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Posts Tagged ‘sound effects

“There is in souls a sympathy with sounds”*…

 

A Marconi-Stille recording machine, which the BBC helped to develop. It used thin steel for tape, a single spool of which weighed more than 20lb. (Photo taken in 1936)

In the worlds of television. audio, and film production, The BBC Sound Archive is legendary.  Founded in 1936, its holdings date back to the late 19th century and include many rare items, including contemporary speeches by public and political figures, folk music, British dialects and sound effects– along with most BBC Radio programs.  The pace of collection has flagged a bit under recent budget pressures; still, the archive is 350,000 hours of material in total duration.

The public has had some access to the archive through the British Library.  But now there is a more direct channel: the BBC has made 16,000 sound effects available (for personal, educational or research use) for download directly on its web site. From “Drilling and reaming machine operating, with occasional pauses” to “Tropical Forest, West Africa at dawn.” there’s (literally) a world there to hear.

* William Cowper

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As we lend an ear, we might recall that it was on this date in 1888, that Nikola Tesla was issued several patents relating to the induction magnetic motor, alternating current (AC) sychronous motor, AC transmission, and electricity distribution (Nos. 381,968-70; 382,279-82).

In his extraordinary career, Tesla patented over 110 innovations, ranging from these (which he deployed at Niagara Falls among other spots; in the long run, Tesla was right and Edison– proponent of direct current/DC, and vicious opponent of Tesla– wrong: AC became the standard) to the first wireless remote control.  Tesla designed and began planning a “worldwide wireless communications system” that was backed by JP Morgan…  until Morgan lost confidence and pulled out.  “Cyberspace,” as described by the likes of Bill Gibson and Neal Stephenson, was largely prefigured in Tesla’s plan.  Often mis-remembered (as a fringe figure, almost a looney), if at all, Tesla was a remarkable genius, whose talent ran far, far ahead of his luck.  He died penniless in 1943.

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Written by LW

May 1, 2018 at 1:01 am

“Films are 50 percent visual and 50 percent sound. Sometimes sound even overplays the visual”*…

 

Though routinely credited, as above, as “Film Editor,” Tregoweth Edmond “Treg” Brown was the genius sound-effects wizard responsible for sound editing the Warner Brothers’ Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons starting in 1936…

His musique concrète artistry worked directly in conjunction with Carl Stalling‘s hyper-active left-field orchestral scores to create the soundtrack to generations of kids lives. So many of these sounds are completely ingrained into our collective pop-culture (un)consciousness. So much so, that reviewing some of the old Looney Tunes cartoons as an adult, you tend to ignore how utterly ridiculous the doinks and twangs are, for they sound totally natural in context—a testament to Brown’s flawless editing of sounds demanded by the images.

In addition to his incredible sound design which won him a Sound Effects Oscar in 1965 for The Great Race, Brown is also credited with giving legendary Warner Brothers’ voice actor Mel Blanc his big break…

More at “The Sound Effects Madman Behind the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies Cartoons.” And much more– with wonderful examples– in this short documentary (part 2 here):

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* David Lynch

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As we perk up our ears, we might send melodic birthday greetings to Jerrald King “Jerry” Goldsmith; he was born on this date in 1929.  One of film and television”s most accomplished composers and conductors, Goldsmith scored such noteworthy films as The Sand Pebbles, Logan’s RunPlanet of the Apes, Patton, Papillon, Chinatown, The Wind and the Lion, The Omen, The Boys from Brazil, Alien, Poltergeist, The Secret of NIMH, Gremlins, Hoosiers, Total Recall, Basic Instinct, Rudy, Air Force One, L.A. Confidential, Mulan, The Mummy, three Rambo films, and five Star Trek films– in a career during which he was nominated for six Grammy Awards, five Primetime Emmy Awards, nine Golden Globe Awards, four British Academy Film Awards, and eighteen Academy Awards.  In 1976, he was awarded an Oscar for The Omen.

While presenting Goldsmith with a Career Achievement Award from the Society for the Preservation of Film Music in 1993, fellow composer Henry Mancini (Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Pink Panther) said of Goldsmith, “… he has instilled two things in his colleagues in this town. One thing he does, he keeps us honest. And the second one is he scares the hell out of us.”

