Sound Design

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View a video introduction from David Budries, Chair.
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Tyler Kieffer ’15, Sound Design
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Elizabeth Atkinson ’12, Sound Design
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Junghoon Pi ’12, Sound Design and Keri Klick ’13, Sound Design
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Matt Otto ’13, Sound Design
Sound Design

David Budries, Chair

M.F.A. and Certificate

The Sound Design program attempts to exercise and develop the conceptual, compositional, and technical skills of a sound designer through substantial academic offerings and a set of practical design opportunities that together provide a solid professional training experience. This rigorous preparation readies students for a variety of design and engineering jobs related to music and sound in performance. It is also directly applicable to teaching the art and craft of sound design.

Students applying to the program should be innately musical, even if they do not play a musical instrument. They should have a love for the spoken word, an appreciation of all music and sound, and be on their way to developing good critical listening skills. A sound designer must have a natural sensitivity to the entire aural environment. A familiarity with contemporary design tools is also valuable. This program is populated with a variety of individuals who are willing and able to share their perspectives and who can listen to and respect other opinions. A typical incoming class (of three) might include one student strong in composition, one strong in music and sound technology, and one who is a blend of both.

What makes the sound design experience unique at Yale School of Drama is the manner in which all five areas of design — set, costume, lighting, projection and sound — are integrated. All designers are required to take introductory course work in each of the design areas. This course work provides students with a core of basic knowledge and the ability to exercise good communication skills through the design process, while helping to build camaraderie and respect among the designers. This ensemble approach provides a foundation for networking as design professionals after graduation. Collaboration is an essential part of the experience at the School of Drama.

The program is rigorous. Students must be dedicated and willing to work hard. The course work covers the aesthetics of design, music composition, script interpretation, dramaturgy, critical listening, professional collaboration, sound and music technology, aural imaging in large spaces, acoustics, investigations into psychoacoustics, digital audio production, advanced sound delivery systems, advanced problem solving, advanced digital applications, production organization, and professional development combined with a wide variety of practical assignments.

The Sound Designers and Directors Workshop is a unique class in which directors and sound designers focus on communication and exploration of each other’s production processes. In the second term, playwrights are invited into the process, allowing designers and directors to explore works.

All students attend Sound Design Master Classes and Sound Seminars. In these meetings, current production work, concepts for design, production problems, and current technological developments are discussed. Visiting artists, designers, and technicians are also invited to present and discuss their work.

Besides the classroom work, the core training revolves around practical production assignments that include working on medium-to-large scale student productions as well as professional design work at Yale Repertory Theatre. Additionally, Yale Cabaret provides students with up to eighteen extracurricular design opportunities annually. These hands-on assignments provide invaluable practical learning experiences.

In order to support this work, students have access to two production studio spaces: a design laboratory, and a teaching studio. Additionally, students are required to develop their own digital audio work-stations while they are in school so that upon graduation, students have their personal studios ready for professional work.

The Sound Design program sponsors critiques of current productions as part of Master Class. All Yale School of Drama students and invited guests are welcome. Attendees discuss all aspects of the work including the storytelling, dramaturgy, acting, directing, design, and music.

This Sound Design program nurtures individual creativity and exploration. Its goal is to train professionals who will become leaders in the field of professional theatrical sound design.

Academic Expectation and Professional Practice

Yale School of Drama programs of study attempt to balance academics with practical production work. For this reason, it is necessary for students to learn how to manage their time in both activities. This is an essential skill set for design students to acquire or further develop. Students are always expected to show up on time and be prepared for classes, meetings, and production assignments. Any variation from that expectation requires direct communication and approval from the instructor, supervisor, stage manager, or other person in charge. Students are expected to be active participants in the production process, attending all required meetings, actor rehearsals, technical rehearsals, and previews. All sound design students are required to attend focus and system balance sessions as well as all scheduled production critiques unless there is a direct production conflict. Any variation from that expectation must be directly communicated to the appropriate supervisor and approvals must be granted.

Elective Sequence:
The elective sequence is determined in consultation with a departmental adviser. Students must complete two terms of music electives and two terms of general electives. Non-music electives may include Law and the Arts, Shop Technology, Stage Rigging Techniques, Theater Planning and Construction, Automation Control, Control Systems for Live Entertainment, Architectural Acoustics and many more. The design adviser must approve any exemptions or adjustments to the elective sequence.

 The Sound Design department’s three-year plan of study and detailed course descriptions appear in the Bulletin of Yale School of Drama.  Click here for the Bulletin.


Photo Credit: Bryan Fenkart, Lucas Papaelias, James Barry, and David Wilson Barnes in These Paper Bullets! adapted by Rolin Jones ('04), Yale Repertory Theatre, 2014.