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The perfect age is 10


What is musique concrete?
Walter Murch Film-maker
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And shortly after that, I came home from school one day and turned on the radio in my room and heard something coming out of the radio that sounded like the kind of things that I had been concocting on this tape recorder, which were collages of sounds, naturally recorded sounds, put in different orders. And my first thought was: how did they get hold of my tapes? And my second thought was: they didn’t - this is somebody else’s work. So I turned on my tape recorder and started recording off the radio, whatever this was and listened very attentively to... Who is this? What is this? And the announcer came on at the end and said this was the first panorama of musique concrète by two French composers. And I turned the tape recorder off and just sat back thinking, what does this mean? Because up to that point, I thought whatever I was doing was just my 11, 12-year-old equivalent of building model airplanes or something. Now, something that to me sounded very similar was being broadcast over the radio and it was from a record and the record was from France. So suddenly, I had this realisation that the world is much bigger than I thought it was as regarding this... whatever this technology was, and so I began to dig into, what is musique concrète? And what can you understand of this at the age of 12 or 13? But I tried to understand it and became a big fan of these two composers, Pierre Schaeffer and Pierre Henry. I think Pierre Henry is still alive as we speak because they were in their early 20s in the early ‘50s. Schaeffer, I think, has passed on.

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: Pierre Schaefer, Pierre Henry

Duration: 2 minutes, 21 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2016

Date story went live: 01 March 2017