With their Toronto Premiere approaching, the creative team behind Franz Ferdinand Must Die discuss the show’s impressive soundscape.
When Franz Ferdinand Must Die premiered in Winnipeg last summer the Free Press declared the show, “Eerily entertaining, and notably enhanced by exceptional ambient music and sound design from Toronto composer… Alex Eddington”.
The sound behind this solo show, a comedy about the assassination at the start of the First World War, is certainly noteworthy, and if you ask the other two creators who worked on the project, absolutely necessary.
Writer Adam Bailey states, “Early in the writing of Franz Ferdinand Must Die I knew; sound was going to be a key element in the final production. As the lines hit the page it was clear, this was a play with strong themes around hearing. Listening.” Director Tyler J Seguin agrees, “From the beginning, I knew we needed a strong sound design”. Although for different reasons, “I wanted to make sure that the audience could follow the rapid action and scene changes”.
Enter accomplished composer and theatre artist, Alex Eddington. “I’ve written music for quite a vast swath of purposes and audiences, including orchestras – like the Toronto Symphony, choirs, solo voice. I’m making an album with soprano Kristin Mueller-Heaslip at the moment. [Then there’s] School-age musicians, I’m currently working with a youth choir on a collaborative piece… and of course music for theatre. I was a resident sound designer at Tarragon Theatre, and since then I’ve worked on many theatre and dance shows”.
“I had seen a couple of Adam’s previous shows,” Alex confesses, “Including The Life Henri, and I really loved their approach to storytelling which I think has some similarities with my own: the intensity, the rhythmic text, the physical character elements. When Tyler asked me to sound design Franz Ferdinand Must Die it seemed like a natural fit.
I immediately connected with the intensity of the show. The story drives forward toward world-shattering events, but the characters don’t know where it’s going. And with all the twists and changes of perspective, neither do we – even though we’ve got a century of lead-time on these people. The way Adam bends time in the script, it’s right up my alley. I used subtle loops to underscore scenes from the two main characters’ perspectives, and as the show goes on I kept adding layers to these loops, to ratchet up the tension. This includes a whole lot of anachronistic sounds, like electronic beats, as though time isn’t relevant”.
It’s fun to play with expectations of what a “historical” story should sound like”.
Tyler confirms, “Alex and I have collaborated many times and thoroughly understand each other’s perspective. What I love about Alex is his ability to take something literal like the sound of a car engine and turn it into something impressionistic that makes you rumble with dread. He’s always so sensitive to the emotional tone of a scene and seems to always add layers of nuance through the subtlest of sounds.”
While the two have worked on over ten different projects together, for Bailey, the lone actor in the show, this is his first time working with Eddington’s compositions.
“I’ve performed this piece in four different cities, touring on my own… But I hesitate when calling this show a solo piece. Whenever I’m on stage Alex is with me. His sounds are my scene partner, a living element of the show that I get to work with. Lots of shows have complex sound design, but I’ve never experienced anything quite like this before”.
Franz Ferdinand Must Die plays March 18th-29th at the RED Sandcastle Theatre, 922 Queen Street East in Toronto. Tickets Are Available at Brown Paper Tickets.
Read reviews from the 2019 Fringe Tour Here.