Necessary Angel Theatre Company’s production of Racine’s Andromache, part of Toronto’s prestigious Luminato Festival, was more soundscape design commission than conventional theatrical sound design, and made prominent use of a TiMax2 Soundhub audio delay matrix to fully engage the audience in the emotion of this anti-heroic tale.
The immersive soundscape was central to director Graham McLaren’s intense interpretation of the story’s highly original treatment by collaborating writer, Evie Christie. The job of sound design was entrusted to UK-based sound artist John Wynne – whose past works notably include a massive installation that became the first work of sound art in the Saatchi collection and won the artist a 2010 British Composer Award for Sonic Art.
Wynne created an energetic soundbed which included a virtually continuous backdrop of atmospheric drones as well as barking dogs, battle sounds, jets, helicopters and explosions. All audio sources came from the TiMax2 SoundHub with a single external audio feed from a video playback source. The actors wore no microphones, so the sound design had to maintain its impact whilst leaving space for their voices to cut though without amplification.
At one point during the piece a distant radio was meant to be heard as if from another room and Wynne made clever use of the TiMax SoundHub delay matrix to maximise the faraway effect whilst also diffusing any direct audio localisation to the speakers closest to audience seats.
Wynne explains, “I’ve worked with many different sound control and playback systems but TiMax SoundHub was by far the most user-friendly. Andromache featured a lot of complex sound effects placement and movement and I don’t know of anything else that would have handled them as well.”
The unique multichannel distributed surround PA system comprised sixteen Alesis passive studio monitors plus four subs, powered respectively by two 8-channel and two 2-channel QSC amps. TiMax SoundHub handled all system EQ and filtering, plus zone level, trim and control. No mixing console was used; all source mixing and automation, plus sound effects playback and editing, was handled in the TiMax SoundHub, programmed by Wynne via his MacBookPro. The entire show, including audio content, system setup, showcontrol triggers and mix data was backed up on the Mac using SoundHub’s Archive facility.
Toronto-based installer and rental house Dual Audio supplied the sound equipment to Wynne’s specifications. The company’s Emily Porter approached distributor Contact Distribution to hire the requested TiMax2 SoundHub-S16 matrix, but changed the rental to a purchase immediately after the show’s close as she ‘could see the potential of the TiMax for many Dual Audio projects.’