive sound design, and technology has emerged that can realise that.

These developments have meant that delivery time for work has been cut down while tech costs have gone up. Edmondson says sound professionals need between $10-20,000 worth of equipment to start out in the industry.

Inequity in the industry

In order to remedy “the significant gender inequity” in the industry, Theatre Networks Australia has compiled a list of female, non-binary, and trans designers.

But one woman who has been working regularly in Australian theatre as a sound designer and composer is Kim “Busty Beatz” Bowers, with recent credits including cabaret show Hot Brown Honey and The Longest Minute (a co-production by Queensland Theatre and JUTE Theatre Company).

A black woman with a mic singing in front of a laptop on stage.PHOTO: Sound designer and composer Kim “Busty Beatz” Bowers says the theatre industry is not conducive to being a mother. (Supplied: Sean Young)

“I’m a mother and the theatre is not very conducive to that — especially [the role] of a sound artist. It’s a lot of late nights, and I wouldn’t say that I’m treated that great,” Bowers says.

“The last project I did seven drafts … a lot of that is hours that aren’t paid for,” she adds.

And it’s not just late nights that Bowers has to contend with.

“[I deal with] attitudes, ideas that because you’re a black woman, a woman of colour, that you’re only going to have a certain skill base, that you only work in a certain way … insidious stuff that is full-on.”

Better pay, recognition and education

While other designers in theatre are represented by the Australian Production Design Guild, Edmondson says sound designers are lacking specific union representation to advocate for change.

Yet, the time might be ripe for change.

“With all the cultural shift that we’re seeing in theatre at the moment surrounding safe spaces, mental health, appropriate behaviour and inclusion … I think that’s really opened the door for more honest, frank conversations,” says Edmonson.

“I’m seeing people really suffering from being overwhelmed and burnt out by this workload and … there’s such a small pool already in the industry to begin with, we just can’t afford to lose these people.”

The answer for Edmondson is better pay, improved mental health support, and bringing composers and sound designers on board earlier in the production process.

All of the practitioners interviewed for this piece feel that raising awareness is a crucial part of effecting change.

“It is about actually recognising the workload and recognising the number of hours [involved],” says Bowers.

Gregory says: “I think what’s really happening for the role is that it’s just become a lot more work than it used to be 10 years ago, and I think theatre companies haven’t really caught up … I find that I have to explain my role to pretty much every theatre company I work for.”

 

 

[“source=abc.net.au”]

Weather: England records its coldest night this winter

Walkers on a snow-covered Beachy Head near Eastbourne

Walkers on a snow-covered Beachy Head near Eastbourne. Photograph: Ed Brown/Alamy

England has seen its coldest night of the winter so far as temperatures tumbled across the UK. A low of -10.9C (12.4F) was recorded at Chillingham Barns in Northumberland in the early hours of Sunday morning, the Met Office said.

In Scotland a low of -12.6C (9.3F) was seen at Braemar in the Highlands, although it was a few degrees off the -15.4C seen there on Thursday. Elsewhere on Sunday morning the coldest spot in Wales was at Swyddffynnon in Dyfed, where -6.5C (20.3F) was seen, while in Northern Ireland the lowest temperature recorded was -2.6C (27.3F) in Katesbridge, Co Down.

Forecasters earlier said there was the potential for a low of minus 16C (3.2F) to be seen in eastern Scotland overnight following a blast of cold weather than brought severe disruption to large parts of the country.

Several weather warnings have been issued for Sunday and Monday mornings, although some respite is expected with milder conditions moving in at the start of the week. Icy stretches will continue to be a hazard in parts of southern England and East Anglia into Sunday morning and a yellow warning is in place until 11am. A warning remained in place for snow and ice for a swathe of western Scotland reaching from Inverness in the north to the outskirts of Glasgow in the south.

“Much of the UK’s dry, but across the north-west and west of Scotland there are some snow showers,” Met Office meteorologist Greg Dewhurst said. “There is a weather warning that will be in place from 7am onward as that band pushes eastwards.

