Thoughts About the Production of Octopuses and Other Sea Creatures – Rusty Sheriff

The project was realised in its first incarnation in 2019 when the spine of the current team produced a response to poems written by Becci Louise of the same name.

Octopuses and Other Sea Creatures

We built a production with actors, poems, and audio/visuals for the Square Tower in Portsmouth. The project was a success, but really built on the HP Lovecraft aesthetic of previous, historic octopus tales. Now in 2022, we wanted to revisit the stories and build a larger performance in another Portsmouth based landmark by the sea. We were compelled with a story that takes the octopus as a grand ruler of the sea, and the potential to put polluting humans in their place with its power. We explored the underwater dialogue between the octopus and how that might manifest when faced with a human diver, our representation of mankind.

Octopuses and Other Sea Creatures

Related: Octopuses and Other Sea Creatures

With the Old Portsmouth Cathedral booked, we set about writing a new angle on the Becci Louise stories, with a more contemporary twist featuring visuals with more modern diving equipment and sounds that reflected the experience of diving in the modern age. As Director of Sound I wanted to approach the project from two angles, initially the sonic experience of diving, the deep undersea and how we might transition between those states. Then came the musical score which I wanted to mix electronic sounds with more traditional orchestral themes. I really wanted my fingerprints over every single sound, from breathing on land and underwater, looking at climbing ladders pre-diving and what life sounds like underwater, opposed to above sea level.

Octopuses and Other Sea Creatures

When the performances came around, I wanted to use the foley recordings of diving and underwater ambience in a live context using samplers that I could manipulate live for each show. Effects were used with these to recreate sections of the performances like surfacing from the deep, and how that might sound from a diver’s perspective. In addition, I used a Nintendo DS with a ‘game’ called “Electroplankton” to add another layer to the score in the cathedral, a kind of electronic ethereal Protozoa or such organism evolving throughout the section of performance.


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