Sound design

eric leonardson sound design


I began composing music and designing sound for theater, radio, film and video in the early 1980s. My projects manifest in a wide range of forms, as live performance accompaniment or pre-recorded compositions, or often both in combination. I use a wide range of audio technologies: radio broadcasts, environmental sounds, digital and analog processing; invented instruments; amplified objects; invented instruments; voice, sampled and synthesized sounds, my own software, and traditional instrumentation. Some theater sound projects have bordered on sound installations. Others blur and merge conventional distinctions between my roles as DJ, foley sound effects artist, composer, engineer, and instrumentalist. Occasionally, I join the acting cast or dancers in the performance as conceived and directed.

Image of a springboard
eric leonardson sound design


The audio technologies I frequently use are the trailing-edge ones that refuse to become obsolete: a Korg MS-20 analog synthesizer, Oberheim Echoplex Digital Pro, an AM/FM pocket radio, contact microphones, and a few guitar effects pedals. The Springboard, my self-built instrument, remains my main instrument. It enables me to make a wide variety of compelling sounds and music unlike any others. The making of one’s own tools for sound-making-as-art seems to be the best way to equip one’s self to face the challenges of finding ways to create, and to make innovative sonic art, design and music in a wide variety of contexts.

eric leonardson playing springboard
eric leonardson sound design


My theater, radio, film, and video projects have been seen and heard in performances and broadcasts throughout North America and Europe, and as far as away from the US as Africa and Australia. Some notable artists and groups I have worked with include South African choreographer Robyn Orlin, the Chicago-based theater companies PlasticeneProp Thtr, and Latino Chicago Theater, NY-based vocal-performance artist Lynn Book, and Chicago e-poet Kurt Heintz, and Canadian sound-radio artist Anna Friz.

Below is a listing of past projects. For a complete list, see my curriculum vitae. Short listening examples can be found on the Composer and Performer page.

