“In theater, every job is intertwined,” explains composer and sound designer Daniel Kluger. As a creative who wears many hats in the industry, he knows this fact better than most. Kluger became the most nominated individual of the 74th Annual Tony Awards. He racked up three total bids: two for Sound Design of a Play for “Sea Wall/A Life” and “The Sound Inside,” with the later play also landing him a nomination for Score. He has one previous nominations in Orchestrations for the revival of “Oklahoma!” The artist says that the common thread across all his projects and job titles is being “a conscientious and sensitive collaborator.” Watch the exclusive video interview above.
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Kluger joins a unique lineup for the Best Score category, which for the first time in Tony Awards history is filled out by scores from plays. The process of writing music for a drama is much different than crafting a musical. “Scoring a play is much more like scoring a film,” says Kluger, with the goal to “build a world and an emotional vocabulary that’s in service of text.” And where a musical’s score is usually built over the course of a lengthy development process, Kluger states that for a play he’s usually “working in a very abbreviated, highly productive last period of production.”
Scoring a script at the end of the production means that Kluger must be adept at responding in the moment to how the play is making him feel. This generally means he brings an entire music rig to tech rehearsals to compose on the fly. Though that doesn’t mean all the pieces fall into place immediately. For “The Sound Inside,” Kluger admits that the literary sense of Adam Rapp’s script required lots of experimentation so he could discover his own “personal relationship to the material.” The end result was a haunting collection of ethereal music, featuring piano and a string quartet, to match Rapp’s dream-like script.
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The Tony nominee found plenty of similar challenges and aesthetic goals for his two Broadway projects. “Sea Wall/A Life” is two solo one act plays, performed by Tom Sturridge and Jake Gyllenhaal, respectively. “The Sound Inside” is a showcase for Mary-Louise Parker, who is sometimes joined by just one other actor, Will Hochman. For the sound quality, Kluger explains that he “wanted it to feel intimately close to the voice. The solution came with various amplification techniques to create what Kluger refers to as “a kind of hypnosis with the text. It’s almost like you’re listening to an audio book, you’re so close to the voice.” An impressive feat for solo dramas taking place in cavernous theaters.
While some might mistake the job of sound designer as something purely technical, Kluger hopes they also realize that it’s a craft based around artistic, aesthetic choices. Sound designers are “calibrating the audience’s ear,” he says. “95% of my job is responsibility to the way the voice interacts with silence.”
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