by Steve Garbade

There is certainly no shortage of music or sounds on this planet. After all, I will only hear a tiny fraction of it in this lifetime. Despite this, playwrights and directors continue to create such incredibly unique, one-of-a-kind productions that require a new usage of sound, re-arranged/re-imagined music, freshly composed music, and silence to help the audience experience the story and take them on an emotional and geographical odyssey. And that is the sound of truth in 99 Histories.
When approached about sound designing for 99 Histories, my first interest was reading the script to see what kind of production this would be and what possibly might be needed from the Sound Designer: Page 1, 99 Histories, Prologue- The sound of a cello. A young girl plays like a master.
Okay, here we go. As a sound designer/composer, I already have a million questions and none of them will be easily answered. Is she playing on stage? Is there even going to be a real cello on stage? If so, are the actors familiar with the cello? What piece is she playing and why doesn’t it tell me if it is important enough to be in first line of the script?

But what really piqued my interest is what made this young girl a master of cello? It just seemed interesting for a playwright to choose cello and to have a young girl (or boy) be masterful at it as a teaser of sorts to arouse the senses of the audience and engage them. Little did I know the answer to that question will take you on an emotional journey from coast to coast in the United States and to Korea and back covering generations – all in a short amount of stage time. (It should be noted at this moment that I am thinking Sound Design is cake as compared to Set Design, Props, and Lighting.)
When scoring a film, I usually don’t get heavily involved until post-production with the exception of on-screen performances/singing/dancing. At the start of post-production, I meet with the director and view a very rough cut of the film. At this time, for the most part, all of the on-screen acting is done, which means that the sets, props, costumes, etc. are done as well. Then my work begins.
With AAP and Director Leslie Ishii, it is a completely different experience. The design team, producers and managers are involved from day 1. It is a powerful collaboration of minds at work to create this ever-changing world on a small stage. Every new prop, music, lighting or scene idea brings wonderment and possibility to the production as much as it does excitement.
It was awesome to hear the table reading at our first rehearsal. The characters were already emerging and emotions were pouring out of the words from what already seemed like a soon-to-be evaporating script. I even found it difficult to take notes as I had planned to do during the reading. Leslie has a lot to work with and even more to sort out and direct. However, we are all already enjoying our trek to bringing Cho’s literary world to life.
Does a cellist with a mental illness hear his/her cello playing differently from others? At one point in the production, the audience will be able hear and feel this real fear that Eunice is experiencing as she plays via aural hysteria of sorts; sounds will haunt her, other string instruments will actually duel her playing while footsteps are coming after her. This is something that will require around 30 tracks of recorded audio layered. And yes, I will take pleasure in the audience’s discomfort. To me, that means, “job well done.”

What kind of sounds/music could sew split-second scene changes to different worlds (both real and dream) together? Also, can learning a C Major scale during a piano lesson actually be kinda … sexy? Well, I’m working on it. And most importantly, does Eunice’s quest for the truth mean anything or everything?
So now, I take out my cello and enjoy the work!
Steve Garbade is a graduate of Berklee College of Music where he studied Composition/Film Scoring while playing cello for the Berklee College of Music String Quartet. He has scored over a dozen films including the multi-award winning films The Immortal Edward Lumley and Zero. For theater, Steve has composed and sound designed for productions at Long Beach Playhouse, Atwater Playhouse, Pacific Residents Theatre and has completed his fifth season scoring productions for Shakespeare by the Sea.


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