Artwork for Communicating emotion through sound
Oz Malik and Eleanor Barkla. Photo: Tiffany Garvie
Sound Design and Music

I Wanna Be Yours

Communicating emotion through sound

Composer and Sound Designer Mufeez Al Haq discusses his work on I Wanna Be Yours.

Composer and Sound Designer Mufeez Al Haq discusses the sounds, instruments and motifs in the sonic world he has created for I Wanna Be Yours.

How would you describe the composition and sound design you’ve created for I Wanna Be Yours? What is the world of this play?

The sonic landscape of this play is designed to place the audience in London. The composition and sound design is heavily derived from the perspectives of Haseeb and Ella, rather than the generic overview of the worlds mentioned.

A significant amount of thought was put into the kind of music they would listen to and how it influences those who connect with it, along with the overall mood of the locations and settings mentioned in the play. One of the major themes that was explored was the meaning of ‘home’ and what the opposite of that would sound like.

I Wanna Be Yours is made up of layers of complex emotions that are very subjective, as can be noted with the varying experiences of just two characters. Therefore it was crucial to ensure that the sound wasn’t too didactic, but rather be more open to interpretation within the context it was used in.

Where do you draw inspiration from when creating your music for this show?

I draw inspiration from so many places, so I may only touch on a few here. Naturally, I'm inspired by the setting. Plenty of inspiration comes from artists and genres that originate in the UK from different eras. Some examples include Brian Eno, The Beatles, Wiley, Beyoncé, Backstreet Boys and Noisia.

Additionally, as a producer I usually take note from composers from different industries as well, such as film or gaming, and hence artists like Hans Zimmer, Sarah Schachner, Sieber, Kammen Fulton and Schatz come to mind. A few genres I studied to draw in from were 60s rock, Northern Soul, 90s pop, Grime, EDM, Hip hop, Ambient music and R&B.

Wanna_Be_Yours_ph-TGarvie_141.jpgOz Malik and Eleanor Barkla. Photo: Tiffany Garvie

How does music help with the transitions between scenes?

I feel like music played a massive role in gluing the show together. The play is fast paced, quickly moving from one scene to another, often with each scene being placed in very different locations. The cast also plays with a relatively minimal set design, so the sound/music (and lighting) aided immensely in gently introducing the audiences to different locations and feelings present within the show. This made the scenes flow seamlessly and helped fill up the empty spaces that are not literally referred to within the script.

What kinds of instruments/sounds are you using in your design?

I heavily rely on pianos to communicate the emotions of love within the play. I also dabbled with other instruments to convey varying emotions such as orchestral music for drama, acoustic for the more delicate emotions, and electronic sounds to demonstrate the cold, dark and distorted aspects of the play. In the more metaphorical scenes, I’ve used layers of organic sounds and morphed them to create new yet familiar sounds.

How do you create a sound design that has variation but is also cohesive?

This is such an interesting question. Probably best answered with an example – the piano is consistently present during the scenes that involve some form of love or affection. It’s the same piano with a similar softness to it that is present through the majority of the compositions I’ve written for love. So the cohesiveness comes from the instrument. The variation, however, arises in the way the composition changes. In love, for instance, the main factor that changes is the intensity of the emotion that I was trying to illustrate.

Are there any recurring themes or motifs that we should listen out for? Tell us about your artistic choices in these.

Beyond the theme of love that is overly present throughout the play, a few other examples of recurring themes include Haseeb’s darker emotions, which consist of moments where he goes into a specific headspace and that is represented by a repeating motif. Another example of a motif would be the character of Andre, which builds over the entirety of the play.

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