• Outsourced to Cole Wimpee – Angels In America

    Well I’ve done it again. I just finished my work on the sound design for a new production of “Angels In America Part 1: Millennium Approaches”. My dear friend Cole Wimpee, the brilliant director and most elevated thespian, was directing a production of the play, in partial fulfillment of his Master’s Degree, at the University of Arkansas.

    As most of you know, I’ve worked extensively with Cole Wimpee in the past, but always under the auspices of Aztec Economy. I am a member of Aztec Economy! (I went through an elaborate initiation ritual that I’m not allowed to talk about, but there was a coffin involved.) About eighty percent of my theatrical outsourcings have been with Aztec Economy. Some of my best friends are Aztec Economy. But this time it was just me and Cole, and we talked through the script on the phone over the course of about six weeks, I took detailed notes, and I only missed one thing! I didn’t know there was supposed to be rain in Act 2 Sc 3.

    What a dope! But I did remember the other 58 cues, so that’s not a bad batting average. And four of those cues are 10 minute soundscapes that I made for each of the two intermissions. There are four cues, because the first two I created were completely wrong! And I had to redo them!

    For my first attempt at the Intermission Cues I created two ten-minute soundscapes incorporating background elements from the scenes just before intermission. On top of those sounds, which the audience would have already heard and had been allowed to enjoy once again, I layered some music elements from the sound design for the show, notably, several distinctive drum cadences. I put these dozen or so drum cadences into a folder called “Gay Republicans”. That was my first instinct for the sound design for this play. Provocative, no? But there are gay republicans in the play, most notably the legendary political attorney Roy Cohn.

    Unfortunately, in my first attempts at intermissions, I didn’t make the gay republicans loud enough for Cole Wimpee. He yelled, “We’ve gotta keep these college kids in the theater for three hours! Your brilliantly executed and lovely soundscapes will put them all to sleep!” You gotta hand it to Cole. He’s a great director. Because what happened next I can only describe as a complete surprise. I had already had more than a couple all night sessions working on the other 40+ cues for the actual play, plus a thirteen minute pre-show sonic montage that I had completed the night before.

    I knew he wanted more drumming, so I re-recorded some of the earlier drum cues, and started layering a small number of elements, and then I was saved. I rediscovered the ‘space designer’ reverb plugin in Logic. Inside that are ‘warped’ spaces that contain resonant drones on top of the reverb, and the drums were totally activating the resonance of those silly drone spaces, and I said to myself, “Wow. That’s pretty cool. Military drums and electronica, together at last.” And I was right of course. They were together at last.

    People ask me, “Hey you, what’s it like to make crap like that all the time? Huh?” But that’s OK. You can’t please everybody half the time, but you can please somebody all of the time, as Abraham Lincoln didn’t say. And if that person is you – even better! But the nice thing about being outsourced, is that you don’t have to worry about these things. You just make your stuff and try to imagine what the director is looking for. Most of the time this is simple for ambient noises, though I did learn that you really have to muffle the equalization for ringing phones and traffic sirens. Even when the board is set on the lowest level, those sounds still cut through unless you turn down their their fundamental frequencies. Sound is so cool.

    So the intermission cues were for Cole. Cole said make it louder, so I made what I would consider to be my loudest twenty minutes. Keep in mind, its premiere was in a large University theater, with a sizable sound system. On opening night I wondered to myself what levels they set for that music. After all, there were hundreds of people for opening night – totally sold out of course. But it’s fun to make cool music for the young people, who really need cool music. And it is here that I need to share with you the greatest website for recorded natural sounds, all open-source community driven user-uploaded recorded sounds. I found some great wind, traffic, phones, distant airplanes, and all sorts of wonderful sounds that people record and share with the freesound.org community. I have not yet contributed anything of my own, but I hope to some day. Go to freesound.org and join for free and check out and download all the wildest sounds you’ll ever want to hear. From all around the world! The goto website for the low budget sound designer working in academia, and maybe for you too!

    Here is the pair of my ten-minute musical adventures (Intermission 1 and Intermission 2) used in Cole Wimpee’s legendary production of Tony Kushner’s “Angels In America:  Millennium Approaches” at the University of Arkansas.

     

     


  • Piano Lesson Nightmare

    The story of a piano lesson gone wrong:

     

    The piano teacher comes over to the house to give the boy a piano lesson. As the lesson begins, Father enters the parlor, yells at the piano teacher:

     

    “Did you have a bottle of tomato juice for dinner last night?”

