With field recordings, audio effects, and a well timed air horn Explosions for the 21st Century uses sound design to explore contemporary
culture. Written and performed by Chris Ross-Ewart (Yale School of Drama) and directed by Graham Isador (Pressgang Theatre) the show is a real time, exploration of why we make sound and how we listen.
Sound designer Chris Ross-Ewart combines elements of a didactic lecture, stand up, and monologue to engage us in a thought-provoking journey about sound — its connection to the arts, culture, and our every day lives.
At the start of the show Ross-Ewart ‘nervously’ cracks a few jokes to get the audience settled. We also get exposed to the sound of a very loud air horn (some of you may be wise to bring your earplugs). He continues by talking about his growing up in Vancouver; the sounds of the sea and birds being very memorable. Next he moves to living in Toronto and its busy, loud, and at times, chaotic sounds. Lastly, to his studying at Yale in the USA — how living there for a few years, really made him think and pay closer attention to the sounds around him.
Part of the technical lecture of the show involves us hearing sounds at various frequencies, as we learn about our own “aural mortality”. A total reminder about how our sense of hearing starts to deteriorate from the time we are babies.
His material includes some comedic pieces, like when Ross-Ewart talks about some sounds samples known as ‘The World Music Loop Collection’. Take a listen to the snippet below to hear how the names of some of these sound loops are at times ridiculous, and ignorant as well.
The most poignant aspects of the show occur when the discussion touches on how certain voices are not heard in society. The idea that many are still shouting for: “Equity. Diversity. Inclusion.” He clearly illustrates this by sharing a a clip from a student protest at a university campus in the USA.
Given the length and set up of the show, there are only so many topics Ross-Ewart can touch upon. The themes he raises, however, are insightful, well thought-out, and will stay with you even after the show is over. A main point that stays with you as you leave the show is to be conscious about he sounds we make.
I hear you, Chris Ross-Ewart… loud and clear. Explosions for the 21st Century has two more showings at Summerworks on August 11th and 12th at The Theatre Centre BMO Incubator. For listings and tickets, visit summerworks.ca.