Murch on sound

“The danger of present-day cinema is that it can crush its subjects by its very ability to represent them; it doesn’t possess the built-in escape valves of ambiguity that painting, music, literature, radio drama, and black-and-white silent film automatically have…


thus the responsibility of filmmakers is to find ways within that completeness to refrain from achieving it….


by choosing carefully what to eliminate, and then reassociating different sounds that seem at first hearing to be somewhat at odds with the accompanying image, the filmmaker can open up a perceptual vacuum into which the mind of the audience must inevitably rush.”

–Walter Murch


Murch strikes on a very interesting facet of film when he talks about how “complete” it can seem. To truly question the audience and push filmmaking to its full potential, the filmmaker must consider sound differently, and not allow sound in their films to fill all the gaps. Instead, filmmakers need to search out new ways to play with sound and image’s close relationship in order to purposefully create a “perceptual vacuum”. This practice takes patience, restraint, and an ear for metaphor.

In my own work, I try to not let sound simply serve as a “wash”. Sound should click with the image, but not always in expected ways. Instead, sound needs to breath a glimmer of restraint and mystery into the image, especially in today’s torrent of video, media and representation where certain images can be drained of all their power.


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