     

    Silence.

     

    “Well, did you?”

     

    Puzzled shock.

     

    Piano teacher finally replies, “Yes I did. Why?”

     

    Father yells, “GET OUT! GET OUT OF THIS HOUSE! Never come back! You are not to see my son again! I will not have you in this house! GET OUT!”

     

     

     

     


  • Happyman on the Red Planet Apologia

    MESSAGE FROM RATBOY GENIUS:
    SPOILER ALERT!

    So many of you have been writing to me with frustration in your tone.

    This Happyman Opera of mine is taking so long to get to the end. In this YouTube world of click click click, you all just want to find out what happens so you can get on with your life. And I appreciate and sympathize with this frustration of yours. Some of you have even written with your own fun ideas of what you think is going to happen next. Who will kill/kiss who? Who will will live? Who will die? and so on.

    I love this. It is such a great compliment to me – that you care so much about Happyman, Green Monster, Fred, George, and especially Bob and Sue – that you take your precious time to worry about how things will turn out.

    In the latest Happyman (e17) Sue announces that “George is my brother”. George sings “I remember Sue. . .”. Perhaps the biggest character revelation in the opera thus far.

    Of course this blew your mind.

    And perhaps moved you to tears, as it did me.

    To make sense of what comes next, I have begun a Prequel to the Happyman Saga, “Galactic Superheroes”.

    It is the story of Fred, George, and Sue before they came to the Red Planet.

    Not only are Sue and George brother and sister, but Fred is their brother as well.

    Fred, George, and Sue are all brother and sister. And they were Galactic Superheroes. They had their own ship. They had unique superpowers. We already know that George can fly. . . Fred seems to always know what is going on. . . Bob fell under Sue’s spell in no time at all. . .

    So why does Fred hate George? And what happened to George’s arms? Why does it take George so long to remember Sue? Why is Sue not surprised by any of this? And what happened to their ship? They were Galactic Superheroes. And now they are three strange aliens on the Red Planet when Happyman and Green Monster arrive from another planet on the top of Happyman’s car.

    . . .

    There were the Hoo Hoos – three alarmed creatures that all sing “Hoo” together all of the time. This series uses hand-written titles over the video – so you can read what they are singing. Hoo is difficult to translate. Old Fingerhead hates the Hoo Hoos. They periodically infest his ship. They sneak aboard and live there for days and he doesn’t even know. This has been going on for decades.

    Old Fingerhead finally had conclusive proof to that the Hoo Hoos have been living on his ship – without him knowing – for all of this time. He’s always suspected them. He attacks the three Hoo Hoos with his ship while they flee. George takes down Old Fingerhead, Sue captures Old Fingerhead, and Fred bags Old Fingerhead.

    . . .

    Fred (just) knows this is going on. It’s his ‘special sense’, his superpower. He just ‘knows’ when someone/ones, or something, is in trouble, somewhere, in the galaxy. He changes color and becomes emotional when his special sense is activated.

    George pilots the ship. He’s the navigator and pilot. Fred says where the trouble is, George get’s them there and neutralizes the threat. It’s his favorite thing to do. Navigator-pilot-commando.

    Sue’s head now has been detached. It’s very calming. The opposing agent is held in her power – a mildly-telepathic hypnosis – allowing a rational calm to pervade the mood of the adversary. A willing to listen to reason.

    If necessary Fred scoops them up and takes them in.

    He seemed to let Old Fingerhead go this time.

    Back on the Red Planet:  Fred blames George for getting them stranded. He thinks George made a mistake – screwed up – and crashed them on the Red Planet. The accident was bad. George lost his arms and his memory.

    Happyman and Green Monster showed up to the Red Planet almost a year after Fred, George, and Sue crashed there. George’s memory has just now (e17) started to come back. That George kidnapped Bob with his feet, seems evidence of a significant step in his recovery.

    About a month after they arrived, Sue left for the Underworld, then they all split up. Sue found that the Underworld was green, with a mighty stream. Sue grew plants, food, and flowers, using the running water in a natural underground ecology. George found a tall mountain peak away from Fred – ‘George Mountain’. Fred found some nice local hot springs that create a soothing red mist where he could lurk quietly, and forget his great fall from power.

