Canadian composer R. Murray Schafer coined the term “soundscape,” meaning all of the sounds that reach the human ear from a given source. In this wide-ranging conversation, composer Charles Amirkhanian, soundscape ecologist Bernie Krause, and film editor and sound designer Walter Murch consider the environmental implications and artistic possibilities of aural landscapes and ambient sounds.
Long recognized for his role in the dissemination of contemporary music, Charles Amirkhanian is artistic and executive director of Other Minds, best known for its annual New Music festival. He has also directed the Speaking of Music series in San Francisco and the Djerassi Resident Artists Program in Woodside. While music director at KPFA/Berkeley (1969–92), he cofounded the World Ear Project, which collected unedited ambient recordings from around the world. Amirkhanian’s own compositions have been recorded on several American and European labels.
As one of the world’s experts in natural sound, Bernie Krause has traveled the world recording the sounds of creatures and environments large and small. His library currently contains about 4,500 hours of recorded natural soundscapes. He coined the term “biophony” (the collective sound of all the vocal organisms in a natural habitat) and helped define the field of soundscape ecology. His recent book, The Great Animal Orchestra: Finding the Origins of Music in the World’s Wild Places, will be released in paperback this spring.
A key figure in the Northern California film scene, Walter Murch began editing sound in 1969, working on Francis Ford Coppola’s The Rain People. He won his first Oscar for Apocalypse Now and an unprecedented double Oscar for sound and film editing for his work on The English Patient. He is the author of a book on film editing, In the Blink of an Eye, and is the subject of Michael Ondaatje’s The Conversations and Charles Koppelman’s Behind the Seen: Walter Murch on Feature Film Editing, Final Cut Pro, and the Future of Cinema.
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: Carl Stone: Fujiken