A scene from “Dark Room” at the Singapore History Museum
Tonic sound designer Jun Mizumachi recently completed a short-format project for a section of the Singapore History Museum’s new exhibit.
Mizumachi was asked to set the tone for “Dark Room,” an installation which gives visitors a sense of one of the country’s most pivotal moments in history—the 1941 Japanese invasion and takeover of Singapore from British govern.
The otherwise unlit exhibit features eight stations projecting single slides from the historical battle on the wall. These stations are accented with recorded dialogue written as if spoken by the people in the images. Mizumachi says the most significant challenge was designing sound without having seen the images. “I had to imagine the landscape,” he explains. “I had a great deal of freedom because it was my choice to establish the environment they were in. Everything that could happen out of the frame—machine guns, overhead airplanes, tanks rolling by—was all part of establishing the scene and trying to give the museum attendee a sense of place.”
While musical soundtracks are often used to establish drama, The History of Singapore Museum requested Mizumachi not include music for this historical exhibit. “Music can make the experience more cinematic but the goal here was to make it feel real, Mizumachi added. “I did research into Singapore to understand the sorts of sounds commonly heard there. The fact that it is surrounded by water meant types of themes play into the sound design.”
Although the museum requested no music for this exhibit, Mizumachi didn’t leave out musical instruments entirely. “I added some cellos and bass to the airplanes overhead to fill out the sound,” explained Mizumachi. “For ship horns, I would add real horns like tuba and sax to make it more colorful. They are all custom made sound effects where the musical instruments are designed to be imperceptible.”
The Singapore History Museum used coned speakers to direct sound only at attendees standing at each station.
For more information about Mizumachi’s home base, Tonic, and their redesigned facilities, visit www.tonic.tv.