Danny Saleeb is a young freelance composer and sound designer, with a CV spanning a number of projects inside and outside theatre spaces, covering opera, multimedia installations, theatre pieces, choral groups and pretty much everything else in between. He is currently working on a sound design for Max Hoehn’s production of The Queen of Spades at the Arcola Theatre. I caught up with him to find out how he got to be where he is today, whether he had any advice for young sound designers/composers, and what the main differences are between those roles.
“I’m reluctant to call myself a sound designer,” Saleeb says. “There’s a scientific, technical side to sound design that I’m not that familiar with.” Having trained in composition at the Royal College of Music, he naturally feels more at home writing music than constructing technical designs. He explained how he has found himself on The Queen of Spades creating a sound design from a different perspective – a musical rather than technical approach. Most of his compositions to date are dramatic in their sound: “I tend to write visual music, so it makes sense to present it in a theatrical environment”. The Queen of Spades is a prime example of this – a sound design that fits into a collaboration between a number of artists across various disciplines, each bringing their own skills and passions to the table.
Saleeb has always had a passion for the technicalities of theatre, and the work that is created when a group of unlikely collaborators are brought together to work towards one goal. This is how he approaches sound design; helping a director to piece together the different effects that they need while at the same time maintaining a single musical identity for the piece. He spoke fondly of working in such a fluid and variable manner: “I’m always tweaking the work in the rehearsal room and altering it as the piece progresses. I don’t like to feel as though I’m not part of the collaboration.”
I asked Saleeb whether he had any advice for people hoping to pursue a similar career in sound design or composition: “It’s really important to be confident about your abilities and what you can do. I wish I’d had the balls to have more of my music performed at an earlier stage – there’s nothing better than hearing your work on its feet and in rehearsal.” In terms of developing practical skills, he encouraged seeking out hands-on experience: “It’s amazing to sit next to an established designer and see how they work. I think at the start of a career, it’s important to know the value of experience, but to also recognise the value of your work.”
People seem to be taking note of this value, and the immediate future is busy for Saleeb. As well as working on his first full-length opera, he has recently been invited to undertake an attachment at the NT Studio, developing his own piece of multimedia theatre described as “music-driven drama”. I guess what I find so engaging about Saleeb’s work is that it tends to defy classification, existing as an entity in itself rather than simply a soundtrack for a production. I’ll be intrigued to compare his work in the fairly traditional setting of the Arcola later this month with some more maverick soundscape environments later in the year. And I’m looking forward to it all coming together in that opera…
More info on Danny Saleeb can be found at his website: www.soundofstatic.com
The Queen of Spades is at the Arcola Theatre 12 Oct – 12 Nov