Through our Patrons Scheme, we support Christians who are making engaging, powerful art or who are using their skills to serve their local communities. This term, one of our grants has gone to Matt Tuckey, a sound designer from Newcastle. Jonny caught up with Matt to find out about his practice and his latest project.

JM: Hi Matt, who are you and what do you do?   

MT: So, my name is Matthew Tuckey, I am a sound designer and sound artist. I live in Newcastle upon Tyne with my wife Molly, and I spend a lot of time pointing microphones at things/people/places.

JM: Most of us would be familiar with graphic designers, or fashion designers, but a sound designer seems a bit more abstract. What exactly is the role of a sound designer?

MT: Good question. It’s hard to pin it down as it’s a term used across multiple platforms, industries and artforms. The best ‘job description’ I can offer is: to plan, through a collaborative creative process, the creation and playback of all sonic content in a live environment, digital media, or tangible product.

So whether that’s in theatre, video, music, or UI (I have done elements of all), I am constantly collaborating. My practice is mostly based in theatre sound design and this is the most collaborative artform I work in – I am often approached by a director, who then introduces me to a writer (or their words) and puts me in a creative team with a set designer and/or lighting designer. My approach is often to problem solve – what aspects of the story can be and need to be clearer by the creative manipulation of sounds? This normally involves, for me at least, finding an interesting or thematically relevant source material (recording an ambience, creating sound effects, working with music/composer) and creatively manipulating and playing those sounds as part of the dramatic narrative.

I also design the playback system for the theatre performances whether touring or running in one location. I like to call this a holistic sound design – working from creative storytelling all the way to technical innovation. This often sees me collaborating with another set of people – the technical or production team, and on larger productions (such as musicals) a whole sound department team.

JM: Sputnik is proud to be supporting your latest project through our Patrons Scheme. Could you talk us through it?

MT: I am very grateful to Sputnik for running this Patronage Scheme, my work is extremely technical, and these funds are crucial to its success.

I am creating an abstract piece of soundscape inspired by the poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Through a recent connection with Newcastle Universities Oral History Unit and Collective I am now hoping to incorporate elements of oral history from Newcastle’s disappearing shipyard heritage.

I am using immersive and multi-channel audio and my hope is to complete research and development by early 2020. Then to move into final production and initial preview run mid 2020, and prepare for a rural coastal tour of the piece starting early 2021.

JM: As a freelance artist who has to raise your own funds for projects, what advice would you give others regarding fund raising?

MT: These past nine months have taught me a lot about this. I’ve learnt a lot as I’ve gone along and have had to ride some disappointing rejection.

I constantly keep thinking “this is too complicated, I can’t do this” – but this brings me to something that Ed Catmull (founder of Pixar) says – “get smarter”. Having worked in theatre so much, I know the value of a team. I knew nothing about funding applications until I asked someone who did!

The match funding, bursaries, and team have been huge victories for the project. First contacts and drafting applications is really scary, but we have a saying in Newcastle “Shy bairns get nowt!”. I also would have not put in the Sputnik application, or any of the subsequent bids without listening to the words of the late Huw Evans – “just turn up”. 

Thanks Matt. To keep updated on this project or to help support similar projects like this in the future, sign up for our patrons scheme.