Sound Effect

Published on 26 March 2017

Creating beguiling sonic worlds is what sound designer Philip Tan does best.


“The various genres are like creative playgrounds. Just like a children’s playground, where one will not just play on the swing, but the slide and everything else,” explains composer, sound engineer, and sound designer Philip Tan, when asked about the incredible range of contexts inherent in his work.

His elegant music and sound design have been heard in venues as diverse as the World Expo 2012 in Korea, international arts festivals, dance and theatre spaces, as well as Gardens by the Bay. “Music is only complete when we can enjoy and write in every genre,” says Tan.

Raised in an art-loving family, Tan started piano studies at the age of eight, and later became a percussionist in the school band. A good part of his musical ‘training’ came from making sounds with household pots and pans. “I was curious about the various shades, tones and colours the different materials offered,” he says. As a child, he picked up a sense for experimentation, and of capturing experience through sound and music, hallmarks of his later work as a composer.

“I have been writing my diary in the form of music since I was 12 years old. I would transcribe the daily happenings into original musical compositions,” he shares. “Music was my therapy, soulmate, and instigator of a lifelong journey of self-discovery.”

Today, Tan’s work has gained recognition across practices ranging from fine art to gaming. In 2007, he was a recipient of the National Arts Council’s Young Artist Award. To him, sound art and music belong wherever they can energise spaces and enhance artistic encounters. Perhaps for this reason, he has had a long relationship with theatre, and is a noted sound designer best recognised for creating beguiling sonic worlds for Cake Theatrical Productions, where he is an associate artist.

Beyond the theatre, one of his most major installations to date is the light and sound show at Gardens by the Bay. Tan followed the route taken by visitors and installed a surround sound system that allowed him to create a rich, life-like symphony. “[It makes the music] come alive, like actual musicians performing every night,” he says. “My chief aim is to make each work come alive and speak to the person, audience, collaborators and student who witness them.”

Find out more about Phillip Tan here.

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