In April, we had the tremendous pleasure of being involved in Connections - the National Theatre’s nationwide youth theatre festival. Each year it offers a unique opportunity for youth theatres and school theatre groups to stage new plays written for young people by some of theatre’s most exciting playwrights and provides groups with the opportunity to perform in leading venues across the UK.
pyka were invited to Sherman Theatre in Cardiff, one of the festival's host theatres, to provide groups with the chance to explore creative digital sound in the context of the theatre. From soundtrack music to descriptive foley, dramatic monologues to raucous applauds, sound plays a crucial role in theatres - both onstage and offstage. The aim of our sessions was to get our young participants thinking about and exploring these sounds, and help them develop a wider connection with venues that serve as a home to their artistic practice.
Firstly the groups were introduced to our sound app pyka_loop. Working in a flexi-space backstage in the theatre, our participants were introduced to the basics of digital audio recording and interaction. Throughout the initial training, we covered recording etiquette and normalisation, as well as useful functionality such as looping, pitch shifting, filtering, and panning. We also began to look deeper into the mechanics of sound. With several members of the theatre groups starting to record each other rehearsing lines from their scripts, it only felt natural for us to twist the world of spoken word and dive into the realms of reverse audio:
(...and for the record, we don't feel that there's anything wrong with the name Barry whatsoever!)
Following this, equipped with their newfound digital audio skillset, the groups were then taken on tours around the theatre to capture sounds within the app. Visiting key spaces at the venue, the participants were encouraged to discover, create, and even perform sounds in the spaces, highlighting their professional or personal connections with the venue.
Catherine Palmer, researcher at National Theatre Connections attended one of our sessions:
"As part of the Sherman Theatre Connections Festival, I was able to join pyka’s workshops introducing young people to features of pyka_loop and offering them an opportunity to practically explore these in small groups. One of my key observations was that the exploration of technology offered a bridge for young people from different groups, life experiences, and parts of the country to communicate through a shared commonality. The technology is new, exciting, and accessible putting creative exploration, collaboration, and process at the heart of the approach as opposed to focusing on the final product produced.
In this spirit, young people were asked to find and make sounds around the theatre building to create a soundscape in their groups. Initially, in the foyer, there was cautiousness and lacking of ownership over the space. There was a sense that the young people did not feel they had the right to or were not entitled to take up space, touch things and make sounds. I think this behavior evidences the many ways young people are marginalised within society with their occupation of space viewed as negative and discouraged. It also evidences young people’s increasing lack of engagement with cultural spaces as access to arts education and opportunities are diminishing.
The Connections festival provides an important opportunity for young people to create a relationship to their local professional theatre and be supported to perform there. However, I felt that the pyka_loop workshop added an entirely new layer to young people’s sense of entitlement and belonging to cultural spaces. Through the task, I observed that young people became more confident in exploring the space as their creativity, bravery, and ability to work unaccompanied by practitioners grew. The technology of pyka_loop is incredibly exciting and captivating in its ability to offer a new approach to young people's engagement with the arts."
After the soundhunting, the groups reflected on pyka_loop and discussed how it could be utilised to support their artistic practice. Many novel ideas emerged: from using the app as a digital foley board to soundtrack performances, to recording sounds of their body to enhance unique and expressive physical theatre performances.
Ultimately, all of the sessions resulted in a large sound sample library consisting of a wide range of sounds captured and created by our young participants, which leaves us with only one more thing to say...
...after all of their hard work and creative explorations, we're proud to announce Snarey Stage Skwak, the latest _looper release now available the world over on all major music streaming services.
Bravo guys. Encore!