SFX CD's Of A Different Realm

David Lynch's Sound Designer Releases FX library      30/07/08

SFX CD's Of A Different Realm

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Few film directors have fused sound design to visuals in quite the way that David Lynch manages. And much of the sound effects on his early movies were collaborations with sound engineer Alan R. Splet.

The two met through the Philadelphia industrial film company, Calvin Productions who mixed and edited the sound for Lynch’s first short film, The Alphabet in 1968.
Lynch’s second outing The Grandmother was the first to involve Splet personally who then went on to work on the sound design, mixing and SFX for Eraserhead (1977), The Elephant Man (1980) and Blue Velvet in 1986.

Hollywood Edge have recently released a 3 CD package of Splet’s work that includes many of the signature sounds from these early Lynch productions.
The package is split into two categories; Unusual Presences on CD’s 1 and 2 and Common Sounds Heard In Uncommon Ways on CD 3.

Much of Eraserhead’s shadowy, industrial gloom inhabits CD 1. Here we’re treated to all the sounds and atmospheres that created the organic horror of Henry’s claustrophobic landscape.
While making Eraserhead Lynch commented that the element of sound accounts for 50 percent of each of his movies. “Alan (Splet) and I worked (on Eraserhead) in a little garage with a big console and two or three tape recorders.� He added, “They were all natural sounds. No Moog synthesisers, just changes like a graphic equaliser, reverb, a little dipper filter set for peaking certain frequencies and dipping things out. Or reversing and cutting things together.*�

CD 2 of this Hollywood Edge/Sound Mountain package favours the foggy ship horns, steam pressure valves and layered machine textures present in The Elephant Man. Although Splet didn’t travel to England for the filming of this, Lynch’s second feature, he mixed and edited the sound in post production creating the bleak, murky atmospheres that fused perfectly with the monochrome images of the film.
“An image with the right sound and what it can do is what cinema is all about.� Said Lynch at the time, adding, “I really like the idea of sound effects being used as music.*�

The final CD featuring Common Sounds Heard In Uncommon Ways are recordings made exclusively by Splet’s partner Ann Kroeber who also compiled this collection from the Sound Mountain effects library. The effects on CD 3 are recorded by a custom built contact mic on one channel and a standard mic on the other. Then they are mixed in a way that introduces a musicality to everyday objects such as seltzer bottles, computers, aluminum foil and can openers.

Kroeber was a SFX recordist and later FX editor with Splet on such films as The Elephant Man, Dune, Never Cry Wolf, Wind, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Mountains of the Moon, At Play in the Fields of the Lord, Henry and June, The Mosquito Coast, and Dead Poets Society. “A lot of love and care went into the making of these effects.� She said in the sleeve notes, "and some of them are being introduced here for the first time."

These are meticulously layered soundscapes that could add that disturbing edge to any project. But at $299 for the set (they are also available seperately), it’s a big commitment to invest in. And if you’re searching for ‘cocktail party’ or ‘general applause’ effects you won’t find them here, that's for sure! The key would be to use these soundscapes in moderation where they could add real depth to your atmospheres. And let’s face it, having Alan R. Splet ready and willing, sitting on your SFX shelf has got to be a reassuring feeling for any sound designer!

Splet won an Academy Award in 1979 for his sound editing on The Black Stallion and was considered to be one of the finest sound editors in the industry. He died in 1995.

Not for those of a nervous disposition the opening titles to Lynch’s The Elephant Man are a prime example of the director’s close relationship with Splet's sound editing.

Simon Power

*Source: The Complete Lynch by David Hughes

  • Sounds Of A Different Realm at Hollywood Edge (USA)
  • Sounds Of A Different Realm at JWMedia (UK)
  • davidlynch.com




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