In my mind, one of the main things that make up a truly special aural design are how cues begin and how they end.
Often, when you see a non-professional theater piece, the sound and music is simply played over the loud speakers by slowing fading the music/sound up and then down. While I find this type of theater vitally important to the fabric of art, I also think that, if they so desired, they have room to grow.
The goal of all sound and music cues are to explore and grow the world of the production. The beginning and the endings of a cue are the most important parts. Let’s take a cue from a production I just completed: The Winter’s Tale at The Island Shakespeare Festival directed by Kyle Haden.
In this play, there is an oracle’s decree brought down from a mountain and read at a trial. We decided to have the guard open the box and have the oracle’s voice magically leap out move around the courtroom.
We recorded the voice on my travel microphone, an Aston Origin, pitch bent it down 15 cents, and then I ran it through my vocal chain: compressor, EQ, de-esser, reverb, slapback delay, saturator. This creates the feeling of a god from on high speaking down to you, especially when played loudly over the surround sound system in the space. Here is the cue:
In a perfect world, the voice would spiral out of the box in a cloud of white smoke, then it would speak, and it would be sucked down into the box with a bang. The first cue is workable, but creating distinct beginnings and endings adds to the drama.
This becomes a stronger deeper artistic cue. It also informs the decision to add in the sound of wind ambience behind the godly speech.
Obviously, this is just one interpretation of this moment, but strong beginnings and endings are essential to the cue. They are something I am always trying to push as designer. It adds a precise nature to the design that I find helps support plays and cues.