Spöksonaten - An Audio-Visual telling of the August Strindberg play “The Ghost Sonata”

S pöksonaten or The Ghost Sonata in English is a play by the Swedish playwright and author August Strindberg. It is known as one of his 'dream plays' so-called for being abstract and often nonsensical in terms of plot but with a strong message and metaphor running throughout. The idea for the work was to create an site-specific audio-visual telling of this play utilising electro-acoustic composition techniques, video editing for projection, a live actor and set dressing. The piece is set across one or two different rooms with a short promenade intermezzo to join the two acts of the piece. My primary goal was to create a strong immersion using interesting combinations of sound design and electro-acoustic composition along with bold, striking and colourful imagery to project and drive the narrative along for the audience.

M y primary objective with this piece are to investigate the possibilities of telling literature-based works through sound and visual arts whilst placing the audience in an immersive space – to feel that they are 'in' the story and watching as if they were The Student in this case.
By placing props and an actor from the visual projections in the live performance space I hoped to increase the immersion by bringing the story 'out' of the digital world and into the physical. It is also my intention that this will also make the electro-acoustic work more intimate and 'real' to the listener.
There is a short promenade intermezzo between the two acts where the audience follows the performer around the corridors of the space. The intention is to give the impression that the audience are entering the house and therefore further entering the supernatural world of the play.

U ltimately the combination of the above techniques is to add a vibrancy and 'realness' to the digital domain and encourage it to emerge from the the often seeming sterile and untouchable nature of such performance which I feel enhances and combines well with the surrealistic and supernatural nature of this particular play.
A further secondary objective regarding the sound design is to have "clarity appear from chaos". This is especially evident in the vocal readings which are repeated in Swedish (the original language of the play) and edited to various degrees. It is important for the key lines to be audible to advance the metaphor of the story so the readings appear with more clarity especially in the second act.

Technical Specifications

The work is a combination of recorded acoustic pieces, recorded sounds, sound design, electroacoustic composition, edited video and live acting. Some string quartet pieces were written very early on for the project and were recorded in a workshop with the Edinburgh Quartet at the University of Aberdeen. These pieces were then manipulated and used in the electroacoustic composition, the aim being to try and mix both acoustic and electronic composition in a seemless way.

The video clips were recorded at Crathes Castle in Aberdeenshire and digitally edited to fit the narrative of the play and provide some visual context for the audience with the aim of creating a deep level of immersion.

A voice actor was also utilised to read select lines from the play in order to tell the key parts of the story of the girl.

Stuart Docherty    ...    Composer, Sound Artist, Videographer.
Alexander Drotz Ruhn    ...    Voice Actor.
Jennifer Drotz Ruhn    ...    Actor.
Richard Carnie    ...    Tenor.
The Edinburgh Quartet    ...    Instrumentalists.
Fraser Edwards    ...    Camera Operative.

Special Thanks to Crathes Castle staff for filming permission.