Q - Please introduce yourself and tell us about your experience in audio.
A - Well, my name is EmmoLei Sankofa and I am from Atlanta, GA. I have been involved with sound and audio for as long as I have been alive. We all have honestly, but creatively it all began, for me, as a child. I began singing in the choir at a young age and playing instruments around 2nd grade, I’ve pretty much been a musician my entire life. I began to dabble with composition around high school, but at that point I didn’t realize all of the potential I had. I received my Bachelors in Music Recording Technology from Hampton University. There I did a lot sound for theater, other live gigs and continued playing music. I recently received my Masters in Sound Design from SCAD where I was opened up to doing sound for visual media.
Q - Explain your role, both technically and artistically, on the piece, "Plant This".
A - For this installation, I teamed up with an artist named Jessica Henry, who created trash sculptures and video projections that sought to inspire a sense of self-empowerment within the community by addressing issues of social class and sustainability. Jessica brought me on to create the soundscape which I entitled, "Grow". As far as the technical aspects are concerned, I composed this using a host of beautiful, organic textures from Omnisphere that I felt really fit the feel of this piece. I typically use a variety of things, but for this I felt compelled to keep things simple and focused on creating depth by telling a story sonically. I was extra careful about how I transitioned from section to section to keep people interested and emotionally invested in the work.
Q - How did you approach collaborating with a visual artist and how can visual designers and sound designers learn to understand their respective design languages better?
A - You know, each experience I have with a visual artist is different. I’ve encountered all types of workflows, personalities, and work ethics, but this collaboration was really unique. Prior to this collaboration, many of the visual artists I worked with were really hands on and we’d bounce ideas back and forth often until we arrived at a point where both parties were satisfied. However with this, Jessica and I communicated often, but didn’t reveal the progress of our work. I literally saw a rough cut of the video she created for the projections one time and ended up composing "Grow" without even using it as a reference. We did not see each others completed work until the opening night, so we both took very big risks. There was something about creating this way that kept me on the edge of my seat. I wasn’t sure how it was all going to come together, but I trusted that it would and so did Jessica. We were both thrilled to see how seamlessly everything meshed in the space, and I was delighted to see how nicely my soundscape complimented her visuals.
For visual and sound designers to have successful collaborations, there has to be an understanding of what’s expected and there has to be trust. There will always be things that one side won’t know or fully understand about the other, but each person should be open to learn throughout the process. Every collaboration is an opportunity to learn more about the other side and even yourself. I typically do my homework on a visual designer when approached to collaborate. I find patterns in their design style and pay close attention to the sound they’ve married to their previous work. That always helps me understand what they expect and how I can exceed those expectations. The last thing I’d like to add is just to keep the line of communication open and never be afraid to ask questions. Never pretend to understand something you don’t.
Q - How does your approach to designing sound for an instillation piece differ from designing sound for film or animation?
A - This biggest difference in my approach is exercising the freedom I have to really create what I want and feel. My experience with designing sound for an installation was liberating. I was able to focus more on creating art without having to worry about lots of the conventions set in place when designing for film or animation.
Q - You are a composer/songwriter/musician, how does this experience lend itself to your role as a sound designer?
A - The biggest thing I noticed when I began doing sound design was how much being a musician helped. Sound is rhythmic. Visuals are rhythmic. I’m a percussionist, so it was easy for me to quickly acknowledge patterns that helped me create better design. Being a sound designer is kind of like an extension of being a composer or sound designer. You have to lock in to the rhythm of whatever you’re designing to really make it come to life.
Q - Thank you for your time EmmoLei, do you have any closing thoughts?
A - I honestly just want to thank you guys at Moon Echo Audio for giving me the opportunity to share my art and experiences on a public forum. I would also like to thank everyone who continues to support me, near and far. And lastly, I just want to tell everyone who reads this to do what they love.