“It will be a cold, frosty start for many and then there is the risk of some more rain, sleet and snow coming into western Scotland by the end of the night into Monday morning.”

After snow left travellers stranded in many parts of Britain, people across the country struggled to get back to normal on Saturday with drivers returning to collect cars they had been forced to abandon at the roadside during the snowfall – up to 14cm deep in some places – while workmen were clearing roads of ice, snow and debris.

Dozens of football, rugby and hockey matches were postponed as a result of snow and icy grounds, with Accrington Stanley’s League One game against Blackpool the most high-profile casualty.

At the Jamaica Inn, off the A30 near Launceston in Cornwall, where 140 people had camped out on mattresses on Thursday night, staff made preparations in case Sunday night brought more disruption.

Sammy Wheeler, the general manager of the inn, said: “We’ve still got the beds out and we’ve told the Highways Agency we’re on standby, ready if they need us. But, thankfully, last night all the roads seemed to be moving.”

A toboggan steers down Gold Hill in Shaftesbury, Dorset, on Saturday.
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A toboggan steers down Gold Hill in Shaftesbury, Dorset, on Saturday. Photograph: Toby Melville/Reuters

Workers from the Highways Agency and local authorities had cleared all main roads by mid-morning on Saturday, but there were still big clear-up efforts in some places.

In Walderslade, Kent, workers used diggers to remove branches and trees that had fallen due to the weight of snow. Kent police said it had been an “incredibly busy night … trying our hardest to move stranded vehicles”.

Several police forces were dealing with the aftermath of collisions. In Thornaby, Teesside, a car smashed through the front wall of a house after skidding off the road on Friday night.

The M3 had been blocked when three lorries came to a halt, and on Saturday snowploughs and gritters cleared snow from all lanes.

Coastal areas saw sleet and rain, with snow showers further inland on Saturday morning, but by the afternoon most of the country was bathed in frosty sunshine.

On Monday there will be more snow and ice in much of Scotland, the Met Office has said.

[“source=theguardian”]

New Pic Of Deepika Padukone From Wedding Festivities Shared By Designer – No, It’s Not Sabyasachi

New Pic Of Deepika Padukone From Wedding Festivities Shared By Designer - No, It's Not Sabyasachi

 

After Sabyasachi and The House Of Angadi, Deepika Padukone picked an outfit from the shelves of Anamika Khanna for one of her wedding functions. The designer shared an image of Deepika with her family on her Instagram page and used ‘#weddingfestivities’ in the caption (now edited out) but she did not give away the details of event. In the picture, Deepika Padukone, dressed in an organza outfit, smiled as she hugged her family (in a very Hum Saath-Saath Hain style). Deepika’s sister Anisha, dressed in a chikankari anarkali, looked pretty. Deepika Padukone married actor Ranveer Singh in Italy earlier this month in the presence of their families and close friends. The couple is gearing up for their first Mumbai reception scheduled for November 28.

Anamika Khanna is the third designer Deepika Padukone opted for her wedding festivities, first being her favoured designer Sabyasachi. Deepika also wore a pure zari kanjeevaram saree in gold for the reception, which was a gift by her mother Ujjala Padukone from The House of Angadi. Deepika’s orange and gold saree for the Konkani wedding was also from The House of Angadi.

[“source=ndtv”]

Payless pranks customers by getting them to buy its shoes at designer prices

Payless recently took over a former Armani store to prove that good shoes don’t need to be expensive.

The shoe retailer slapped on a new name for the storefront and gave its discounted shoes inflated designer prices.

About $3,000 worth of shoes sold within a few hours and after the shoppers paid, staffers told them that the shoes were from Payless.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” one customer said.

The buyers got their money back and free shoes.

The ad company, which assisted with the event, said Payless “wanted to push the social experiment genre to new extremes, while simultaneously using it to make a cultural statement.”

[“source=forbes]