Interview with Dave Clarke

Feb 09, 2012

Briefly describe how and why you got involved in sound design/composition?
When I was nine, I built a light-sensitive burglar alarm that I hid in my younger sister Julie’s drawer to great effect. Maybe it started there. I got a small portable cassette player for my birthday soon after, and have always got a kick out of transforming sounds.
How does sound help to create the world of the play?
Sound and music sets the period (horse-drawn carriages?) and the mood of a show. Most important is that the soundscape of a show supports the storytelling.
How has sound design developed over the course of your career?
I started professionally in sound design in the mid-eighties. I’ve designed shows for magnetic tape on reel-to-reel, 8-track cartridges, cassette, minidisc, digital tape & compact disc. Computers have changed everything. Editing sound is now a fast and reversible process. And multichannel playback and live processing of audio has made “painting with sound” possible.
An interest/hobby/passion that has nothing to do with theatre or sound design?
I love old movies – I mean really old silent films. Cooking East Indian food. And geocaching!
You’ve worked with Bradley Moss and Chris Craddock on several different productions – Summer of My Amazing Luck, Public Speaking and now Moving Along – is there something unique about that style or process that you can discuss?
Yes, Chris’ scripts – whether they are one-man shows or ensemble pieces like Luck – are based in storytelling and direct address of the audience. The audience plays a big role and it’s a style that I love. There’s a lot of sound that is built to interact dynamically with the performer(s), becoming another character in the show. Sound also plays other offstage characters and environments. And there’s more leeway than in more realistic shows – a herd of elephants might run across the stage and it’s my job to put them there!
Briefly describe your sound design process.
The process is different for every show. Some plays require realistic sound effects and scene change music. Other plays, like Moving Along, require detail and collaboration. I prefer to be in rehearsal as much as possible with the design, trying things out early on in the process.
What do you prefer to use – already written music, composing your own music, or found sound?
I’m a huge music fan, so using other people’s music is always fun. But in the end I prefer to make everything from scratch.
Describe your style of sound design/composition in three words.
Happy! Sad! Loud!
If I turned on your stereo/ipod/computer right now, what music would I hear?
Ennio Morricone, Danger Mouse, Peter Gabriel’s new CD!
Who or what inspires you?
Peter Gabriel, David Byrne, Brian Eno, David Bowie and all of my collaborators for their desire to experiment and try stuff that, well, might not work… but if it does, it’ll be unexpected and great… right?