‘Why can’t we do it?’: the Ringham brothers’ daring sound designs | Stage


Max and Ben Ringham experienced wildly clashing tunes tastes growing up. There were being “sound wars” in their bed room as a outcome. They did, having said that, pool their tools – musical devices, keyboards, samplers – which piled up higher at a person stop of the area.

That pile turned into a mountain and then adopted them into a shared London studio in their 20s when they made a decision to make tunes with each other. They have now been in a professional partnership of 25 yrs which began with composing drum’n’bass records, then producing Tv production songs, to getting a single (or two, to be correct) of the biggest names in audio and music composition for the stage.

They have worked with every person from Jamie Lloyd (on the feted Pinter at the Pinter time in the West Conclusion) to David Rosenberg (of Darkfield). With Ella Hickson, they conceived the groundbreaking National Theatre generation Anna, delivered by binaural headphones. Blindness at the Donmar Warehouse, an set up showcasing Juliet Stevenson’s voice, was 1 of the most experimentally daring reveals of the pandemic with its rumbling and thrumming layers of seem, while Pass Over, at the Kiln, carried ominous, buzzing notes to chime with the themes of existential panic in the play. Much more just lately, they created the sound for Prima Facie, starring Jodie Comer, which featured the harsh pelt of rain in opposition to risky notes of electronica.

The Ringhams have 4 decades among them – Max is the more mature at 50 – but really don’t have the electrical power dynamic of a dominant/passive brother. They play a conversational tag when we meet – Max chipping into Ben’s feelings, Ben developing on Max’s strategies – which would seem, properly, almost orchestral. They have been on the receiving conclusion of the recurring joke that they are a single individual parading as two: “People have mentioned ‘I wager Ben or Max does not exist,’” says Ben.

Jodie Comer in Prima Facie.
Rain and electronica … Jodie Comer in Prima Facie. Photograph: Helen Murray

The brothers rose from a dynasty of sound. If there have been songs wars in their childhood bedroom, there have been greater battles actively playing out in other places in their north London loved ones property. The kids in the flat previously mentioned theirs had been into punk and three of them grew up to turn into qualified musicians. Their father, John Ringham, was an actor and achieved musician with a grand piano in the living space. “Dad listened to new music relentlessly, so he’d b
oth enjoy the piano or flip on radios as he walked by way of the home, leaving every a single on,” states Max.

Their two more mature sisters held the same passion: “Jessica was really into AC/DC, Hannah was into an eclectic variety of stuff,” states Max, whilst their mom, Felicitas Ringham, a French literature academic, wrote dictionaries and publications on semiotics.

When Max went to Belize for 6 months, Ben agreed to oversee his drum’n’bass work and was hooked by the time Ben returned: “I refused to give it up mainly because I truly savored it.” At 1st, they lived off shared tins of beans and hustled for commissions. “We did a great deal of library new music [generic production music]. It was a actually fantastic discipline in generating types of audio extremely rapidly..” Ben adds: “It’s about being intuitive and trusting your capacity to get on with it.”

Each sisters finished up going into the artistic business far too Jessica is a wig-maker while Hannah co-established the theatre collective Shunt. At Shunt, the brothers formulated a several sides of their apply, and took to producing immersive audio and tunes for theatrical areas.

“Shunt was a finish artistic no cost for all,” says Ben, reflecting on how there were no distinctions involving writers, administrators or designers. “It was really fascinating for us due to the fact we’ve generally been a lot more stimulated in an setting where by persons are discussing other things than just seem,” provides Max.

They however work to the mantra “why just cannot we do it?” taken from those cross-disciplinary collaborations. There is no dividing line concerning composing music and producing sound design for them, or writing music as opposed to writing a script. Their two most up-to-date assignments are testimony to this hybridity. They have just finished co-crafting songs and scripts (with Dan Rebellato) for Exemplar, a series to be aired on BBC Radio 4 in August starring Gina McKee and Charlie Hardwick, between other individuals, about a forensic audiologist. They are also doing work on a new musical with Tanika Gupta – she is producing the book, they the audio.

Blindness at the Donmar.
Levels of audio … Blindness at the Donmar. Photograph: Helen Maybanks

As thriving as their collaboration is, staying brothers and colleagues has its strains as well, while their financial arrangement is established in stone. “We explained early on regardless of who does what position it’s generally 50% and there’s no dialogue about it,” states Ben. “We communicate regularly about parity and producing guaranteed that we look right after that aspect,” provides Max.

Creatively, there is under no circumstances a challenge that 1 of them will do on your own. “At the conception phase we’ll talk by way of tips, explore palettes and seems. But at the issue where a present goes into technological rehearsals then normally 1 of us will get over,” claims Max, incorporating t
hat a director has only hardly ever expressed a desire to operate with one or the other of them.

When they listen again to their seem and music from several years ago they can’t generally be positive who wrote what: “We’ll say ‘That’s genuinely good, I’m guaranteed I wrote that’ or ‘That’s rubbish – that a single was you,’” states Ben, laughing.

The holy grail now is capturing sound that no a single else has, they say, abruptly seeming like anoraks of the sound globe. They will annoy their partners by stopping at a road corner to report a squeaky gate, a subway grate in New York or the wind whistling all over an Antony Gormley sculpture in Folkstone, as one particular of them did the other week.

Recording it all on their phones is “not great but it doesn’t sound like any one else, and which is the currency,” suggests Ben. “Having a thing distinctive that no one particular else has – we’re pretty obsessive about that,” provides Max, “and no a single has the squeaky gate.”


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