On Sound

Walter Murch
Walter Murch, making Apocalypse Now, in 1979

From the Transom Archive, an excerpt from Walter Murch’s 2005 Transom manifesto .

from Walter Murch

Hearing is the first of our senses to be switched on, four-and-a-half months after we are conceived. And for the rest of our time in the womb—another four-and-a-half months—we are pickled in a rich brine of sound that permeates and nourishes our developing consciousness: the intimate and varied pulses of our mother’s heart and breath; her song and voice; the low rumbling and sudden flights of her intestinal trumpeting; the sudden, mysterious, alluring or frightening fragments of the outside world — all of these swirl ceaselessly around the womb-bound child, with no competition from dormant Sight, Smell, Taste or Touch.

Birth wakens those four sleepyhead senses and they scramble for the child’s attention—a race ultimately won by the darting and powerfully insistent Sight—but there is no circumventing the fact that Sound was there before any of the other senses, waiting in the womb’s darkness as consciousness emerged, and was its tender midwife.

So although our mature consciousness may be betrothed to sight, it was suckled by sound, and if we are looking for the source of sound’s ability—in all its forms—to move us more deeply than the other senses and occasionally give us a mysterious feeling of connectedness to the universe, this primal intimacy is a good place to begin.

Click here to read the rest of Walter Murch’s Transom manifesto.

Walter Murch

About
Walter Murch

Walter Murch has been honored by both British and American Motion Picture Academies for his picture editing and sound mixing. In 1997, Murch received an unprecedented double Oscar for both film editing and sound mixing on The English Patient (Anthony Minghella), as well as that year's British Academy Award for best editing. Seventeen years earlier, he had received an Oscar for best sound for Apocalypse Now ( F. Coppola), as well as British and American Academy nominations for his picture editing. He also won a double British Academy Award in 1975 for his film editing and sound mixing on The Conversation (F. Coppola), was nominated by both academies in 1978 for best film editing for Julia ( F. Zinnemann), and in 1991 received two nominations for best film editing from the American Academy for the films Ghost ( J. Zucker) and The Godfather Part III (F. Coppola). Among Murch’s other credits are: picture editing for The Unbearable Lightness of Being (P. Kaufman), Romeo is Bleeding (P. Medak), First Knight (J. Zucker), The Talented Mr. Ripley (A. Minghella), and K-19: The Widowmaker (K. Bigelow). His most recent credit is for Cold Mountain (Anthony Minghella) for which he received an Academy Nomination for Editing, and British Academy Nominations for Editing and Sound Mixing. He is currently working on Jarhead for director Sam Mendes. The film, from the novel by Anthony Swofford, will be released in November 2005. He has also been involved in film restoration, notably Orson Welles’s Touch of Evil (1998), Francis Coppola’s Apocalypse Now Redux (2001), and Thomas Edison's Dickson Experimental Sound Film (1894). Murch was also sound effects supervisor for The Godfather (F. Coppola), and responsible for sound montage and re-recording on American Graffiti (G. Lucas), The Godfather Part II (F. Coppola), and Crumb (T. Zweigoff), as well as being re-recording mixer on all of the films for which he has also been picture editor. Murch directed and co-wrote the film Return to Oz, released by Disney in 1985. Between films, he pursues interests in the science of human perception, cosmology and the history of science. Since 1995, he has been working on a reinterpretation of the Titius-Bode Law of planetary spacing, based on data from the Voyager Probe, the Hubble telescope, and recent discoveries of exoplanets orbiting distant stars. He has also translated into English a number of previously untranslated works by the Italian novelist Curzio Malaparte. Murch has written one book on film editing, "In the Blink of an Eye" (2001) and been the subject of two recent books: Michael Ondaatje's "The Conversations" (2002) and Charles Koppelman's "Behind the Seen" (2004).

More by Walter Murch

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  • jay

    11.04.10

    Reply

    By the way, we upgraded the film clips from Apocalypse Now in Walter’s manifesto. Fascinating to watch and listen to the build of that mix. A rare glimpse into process and highly recommended. http://transom.org/?page_id=7006

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