Theatrical Sound Designers and Composers Association

 The son of Chilean exiles who was raised in Miami, Martin Carrillo now makes his home in L.A., balancing his design work from California to Uzbekistan with a “Sound Designer of Note” position at the Broad Museum. His designs for Live venues include Hong Kong Disneyland’s Festival of the Lion King and Lotte World’s Dragons in Seoul. Theatrical credits include Eric Whitacre’s world premiere production of Paradise Lost, and Pig Iron Theater’s Tragedy of Joan of Arc. Martin is a two time Los Angeles Stage Alliance Ovation Award winning sound designer and composer.

What are you working on at the moment?
I’m in tech right now on Lost Tribes for Theatre Dybbuk. It’s a theater company that grounds original work in Ancient Jewish Myth and Culture. I just completed production on a show for Ron Athey and the Broad Museum – Gifts of the Spirit. I’m currently retained as the Broad Museum’s Sound Designer of note, and have a Cage retrospective performance to support coming up.

Was there a show or experience that drew you to sound design or composition?

As far as productions that truly inspired me to pursue sound…  the work of Bob McGrath and John Moran was very influential. I was fortunate enough to perform with them in a production of Matthew in the School of Life. Robert Wilson’s work is also singular in providing me a really clear artistic vision that I understood and helped to shape my own work.

Where were you born? Where do you live now?

I was born in Miami of Chilean American parents in exile here. When Allende was murdered and my parents fled, he gave a radio address in which he said, “they have bombed the towers at Magallanes and Concepción. My voice may not reach you”….   In the diaspora, this has very resonant meaning to me. The work we do…  coverage, broadcast, intelligibility, whitespace… is a political act. Conveying messages, and semiotics is power. I take this very seriously. I now call Los Angeles home, though I work all over the world and have crafted sound experiences as far away from the US as Uzbekistan.

Describe one of your most successful collaborations in the theater. How or why was it successful?

I’m about to attend my first feature film premiere that has my music as a film score, and the film started as a small play by actress Jacqueline Wright, called Eat me. The play had a TV stuck on throughout the show and the TV along with some jazz elements made up the entirety of the score, but there were also a number of sleight of hand tricks that made the play a theatrical success.  The play was a small production but it ran for an long extension… and the reason was a bold and sociologically important idea well expressed and with a sensitive and naturalistic sonic world. I won’t give it away, but the film opens in two days. It is controversial and surgically criticizes the patriarchy in ways that I haven’t seen before.

Do you play an instrument?

I’m a composer so I play several instruments badly…  Piano, Cello, Guitar, Charango, and Siku.

How old were you when you knew you wanted to be involved in theatrical sound?


You were the sound designer for numerous events and installations at the Broad Museum. What were the highlights of that process? Any surprises?

The Broad Museum utilizes many of its interior and exterior spaces as well as spaces around LA in which to produce performance art and event happenings. I think that the Art world really surprises me, both in its demand for highest production values, but also extremities of visual and formalistic constraints, either due to acoustically hostile architectural environments, or because the demands of conceptual artists are broadly or very narrowly defined. Sometimes support is very simple… bringing an artist’s in the box audio to a console in stereo. Other times we are supporting very complicated surround environments for artists for whom these goals seem interesting.

Highlights at the Broad include our preview event which commissioned sound art from Benny Nilsen, while also presenting Yann Novak’s video and audio landscapes in the upper gallery before the dry wall was installed … the room is a 180′ x 180′ column-less cavern with an 8 second decay time. The pieces were valiantly suited for the environment. Swirling Ambient music and momentary interruptions along a 16 channel point source line array… sparse and also immersive activations of the acoustically overwhelming venue. It was exhilarating to do work so experiential. High Art often shuns narrative, but loves broad bellowing strokes.

Name a pet production peeve.

Notes sessions after tech in the house while I am trying to work on sound notes. Having to wait for actor notes at the end of a long day and have them hanging around and chatting without realizing what a disruption they are while I’m tweaking and finishing.

Was there a piece or type of gear or program that revolutionized how you work?

I’m an LCS Matrix3/DMitri user and programmer. The software environment appeals to me. I find it far more intuitive than most of the other cueing mechanisms out there.

What programs are we likely to find open on your computer?

LCS/Meyer Cuestation, Digital Performer, Vienna Ensemble, Kontakt, SMAART, WWB, MAPP, Protools, Vectorworks, Lemur Editor, Arraycalc, Numbers, soundminer, Fuzzmeasure, UAD Monitor, UAD Console, Spotify, AudioMove, Keynote, Touch OSC Editor, Virtual DMitri, VirtualLX,Compass

Did you have a sound design or composition mentor? If so, how did they help or guide you?

I’ve had several people guide me in my career and coming up in the field. I worked closely with Francois Bergeron from 2000-2003, and also Bob McCarthy, Steve Ellison, and Nick Kourtides have been important sound collaborators and mentors.

Does your family understand what you do?

My parents sort of get it. Our work can be very subconscious… and that defies how complicated the work can be.

If you couldn’t have a career in a field related to this one, what would you want to do?

My second degree was in Sociology and Anthropology with a concentration in Socio Linguistics and Semiotics. I would work either as a Critical Theorist or a Lawyer. Work in a think tank? Public policy on issues of wage inequality, poverty and wealth redistribution.

What do you hope TSDCA can accomplish?

There is a grave inadequacy in the public and our colleague’s understanding of the work and resource that goes into producing high quality productions to maximum effect. The expectation for excellent results has outpaced our compensation or our resources. I think we need better representation, and I believe the advocacy even limited to education provides an important bridge to our colleagues and to the theatre going public that increases their appreciation and also tolerance for adequate compensation.

What problem with the theatre would you solve and how.

The United States needs to value the arts more, and every industrialized country besides our own supports its artists with subsidies and with real budgets. The Crisis of Los Angeles Theater is a Broadway(DTLA) infrastructure that is plagued with decay and inadequate municipal support. I think that State subsidy needs to revive the Broadway quarter Downtown and advocates big and small need to focus on what new business that could bring downtown as well as what new art and plays could be created from all the talent in Los Angeles.

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