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Taking life seriously


My supportive father
Walter Murch Film-maker
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So I spent my middle, teenage years plunged into this world of tape recording and I remember my father, who was a painter, and he had his studio in the apartment and he worked at home, mostly at night. My mother was a church secretary, working at the Riverside Church which was a few blocks away from us, from where we lived in Morningside Heights. So again, this was a normal... this was the world that I had grown up in and it was normal. In retrospect, of course, it's not normal to have a father who is a painter who works in what used to be the dining room of the apartment. So in my own way, with sound, I was kind of recreating that... his environment because I had my own little mini studio and I was doing whatever I could with sound, and he would come in occasionally, my bedroom was right off the kitchen of the apartment. It used to be what was the maid's room of this apartment which was built some time, as I said, in the late 19th century. And he was encouraging and he could easily not have been. Not when you knew the kind of person he was but what does a parent say about what a kid does? He said, this is really great, what you're doing here and that, along with musique concrète kind of made me think, this is something. And I later on, got a job at a local radio station, cataloguing their record collection and doing odd jobs. This was as a teenager. So that was the world that I was living in as a teenager was that world, but I saw no way to continue this into some other... what would I do for real? We had nothing to do with that world. My father was a painter, as I said. My mother was a church secretary. So I... the path from here to there was not very clear.

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: teenage years, tape recording, father, painter, studio, radio station

Duration: 2 minutes, 27 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2016

Date story went live: 01 March 2017