Complete Original Theatre Soundtrack by Nicholas Peters
Play written by Peter Handke
Play directed by Dr Tom Gorman, Course Director for Theatre and Professional Practice, Coventry University
Performed by Year Two BA Theatre and Professional Practice students at Coventry University, December 2008
Total duration of soundtrack: 2 hours, 55 minutes, 1 second
Composed, Recorded and Mixed: Last week of October 2008 – first week of December 2008 by Nicholas Peters
Peter Handke’s abstract play Kaspar explores the theme of speech torture as the main character interacts with the world through everyday physical objects and nonsense speech.
The soundtrack is characterised through the use of long, resonant, piercing tones and slowly shifting drones that were created using wineglasses and a Theremin, each individually recorded, multi-tracked and manipulated through computer software. Both human and computer-generated vocals were recorded and manipulated, mixed with ring modulation, pitch shifting and delay effects that interacted with the live performers on stage. A metronome was recorded ticking at different tempi and the recordings of the ticking were superimposed to phase with one another over very long crossfades as the resonant tones on the wineglasses and the drones on the Theremin slowly shifted pitches.
The music created for the interval continued with the theme of torture, this time through the manipulation of a ringing tone to a call centre and the subsequent automated message “We are very busy at the moment and apologise for the delay”. The ringing tone and the automated message were multi-tracked, pitch shifted and layered to form pulsing chords of harmony. The acoustic environment of the ringing tones was programmed to expand to a never-ending series of sonic reflections, reducing the recognisable ringing tone rhythms and forming long, sustained chords. A single, subdued, wine glass tone was also added very sneakily into the Kaspar Interval Music – the audience were given no break from its pure hypnotic tone until the very end of the show.
Act Two introduced several new sounds in to the laminar underscoring; recordings of plastic shopping bags crunched and rubbed together and rolls of sticky tape being torturously unwound were combined with distortion and delay effects to enhance the busy and zanier nature of the events on stage.
The final component of the soundtrack, the “curtain call” for the show, entitled Goats and Monkeys, was created using only multi-tracked Theremins with overdrive distortion, sawtooth distortion, phaser and reverberation effects. The amalgamation of different types of distortion and the other effects in co-existence with notes produced at different ends of a Theremin’s pitch spectrum created a sound effect that both physiologically and psychologically disturbed the audience.
The overall laminar sound world created for Kaspar was inspired by fusing together the influences of a number of composers, particularly the early electronic works of Pauline Oliveros, Drift Studies by La Monte Young, the original soundtrack to The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) by Bernard Hermann and the early works of Steve Reich.