During my undergraduate study, I was very fortunate to be immersed in an arts community that included students and performers of many disciplines. One of these people was Tess Galbiati, an actor and honors student who wrote and acted in a play for her capstone and thesis project. The show, You Can’t Cry While Drinking (Coffee), follows Stacia, a visual artist, as she navigates friendships, a rocky relationship, and a fatal illness in her family during her junior year of college. I’d been listening to Tess’ ideas, struggles, and successes for months, and when she asked me to take charge of sound design I couldn’t have been more thrilled. I had the privilege of joining an all-female creative team and playing a part in making Stacia and her friends come to life. The show was a resounding success, and Tipping Point is my favorite moment from the production’s sonic environment.
In one of the final moments of the show, Stacia is alone at home, dialing and redialing her recently deceased mother’s phone number and listening to her voicemail as she overdoses on prescription medicine. While the first two iterations of this phone call were just as normal as you’d expect, I wanted to create a surreal sonic environment that would bring the audience out of the physical world they were watching and into Stacia’s mind. The voicemail ricochets from side to side, becoming increasingly foggy and difficult to distinguish. This is punctuated by phones ringing as more iterations join the fray and underlaid by a single sine wave reminiscent of the ringing in your ears as you lose consciousness. It’s not exactly music and it’s not exactly noise; instead, it lives somewhere in that wonderful in-between world, and by the time it was happening, that was just where the audience needed it to be.
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Tipping Point is available for listening on SoundCloud: