The Cure at Troy

by Seamus Heaney A Version of Sophocles' Philoctetes directed by Mark Allan Gordon
designed for Eldred Theater at Case Western Reserve University opened: November 19, 2004


Keening Download Link

To express Philoctetes' sorrow and anguish, I took traditional Irish keening (grief wail), looped it, and made it reverberant and otherworldly. This is the result:

Chorus Transformation Download Link

The chorus and chorus leader transformed into the other characters who interacted with Philoctetes and Ulysses. To accompany these transformations, I recorded myself humming and pitch-shifted it down. This sample is for the third transformation (into Hephaestus ) and mixes the samples from the first two transformations.

Design Concept

Mark Alan Gordon’s concept for the show was extremely stylized with distinct choreography and abstract set. He was insistent that the sound design complement the abstract style of the production without introducing significant musical elements.

To create the atmosphere of the island, I created a lapping wave cue that lasted four hours so it would play from preshow to bows. Volcanic effects were created for special effect at the end of the production. Wood flute was used to provide extremely limited musical references. I worked from Gaelic resources to match the tone of the sound with Seamus Heaney’s roots.

The main stylization came from vocal manipulations: a never-ending keening represented anguish and a vocal “hum” and “aah” with digital effects. The vocal effects were used for the transformation of the chorus into interacting characters on stage.

Design Analysis

The vocal effects were extremely effective at creating the atmosphere the director intended for the production. They ended up being bizarre while retaining their organic qualities. The effects used for the chorus’ transformation were extremely effective. The subwoofer created the rumbling effect for the earthquake and volcano that filled the entire 120-seat house.