    Sue knows what’s going on with Bob and Happyman, and Fred and George. She also knows that Bob will be fine. Bob is the first man Sue has ever met that didn’t know she was a superhero. She is naturally charmed by his innocence, but cannot allow her superpowers to influence his decision making. Fred does not give her enough credit.

    And that’s the end before it was.

    . . .


  • The Galaxians

    Characters from out there that get involved with the Galactic Superheroes.

    Danger. Watch out for Trap in a Hat.

    If you need a hand look out for Caterpillar Minister.

    The Grin is good for a laugh.

    Meanwhile Pleader waits for the Superheroes.


  • Ratboy Genius Merchandise Now Available.

    I have begun building an online store at CafePress:

    http://www.cafepress.com/ratboygenius

    There are all sorts of fun and exciting products available for fans of all ages: clothing, hats, bags, mugs, aprons, coasters, clocks, stickers, magnets, iPad cases, iPhone cases, posters, pillows, blankets, water bottles, beer steins, and more.

    So far the store features Ratboy Genius, Little Summer Solstice Baby, the Cast of Happyman (Happyman, Green Monster, Fred, George, & Bob), and other art work and characters from Ratboy’s Kingdom.

    Show your support for Ratboy Genius and his magical Kingdom by purchasing something fun for yourself or as a gift. The quality of the merchandise is great, ordering is easy, and shipping is fast.

    Have fun!

    -RBG

    Knock knock!

  • Ratboy Genius is back in D.C.

    Ratboy Genius’s latest adventure features his visit to Ford’s Theater, the legendary theater where Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. As we all know, Ratboy Genius loves Abraham Lincoln so much. To honor his hero, Ratboy Genius wears his Lincoln beard, and sports a new stovepipe hat like the one that Lincoln used to wear.

    In a fun surprise, Happyman and Green Monster are onstage at Ford’s Theater, performing a musical number about Lincoln’s assassination. A little history, a little drama, and a lot of fun. . .


  • Happyman is Back

    As most of you know Happyman has been on hiatus. (Sorry!). But now he is back. I have put together this little synopsis episode of the first act of the opera. (The first eleven episodes of Happyman comprise Act I of the opera. Episode 12 revealed Ratboy Genius as the creator and he invites Happyman and Green Monster out with him on their day off. Ep. 13 also took place outside of the Opera and depicted a typical sojourn to Washington D.C. for the trio.)

    When I began working on this project, I did not have a plan for the story or the music. At first I just took them one at a time and saw what happened. Then people started asking me what was going to happen to George. . . And I realized that I should probably think about things a little bit more. The fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pajamas approach took me safely up to the end of Act I (ep. 11).

    And then summer break came, and then school started again, and then I managed to get my house guest’s stuff out of my apartment, and then I started working on Happyman again.

    In the meantime, somebody sent HM 12 to somebody, and a small viral attack began on YouTube. It wasn’t just that so many people were viewing the video, but many were commenting and writing to me. Many of the comments were thoughtful and appreciative. Many were outlandishly abusive. I had to delete many comments with foul language and perverse sexual suggestions. The children!

    I was faced for the first time with the problem of having a community of critics and fans for my work on a broad scale.

    And for a while I fought with the pressure to respond favorably, and then with the pressure to ignore, and finally hit upon a new attitude with new techniques and hopefully recognizing the great challenges to get this story through season two. And I realized that even though e12 and e13 had many thousands of views, but actual Opera was averaging a very small percentage of that. So I realized very few people were paying attention to this after all, and I had nothing to worry about.

    Before the second season starts and to get you caught up with the events of Act I, I created this little teaser, a sort of “Previously: On Happyman” T.V. spot.


  • Dr. Strangelove

    so i recently watched again the most excellent stanley kubrick movie ‘dr strangelove’. i first watched it in college. the first thing i noticed, at the time, was the pornographic opening sequence. a bomber was refueling in midair with a tanker. sexy music was playing. the fuel tube from the tanker had to land into the bomber’s little slot. so the fuel could flow from one plane to the other.

    the movie is so weird, that nobody can believe it when they first see it. if you ask me.

    this last time i watched it, i became attached to this one little scene. i captured some video. and some audio. i remixed some of the audio from the scene into two little sound compositions. and put it back with the video.

    strangelove remixed!

    strangelove remixed too!