Sound was used to suggest emotion, replicate mood and highlight action in dances and plays even in prehistoric times. During those times, humans didn’t enjoy the privilege of sound reinforcement systems. But the idea of producing sound effects always existed. For example; there existed a form of theatre in the medieval times, known as Commedia dell’arte.
It used sound effects and music to augment theatrical performances. It implied the use of bells, horns and whistles. The earliest utilization of recorded sound in a theatrical performance dates back to 1890. It was a baby’s cry being played by a phonograph. But the true growth of sound designing began in the 1950s when directors from Hollywood started directing plays for Broadway. Digital technology and MIDI (musical instrument digital interface) boosted the rapid development of sound designing in the 80s and the 90s. Apart from that, the World Wide Web made it possible for the sound designers to obtain source material easily, cheaply and quickly. The sound designers can now download sharper and more authentic sounds from the internet. This saves a lot of time and money.
Types and uses of sound designs:
In terms of theatre, there are 2 kinds of sound designs. Their features are mentioned below:
Technical sound design: It includes the design and use of a sound reinforcement system that will satisfy the requirements of production. The tuning of a sound reinforcement system includes a number of methods from equalization to placement of microphones and speakers. The job of the technical sound designer is to ensure that the performance is heard by the entire audience, regardless of the size, acoustics and shape of the performance venue. This also includes the comfort of the performers with respect to the sound. The USITT calls this type of sound design, “theatre sound system design”.
Conceptual sound design: It comprises of the selection of sounds and music for a particular production. The sound designer and the director sit together and discuss the various scenes in the play and the sounds that are supposed to be used in them. They finalize the sounds only after they have discussed the entire theme of the play. Although a conceptual sound designer’s work doesn’t involve the use of a sound reinforcement system, it goes hand in hand with the technical sound designer’s work.