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digital systems, to foreign versions minus the dialog.

Directors and Sound The soundtrack is perhaps the most collaborative component of filmmaking. It is created by all the personnel mentioned above plus their assistants. Nevertheless, the editor and ultimately the director do call the shots. How do sound personnel communicate with directors?

There have always been a few directors particularly attuned to the expressive potential of sound; these include Robert Wise, Orson Welles, Robert Altman, and Alfred Hitchcock. Hitchcock, for one, usually prepared a detailed list of sounds and was actively involved in choosing them. (For the sound of the knife entering the body in Psycho's shower scene, Hitchcock did a blind sound test among different types of melon, finally settling on a casaba.) These sound-sensitive directors often incorporate sound as part of the basic conception of their films. For example, Hitch experimented with expressionistic sound (Blackmail), interior monologues (Murder), subliminal sound (Secret Agent), and electronic sound (in The Birds, which orchestrates computer-generated noises and has no underscoring).

Other directors do not think creatively about sound but choose personnel who do. These directors may have unerring instincts for the best sound when presented with several specific options. Most directors, however, do not use the expressive potential of the soundtrack and leave sonic decisions up to their staff.

In general, the younger generation of filmmakers are more savvy than their elders. For one thing, they were part of the revolution in music technologies. For another, they were probably exposed to sound courses in film school. According to Murch the very raison d'etre for Coppola' s team in creating Zoetrope was to have their own sound facility. And a few of today's directors consider sound an equal partner with image. (But even these directors still may have to figure out how to convey their sonic ideas--Jonathan Demme has been to known to ask his sound editors for "something blue.")

The best way to appreciate the expressive possibilities in an American soundtrack is to study in great detail virtually any movie by the sound-sensitive directors, such as Altman, the Coen brothers (try Barton Fink) or David Lynch, among independents. To find the most interesting soundtracks in other Hollywood productions, check the sound credits. The most respected sound designers and supervisors may be called technicians, but their artistry can be heard in all the films they touch.


1 Ford had met Earp in the Twenties.

6/24/04 7:55 PM

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