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Urmakarens Hjarte (The Heart of the Watchmaker)


For the past few months I have been pretty busy assisting the director Torkil Sandsund with sound design and programming for the theater production Urmakarens hjarte. Urmakarens hjarte (The Heart of the Watchmaker) is an adventurous thriller for youngsters inspired by Norwegian folk mythology and modern fantasy literature, based on a script by Miriam Prest√ły Lie, and directed by Torkil Sandsund.

It is produced by Sandsund/Lie in the valley of Dale in Sogn & Fjordane, further north on the west coast of Norway. I have spent five weeks or so commuting between Bergen and Dale by boat and buss, a beautiful travel through the west coast fjords, where the bleak and barren winter landscapes leaves me with an impression of being a Tolkien-like hinterland.




Sound is reproduced using a 16 channel loudspeaker system, and a custom live sound spatialisation system has been developed for the production, using Max and Jamoma.

Urmakarens Hjarte premiered last summer, but unfortunately experienced some problems with the sound system. Last fall I got involved in the production as they prepared for tour in the spring of 2012. Gradually we have been redesigning patches and modules, developed new features for Jamoma as required (notably module highlighting and aliases), developed an “OSC/Jamoma” bundle for TextMate, and totally reworked all of the cues for the play.

The audio files used for the production were already prepared by the time I got involved, and my role in the production has been to do the reprogramming, and what could be considered the spatial mixing of the sound design. Apart from the differences in audio system used (16 channels and Max/Jamoma and cue execution rather than stereo recordings within a DAW environment), I feel that my role has resembled that of a mixer in a record production: All sound files were already recorded and prepared by the time I got involved. My role has been to mix the audio to make it sound good and make use of the rich spatialisation possibilities of the system, while also ensuring that the system would perform reliable in rehearsals and performances.

This is by far the largest patch/system that I have been using Jamoma for ever. The patch is to heavy to run on my own 4 year old dual-core laptop, but runs fine at the laptop used for the production. We have more than 200 cues that are executed over the 1 h 15 min duration of the play, an average of close to 3 cues a minute.

Sound plays an important role as auditory scenography, creating the sonic ambiances and emotional backdrops of the scenes where the play unfolds. As such each scene can be thought of as a sound installation in itself.

In addition sound plays an important narrative role, functioning as auditory props and folley, assisting and at times driving the story and actions of the play.

Parts of the workflow in Max/Jamoma still feels cumbersome when needing to work fast in a setting involving lots of other artists and technicians that can’t afford to wait for you, but at the same time it has been inspiring to see how well the modular structure works, in particular the spatialisation based on the Jamoma Modular and AudioGraph frameworks, ViMiC and ambsionics techniques for spatialisation, SpatDIF, and Jamoma modules embedding ICST externals for spatialisation (the ambipanning, ambimonitor and ambicontrol externals).

Urmakarens Hjarte will be touring Western Norway and Oslo in the spring of 2012.



Me and Torkil Sandsund working on
sound design and spatialisation in Dale.


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