A Random and Informative Interview…with Jeff Tymoschuk!
CT: Hello Jeff Tymoschuk, thanks for taking the time out of your day to chat with us and the Carousel Theatre family. We have a few questions that we were hoping you could answer for our blog. Would you mind?
JT: Hit me.
CT: Thanks! First up- What is your most favourite book in the entire world from when you were little?
JT: I was a pretty big Where the Wild Things Are fan, and the first thing I remember reading on my own were the Richard Scarry books.
CT: What is the most exciting food you’ve ever eaten?
JT: Exciting? Not too sure, but the most nervous I’ve ever been eating something was when I tried sushi for the first time in front of a client who was treating to a pretty deluxe spread. Having grown up on the prairies where there wasn’t a lot of sushi, I was unsure about it, to say the least, but I wanted to make sure that I didn’t look like a chump, so I closed my eyes and dove right in. Now I probably have it twice a week.
CT: What’s your favourite colour.. and why?
JT: It’s a constant battle between green and blue, and I’m not sure why. Green tends to get the upper hand because my company is GreenWire Music and Audio (www.greenwiremusic.com for those who can stomach a shameless plug), but when it’s scorching hot in the summer, my studio gets even hotter, and to try to trick myself into thinking it’s cooler, I have a blue image as my computer desktops.
CT: Who would win in a fight: Batman or Spiderman?
JT: Spider-Man. Batman’s got the gadgets, the dark edge, and the smarts, but Spidey’s got the heart.
CT: What are you going to dress up as for Halloween this year?
JT: Undecided. Usually I wait until the last possible second and then come up with something really lame.
CT: Can you tell us how you go about designing sound for a theatre production? What’s your process?
JT: I’ll go through the script and first look for all the obvious spots that’ll call for sound (stage directions, thunder & rain, helicopters, explosions, etc.). I’ll also try to have different sonic environments for different locations, either with subtle weather shifts, traffic noises, or other such ambiences, anything that’ll help support what’s on stage and give it a sense of place. Through reading the script and conversations with the director, I’ll have an idea of what sort of music will fit the story and I can start writing from there. I have done shows that have used existing music, but in general I prefer to write my own scores. Most of the scores to date have been mostly MIDI, using sampled orchestra and that sort of thing, which I’ll augment with any acoustic instruments that are needed (such as guitars, percussion, mandolin, ukulele, and voice).
The music cues then get sent in to the director for approval, which inevitably leads to several edits due to cues being too short or too long, and somehow by the time we’ve finished teching the show, it all makes some sort of sense, and is in the hands of the stage manager.
CT: Do you design sound for other things like commercials, movies, or video games?
JT: My main gig is writing music for film, TV and videogames. I’ve written music for the James Bond franchise of games for EA, The Simpsons Hit and Run for Radical Entertainment, Penny Arcade Adventures for Hothead Games, and I’m just finishing up work on a game called DeathSpank, also for Hothead. I’ve scored over 60 films in the last ten years, and this fall will be finishing the score for the film Altitude, which is this really cool Twilight Zone-esque supernatural thriller that’s coming out next year. I’ve also done commercials for Sony, Samsung, and a bunch of other corporate work.
CT: How is it different from designing for theatre?
JT: In some ways it’s pretty similar, I use mostly the same tools, and some of the shows I’ve worked on have had a very cinematic feel. The principal difference is that with theatre there’s the live performance element, which makes for some challenges. In film, once a scene is edited, it’s a fixed length, and I can write a piece of music that’ll follow the action pretty precisely (10 seconds of ominous ambience, then build for 2.5 seconds as the main character goes up the stairs, then 16 seconds of chase, etc.). In theatre, even the most consistent actors are going to have subtle variations in their performances, or a line could be dropped, or any number of things could happen (it’s live theatre, after all), so unless you’ve got the actors listening like crazy to the music, underscoring has to be treated a fair bit differently.
On one of the first shows I did I tried score it with fixed timing, which I mistakenly based on the actor reading the script. It was working pretty well until the night before she left on the road, when we discovered that her performing the show paced things differently than her reading it, so at the last minute I had to stay up all night and figure out ways to chop a couple of seconds off each cue (or certain parts of each cue) and still have it make some degree of musical sense. So that was one lesson learned!
CT: Can you tell us a little about the Love You Forever… sound sample you’ve given us for the blog (See September 10 Post)? How did you make it?
JT: Having worked on the previous Carousel Munsch show in the spring, I knew that it had to be different, stylistically speaking. That first piece started off as a sort of ragtime piano thing, which was a fair bit quicker. Eventually I ended up playing it on my banjo ukulele, which is a ukulele with a banjo body and was semi-popular in the 1903s in England. From there I added drums, finger snaps & shakers, bongos, toy glockenspiel, my Hofner Beatle Bass, Mellotron flutes (a la Strawberry Fields Forever) and some old piano. Since Mortimer seems to be drumming a fair bit, I thought of adding some pots and pans, it seemed like something that he’d be doing at some point or another.
I usually start out with an idea of a genre that I want to work in for the score, but with this one it’s a little more impulsive, and I’m really just playing. It’s a lot of fun so far!
CT: Thanks Jeff- for answering all of our questions!