Irish Levers & Switches

Me recording the waterfall inside the Guiness factory

This past March my wife and I went to Dublin to celebrate my brother’s 40th birthday. Not wanting to miss the opportunity to capture some sounds I took along my handy Zoom H4N field recorder just in case something shillelagh’d my fancy. Plenty did and when I arrived home I had lots of recordings to sort through. Two sounds in particular stuck out and I knew when I recorded both of them that it wouldn’t be long before they were used them in some design.

That time came a month later while working on the play “boom” by Peter Sinn Nachtrieb for Furious Theatre Company (Yes the play is spelled with a lower case “b”). Two of the “boom” characters are controlled by a mysterious third character by way of levers and switches. During pre-production it was decided that while these levers and switches would obviously be practical set pieces they should also be accompanied by a sound effect. This proved the perfect opportunity to work with the two Irish sounds I was anxious to use.

The Jo Lever

The first sound to be used from the Dublin trip was a Dyson “airblade” hand dryer. One thing I’ve noticed on trips to Europe is that their hand dryers are much cooler than their American counter-parts. They are usually motion activated (as opposed to a giant silver button), powerful enough to actually dry your hand (instead of having to wipe it on your pants afterward), and best of all they sound awesome when turning on and off. Here’s a portion of the original sound recorded:

On page 11 of “boom” there is the following stage direction: “BARBARA pulls down a large lever/switch, which makes a loud noise.  JO instantly collapses to the floor as though she has just been unplugged.” I thought the shutting off of the Dyson would make for a perfect unplugging of Jo.  With some slight EQ here is the portion of the field recording used in the show’s sound effect:

The final cue, as used in the show, contained an added lever from a submarine and flanged stinger:

The Jules Switch

The second sound used in the show was a crosswalk I recorded on one of my first days in Dublin. The crosswalks in the town center have a distinctive pattern of beeps and ticks that notify pedestrians when it is safe for them to cross the street.  Here’s a portion of the original sound recorded:

On page 76 of the script is the following stage direction: “A switch springs Jules into action.” Editing a portion of the recorded crosswalk and pitching the sound down a bit by applying a vocal transformer I was able to develop the “body” of the switch sound effect:

The addition of a swinging golf club and a final reverberated crosswalk tick completed the effect and here it is as played in the show:

A final tip: If you decide to record your own hand dryer sound, realize that they are generally in a bathroom and its best to wait till the bathroom is unoccupied. Otherwise it is difficult to explain what you are doing when someone walks out of a stall.


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