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What is musique concrete?


My 'wonderful playground' of sound
Walter Murch Film-maker
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Not long after that, I got wind that there was such a thing as a tape recorder, so I was seven. And a friend in the neighbourhood, whose father worked in some business and could afford these things, he bought a tape recorder, I guess - I don't know, to take business notes or something - and soon as I learned about this, I would knock on Alex's door at the slightest opportunity and say, 'Let's play and let's play with the tape recorder'. And his father was indulgent of us and I don't know where I understood these things, but I immediately understood how to work a tape recorder and how to record sound, and then the fact that once it was on tape, you could cut the tape and you could paste the tape in different positions. You could turn the tape upside down. You could flip it over and play the sound through the back. It was like a wonderful playground for me and to the extent that I began to lobby my parents that we should get a tape recorder. And I kept at this for a number of years and one of my justifications which… in today's terms I would say, 'and we can sample music off the air', meaning, we won't have to buy records anymore. We can… I can hook the tape recorder up to the radio and we can tape records that are being played on the radio and record them and think how much money we will save. And so one Christmas, shortly after, we got a tape recorder and of course, it no longer belonged to the family. It belonged to me and so I squirreled it into my room and just started playing with it.

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: tape recorder, sound, records, radio

Duration: 2 minutes, 2 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2016

Date story went live: 01 March 2017