  • Frozen, film by Gretchen Hasse, 2002
  • Urban Tribe, film by Jennie Halliday, 2000
  • Faust, by Robyn Orlin, music composed with Gert Anklam, performed at the Hebbel Theater, Berlin; Studio du CND, Paris, 2000.
  • Naked On a Goat, by Robyn Orlin, performed at the Barney Simon Theater at The Market, Johannesburg, South Africa, and in France, Poland, Germany, and Switzerland, 1996–97
  • The Polka Dot Lives On, by Robyn Orlin, performed by the Soweto Dance Theatre for the FNB Vita Dance Umbrella, Johannesburg, South Africa, 1995
  • In a corner the sky surrenders, by Robyn Orlin, performed at Northwestern University, Evanston, and in Australia, England, Belgium, and South Africa, 1994–96
  • The explosion of stars is not only reserved for ticketholders, dance performance by Robyn Orlin, Dance Center of Columbia College, Chicago, also in Basel, Switzerland, in Grahamstown, Durban, and Johannesburg, South Africa by the Natal Performing Arts Council (NAPAC) Dance Company, 1992–95
  • Chinese Cucumbers, poetry video by Kurt Heintz and Patricia Smith, broadcast on WNYC, New York; WTTW, Chicago; DeCordova Museum, Lincoln MA; 14th International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, Chicago, 1994 – 1997
  • The Perimeter, performed for RadioREVOLTEN, broadcast on Radio Corax, Halle/Salle, Germany, 2006
  • Untitled live broadcasts, solo and with Neil Jendon, Jason Soliday, Carol Genetti, Yuko Nexus6, and Michael Zerang, on “Something Else,” WLUW-FM Chicago, and “The Expansion Experiment,” WNUR-FM Evanston, 2001–2006
  • Animism with Carol Genetti for Experimental Sound Studio’s “Outer Ear Festival” broadcast on WNUR, WHPK, WLUW, and WZRD, 2000
  • Untitled live broadcasts with Steve Barsotti, Dan Burke, Fregus Kelly, Tod Sweczyk, Bill Talsma, and Toshi Makihara on “Something Else,” WLUW-FM Chicago, 1996–2000
  • SoundPlay for Sabine and Urban Archeology broadcast on “Internationale Digitale Radio Kunst,” curated by Sabine Breitsameter at Sender Freies Berlin, 1995
  • Untitled live broadcast,Wormwood, WZRD-FM, Chicago, 1994
  • Beyond the Pale, radio broadcast of Urban Archeology by A.A.R.T., Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, 1993–94 (See Urban Archeology in Performances, above)
  • Until One Falls, directed by Dexter Bullard, created and performed by Plasticene, Center for Performing Arts, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, 2008
  • One False Note, Or How To Rob a Bank, directed by Dexter Bullard, created and performed by Plasticene, music created and performed with Dylan Posa and Jason Soliday, The Storefront Theater, Chicago, 2006
  • Live Feed 11.11.05, directed by Dexter Bullard, created and performed by Plasticene, National Pastime Theater, 2006
  • Refuge, directed by Dexter Bullard, created and performed by Plasticene, in residency at The Drama League’s Directors Project at The Schaeberle Studio Theatre at Pace University, New York City, subsequent performances at Dance Chicago ’96 Festival, Links Hall Performance Studio, National Pastime Theater, Illinois Wesleyan University, and the 2005 PAC/edge Festival, 1996–2005
  • The Perimeter, directed by Sharon Göpfert, created and performed by Plasticene, Viaduct Theater, Chicago, 2004
  • BlankSlate, directed by Dexter Bullard, created and performed by Plasticene, for the 2nd Annual PAC/edge Festival, Chicago, 2004
  • The Palmer Raids, directed by Dexter Bullard, created and performed by Plasticene, The National Pastime Theater, and PAC/edge Festival, Chicago, and The Ohio Theater, New York 2002–03
  • Flight, directed by Dexter Bullard, created and performed by Plasticene, The Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago, 2003
  • And So I May Return, directed by Dexter Bullard, created and performed by Plasticene, The Viaduct, Chicago, 2002
  • Head Poison, directed by Dexter Bullard, created and performed by Plasticene, Storefront Theater – Gallery 37 Center for the Arts, Chicago, 2001
  • Come Like Shadows, directed by Dexter Bullard, created and performed by Plasticene, music with Bill Talsma, Chopin Theatre, 1999
  • After the Seance, written by Cheryl Tyrkv, directed by Michael Stumm, The Hideout, Chicago, 1999
  • 4X4, by Plasticene, directed by Dexter Bullard, Rhinoceros Theater Festival, Chicago, 1999
  • VOL. XII, directed by Dexter Bullard, created and performed by Plasticene, Athenaeum Studio Theater, Blue Rider Theater, and The Viaduct, Chicago, 1997–2001
  • One Thousand and One Afternoons In Chicago, by Paul Peditto, directed by Jim Sullivan, performed by Prop Theater Company at Latino Chicago Theater (1997), and The Storefront, Chicago, 2001
  • Fur, by Migdalia Cruz, directed by Ralph Flores, performed by the Latino Chicago Theatre Company at the Steppenwolf Studio Theater, Chicago, 1997
  • Fatzer: Demise of the Egotist, by Bertold Brecht, translated and directed by Stefan Brün, performed by Prop Thtr at the National Pastime Theater, Chicago, 1996
  • Door Slam, directed by Dexter Bullard, created and performed by Plasticene, Chicago premiere at the Chopin Theater; Chicago remounts at the Steppenwolf Studio Theater; American Blues Theater, and The Viaduct; and the Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Scotland, 1995–2000
  • Behind the Curtains, by Ezzat Goushegir, directed by Hannah Gale, performed by the Hidden Theater Co. at the Greenview Arts Center, Chicago, 1995
  • Never Come Morning, by Nelson Algren, adaptation by Paul Peditto, directed by Jennifer Markowitz, performed by Prop Thtr at the Firehouse, 1994
  • Camille (Deflowered), adapted and directed by Jill Daly, performed at the Body Politic Theatre, Chicago, 1994
  • Rhinoceros, by Eugene Ionesco, directed by Brian Shaw, performed at the Getz Theatre, Columbia College, Chicago, 1993
  • Ward 6, by Anton Chekov, adapted and directed by Jill Daly, performed at the Curious Theater Branch, Chicago, 1991
  • Two People Came Over…, written and directed by Michael K. Meyers, Dance Center of Columbia College, Chicago, 1990
  • Eat Your Gun, or Who Shot Brendan deVallance?, written, directed, and performed by Brendan deVallance, Randolph Street Gallery, Chicago, 1986
  • Orphee, by Jean Cocteau, directed by Tom Jaremba, Lodge Hall Dance Center and the State of Illinois Center, Chicago, 1986
  • Spectacle of White Men/Man in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, written and directed by Werner Herterich, Art Institute of Chicago and Randolph Street Gallery, Chicago, 1986
sound performing
eric leonardson sound design
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