What is a Sound Designer?

April 14, 2015

Dan Perelstein is the Sound Designer for the Jungle Book. He was also the sound designer for Robin Hood and Pinocchio here at the Arden. Dan works on a lot of shows for adults, but he especially likes doing Arden Children’s Theatre!

Sean Lally and Taysha Canales are two of the actors who provided some of the sounds you heard recorded in THE JUNGLE BOOK

Sean Lally and Taysha Canales are two of the actors who provided some of the sounds you heard recorded in THE JUNGLE BOOK

Close your eyes for a few minutes and listen to all the sounds around you. What can you tell about your surroundings from what you hear? Is there music playing? Can you hear a dog barking or a car driving by? Do you hear the dishwasher or the TV or someone flushing the toilet? Even when no one is talking, we pick up a lot with our ears that can tell us where we are, who is there, and what is happening.

When you watch a theatre performance you are also listening to it, and that’s where I come in. The sound designer is the person who thinks about how to tell the story through sound and music. Sometimes this is recorded ahead of time and played through the speakers like the music you heard in Jungle Book. Sometimes these are sounds the actors make live onstage like when the wolves howl. I work with the actors and the director to make sure that all the sounds come together to tell the same story.

For example, in this clip, I recorded the actors making animal sounds, and then used those sounds as a background sound for this piece of music! See if you can hear different animals!

Activity 1

Remember in the play when Mowgli jumps into the pool of water? If you were the sound designer of the play, what sounds would you use to tell the story? Write down some of the sounds you would want to hear. Now, think about how you could make those sounds using just the things you have in your house. Without getting your whole house wet, how can you make it sound like Mowgli has jumped into a pool of water?

Activity 2

Choose an animal from the jungle. Think about what sounds that animal makes. Does your animal roar? Or croak? Or whistle? Try a few different kinds of roars, croaks, whistles, etc. Which one sounds most like the animal you are trying to imitate?

Go Further: Record yourself making some of these sounds. How do they sound when you play them back? Can you speed them up or slow them down? How does that change them?

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