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Written by LW

February 10, 2016 at 1:01 am

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed”*…

 

Readers may recall our old friend Michael “The Man of 1,000 Voices” Winslow.  On the heels of yesterday’s visit to the Crypt of Civilization, here is Michael’s tribute to one of the items therein: “The History of the Typewriter.”

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* Ernest Hemingway

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As we capitulate to QWERTY, we might send deeply-thoughtful birthday greetings to a eloquent employer of the typewriter, Hannah Arendt; she was born on this date in 1906.  Though often categorized as a philosopher, she self-identified as a political theorist, arguing that philosophy deals with “man in the singular,” while her work centers on the fact that “men, not Man, live on the earth and inhabit the world.”  One of the seminal political thinkers of the twentieth century, the power and originality of her thinking was evident in works such as The Origins of Totalitarianism, The Human Condition, On Revolution and The Life of the Mind.  Her famous New Yorker essay and later book, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil— in which she raised the question of whether evil is radical or simply a function of thoughtlessness, a tendency of ordinary people to obey orders and conform to mass opinion without a critical evaluation of the consequences of their actions and inaction– was controversial as it was widely misunderstood as defending Eichmann and blaming Jewish leaders for the Holocaust.  That book ended:

Just as you [Eichmann] supported and carried out a policy of not wanting to share the earth with the Jewish people and the people of a number of other nations—as though you and your superiors had any right to determine who should and who should not inhabit the world—we find that no one, that is, no member of the human race, can be expected to want to share the earth with you. This is the reason, and the only reason, you must hang.

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Written by LW

October 14, 2014 at 1:01 am

The Man of a Thousand Voices…

Older readers likely first encountered Michael Winslow in 1984’s Police Academy, in which he shone as cadet Larvell “Motor Mouth” Jones…

Winslow went on to do a series of Academy sequels…  but oh so much more:  from music…

and sports…

to history…

More amazement here.

As we practice those bird-calls, we might send reverent birthday wishes to warrior, poet and philosopher Guru Gobind Singh (at birth, Gobind Rai); he was born on this date in 1666.  Gobind Singh was the last of the sacred line of “ten Sikh gurus,” succeeding his father, Guru Tegh Bahadur, as the leader of Sikhs at the age of nine.  It was Gobind Singh who formalized the faith, and in 1699, turned what had been a sect of believers into the full-fledged religion.

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Written by LW

December 22, 2011 at 1:01 am

It’s a scream…

It’s a little Munch…

They sell popcorn, justify the “reach-around hug,” and just generally make an audience’s hearts beat faster– screams are a critical element in the motion picture formula.  But screams aren’t easy.  As Science News reports, it’s all about chaos theory…

Filmmakers use chaotic, unpredictable sounds to evoke particular emotions, say researchers who have assessed screams and other outbursts from more than 100 movies. The new findings, reported May 25 in Biology Letters, come as no surprise, but they do highlight an emerging if little-known area of study…

By exploring the use of such dissonant, harsh sounds in film, scientists hope to get a better understanding of how fear is expressed, says study coauthor Daniel Blumstein of the University of California, Los Angeles.

“Potentially, there are universal rules of arousal and ways to communicate fear,” says Blumstein, who typically studies screams in marmots, not starlets.

Blumstein and his coauthors acoustically analyzed 30-second cuts from more than 100 movies representing a broad array of genres. The movies included titles such as Aliens, Goldfinger, Annie Hall, The Green Mile, Slumdog Millionaire, Titanic, Carrie, The Shining and Black Hawk Down.

Not unexpectedly, the horror films had a lot of harsh and atonal screams. Dramatic films had sound tracks with fewer screams but a lot of abrupt changes in frequency. And adventure films, it turns out, had a surprising number of harsh male screams.

“Screams are basically chaos,” Fitch says…

A true, harsh scream “is not a trivial thing to do,” Fitch says. In fact, capturing a realistic, blood-curdling cry is so difficult that filmmakers have used the very same one, now found on many websites, in more than 200 movies. Known as the Wilhelm scream, it is named for the character who unleashed it in the 1953 western The Charge at Feather River.

By way of illustration, this YouTube video:  three minutes of the Wilhelm scream through the years…

As we put our hands over our ears, we might recall that there was lots of screaming on this date in 455, as the Vandals entered Rome, which they plundered for the next two weeks.

The Sack of Rome

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