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My 'wonderful playground' of sound


How I came to be nicknamed Gerald McBoing-Boing
Walter Murch Film-maker
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As all of this was happening to me, I was also learning to express myself through language better and better. But for some reason, and I don't know what the reason is, I didn't feel limited by my lack of knowledge of language and when I didn't know how to say something, I would imitate the sound of it. If I didn't know the name of something, I would imitate the sound it made. Is it because my ears stick out and when I was a kid, they stuck out even more? And you hear the world differently when your ears stick out. Occasionally, even now I will do that [pushes ears flat] and I don't like how the world sounds. It has a kind of muted, dull sound to me. This is more alive and I think when I was a kid, and my hearing was better and my ears stuck even more, it was even more alive and I was teased for my ears sticking out as a kid. So this, in a sense, was my comeback to being teased. And people found it very amusing and in the neighbourhood, I was nicknamed Gerald McBoing-Boing, who was a cartoon character at the time who had a similar quality, which is that he didn't say words, he said sound effects. This is 1950, 1948, '50, '51. And my love of sound probably took another twist at that point and it became part of who I am at a very fundamental level. If I make sound effects, people like it and that's what I do today in some form.

Born in 1943 in New York City, Murch graduated from the University of Southern California's School of Cinema-Television. His career stretches back to 1969 and includes work on Apocalypse Now, The Godfather I, II, and III, American Graffiti, The Conversation, and The English Patient. He has been referred to as 'the most respected film editor and sound designer in modern cinema.' In a career that spans over 40 years, Murch is perhaps best known for his collaborations with Francis Ford Coppola, beginning in 1969 with The Rain People. After working with George Lucas on THX 1138 (1971), which he co-wrote, and American Graffiti (1973), Murch returned to Coppola in 1974 for The Conversation, resulting in his first Academy Award nomination. Murch's pioneering achievements were acknowledged by Coppola in his follow-up film, the 1979 Palme d'Or winner Apocalypse Now, for which Murch was granted, in what is seen as a film-history first, the screen credit 'Sound Designer.' Murch has been nominated for nine Academy Awards and has won three, for best sound on Apocalypse Now (for which he and his collaborators devised the now-standard 5.1 sound format), and achieving an unprecedented double when he won both Best Film Editing and Best Sound for his work on The English Patient. Murch’s contributions to film reconstruction include 2001's Apocalypse Now: Redux and the 1998 re-edit of Orson Welles's Touch of Evil. He is also the director and co-writer of Return to Oz (1985). In 1995, Murch published a book on film editing, In the Blink of an Eye: A Perspective on Film Editing, in which he urges editors to prioritise emotion.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: Gerald McBoing-Boing

Duration: 2 minutes, 3 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2016

Date story went live: 01 March 2017