(preface to "Sound Design")
What attracts someone to become a sound designer? Musicians fascinated by the potential of playing with images... Cartoon "whiz-bangs" affecting a tender young mind... A solitary techie finding a creative outlet... The routes are many and each brings its own fertile seeds of expression.
My story may shed some light on how different experiences meld into a synergy toward sound design. I began studying clarinet at eight, performing in symphony orchestras and chamber groups, then took up the flute with the conscious choice to not read music, but to jam, developing my earís sensitivity and spontaneity.
As a neurobiology undergraduate at U.C. San Diego, my interests in physiology, psychology and dreams were united by research in a sleep laboratory. Fascinated by the mind-body interface, I published several studies relating brainwaves to mental states and biorhythms, and developed insight into the physiological and perceptual processes that serve as foundations for the creation of sound design.
My musical exploration continued when I lived in Indonesia and Thailand, listening to, collecting and playing the local instruments made of bamboo, palm fronds and gourds. Returning to the U.S. to direct Little Red Riding Hood: A Balinese-Oregon Adaptation, I mirrored the form of the Balinese mask dance, playing bamboo instruments together with the clarinet and flute, and composing a non-verbal sound track by assigning to each character a theme and instrument in the style of Prokofievís Peter and the Wolf.
In the MFA program at U.S.C. Cinema School I found a healthy atmosphere to continue exploring sound design, inspired by guest lecturers like master sound designer Walter Murch. My thesis film The Owlís Flight utilized sounds of Pre-Columbian ceramic instruments, animal calls, Tijuana marketplace atmosphere and a variety of fire effects to construct the right mood for a story about a Mexican Indian shaman and the battle over his sacred healing mask, which garnered an award from the Motion Picture Sound Editors Union.
Relocating to Rio de Janeiro, I directed the feature Super Xuxa, a Wizard of Oz-like fantasy starring Xuxa Meneghel, the popular kidsí TV show host and singer. This gave me the opportunity to introduce a sound design concept to an industry which in the past has not paid much attention to audio quality, collaborating with Brazilian producers and directors to develop their soundtracks, while administering workshops throughout Brazil and Cuba. Finding a gap in the literature regarding the narrative use of the sound track and recognizing that my sound design methodology is quite unique, spurred me to write this book. As you read, I hope you become as inspired as I have.