In recent years, the implementation of two inventions, the reversible conversions of analog information to digital signals and the computer, have revolutionized sound design almost as much as the introduction of controllable gas lighting at the Paris Opera House in 1820 forever revolutionized established theatrical production values. With today's new methods of managing sound — recording, synthesizing, manipulating, improving, and changing the way sound is perceived — the possibilities for real artistry are boundless. Of the five human senses, hearing and sight are considered the primary instruments for human interaction. Sound design is associated with the knowledge to provide the means for entertainment and communication using the sense of hearing as the medium.
The ability to manipulate sound using digital signals and the computer has done wonders for the artistry of sound. All of the controls needed to operate and mix a Broadway show can be contained within a centralized self-contained digital mixing system and a rack containing a computer and a power supply. When engineered and implemented with care, this means far less time for the designer “getting to know” all the different pieces of equipment (because they no longer exist), and more time focusing on the art of sound design.
It has been especially helpful to me to have the assistance, support, and cooperation during the past 30 years from the many manufacturers, representatives, and sound suppliers who are the first to develop and put into use the products born of this new creativity. I would like to thank Meyer Sound Labs, Riedel Communications, Cadac, Midas and Digico Consoles, and Scharff-Weisberg for their support of this year's Master Classes. In particular, my gratitude to Vinnie Macri and Tom Bensen who have given their time and shared their talent to further my growth over the years.
All that being said, however, for the future, I believe that Mies van der Rohe's dictum “less is more” is still correct. I have come to the conclusion, after all these years, that the theatre's best sound design must be acoustically and physically invisible and transparent. The audience should not think about the sound of the show, merely enjoy it. I am hopeful that the Broadway Sound Master Classes has provided the structure for a better understanding of the field of sound design and for our industry that follows in the wake of that understanding.
I urge all designers to take every advantage of the new technology and science that makes this challenge even easier. But remember, to do our job properly even with the aid of technology, it is the individual designer and the designer's sense of hearing that is the final arbiter of what we do and how well we do it. Use the tools but rely on your ears to do the job properly. With that effort, sound will continue to be a vital part of the entertainment world.