SOAPBOX: Sound designer Safwat Saleem on adding atmosphere to Season 3
Tempe-based artist Safwat Saleem is a visual artist whose work focuses on culture, loss and belonging. He’s also a sound designer, so when he began listening to The Show's SOAPBOX essays, he volunteered to tinker with a few true stories to see what he could add.
The results aired on this week — background for essays that grapple with the theme of SORRY.
As this season of SOAPBOX wraps up, The Show spoke with Saleem and asked him about his process and inspiration.
Why did you want to do this?
I was very excited about that possibility because I hear an audio story and I immediately start thinking about, 'All right, like, how can this come alive with music?' Because ... I feel it's like a cheat code in audio stories, right? So if you are saying something and you're going for an emotional impact, yeah, the words can do that, but if you wanna get there way faster, it just adds — add the right music and the audience is with you.
Turns out, Saleem's biggest challenge was holding back — particularly when he was working Deborah Sussman’s essay, which is set in a bar.
For example, Deborah's piece — there was this entire bar scene and I was having fun with it, like, 'I should add some sounds of bottles in there. How about like a drink being poured and how so?' So it's easy to go overboard, but then once you add all of those things, then I had to keep in mind all it is it taking away from the story because the story comes first. And so I actually took a lot of things away from Deborah's story while working on it.
For Saleem, this is all related to his own work, in all the best ways.
I'd say that my visual art is mostly about storytelling as well. So I love a good story. And with these audio pieces, it felt similar that I was trying to tell a story through sounds instead of the visual medium.