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Sound: “SPEED!”

Didn’t we all grow up Saturdays in our local movie-palaces eating popcorn, watching THE MOVIES? But did we ever pay attention, or..did we listen?

As I’ve perpetually maintained, never waivering – not even for a waiver! – every creative act proceeds directly from a thing called poetry.

Poetry. What is poetry? Oh no! you don’t get me in that corner. Well, okay, since you feel that way, poetry is a thing that quite often involves sound, though not necessarily always..but possibly always. Poetry is silent..(sometimes), like silent movies; or when coffee gets spilled..unless it’s in someone’s lap by an irate waitress, and steaming hot! then, you get “..get what you get; and you don’t pitch a fit!” (There! that’s it.) Music is poetry; or in the case of so-called rap music, –depends how you define IS (I would submit); and then there is – (and, by the way, this won’t hurt a bit!) – the music of the spheres, introducing that Pythagorean construct embracing the idea (idea=unuttered poem?) that celestial movements generate sensible sound patterns in an aesthetic order and unity..or poetic spontaneity, if you will, –but as they are always there, and we tend to get busy, we tune them out..don’t hear it. But I digress. It all began with poetry. By His Word, God brought into being, everything that is..out of, –? in defiance of all philosophical dictates. Did you hear that tree the forest. WE WERE THERE! Get a sound-guy on it..right away.

Put it this way: Without a sound technician, there’s no sound (where we got “the Talkies”). My uncle, my mom’s uncle, actually, Uncle John..John Kenneth Hilliard was into sound in the movies from the earliest beginnings; so, as you can see, it’s in my blood..literally! But before Al Jolson, Al “Mammy!” Jolson’s THE JAZZ SINGER there was sound, though not as we know it where we’re at. From ‘Bill’ Hart’s dusty and soggy tales of the wild west, shot in character with the actual Jesse James’s personal guns, and screened, in the remoter villages, to the accompaniment of a piano or an organist or pianist, riffing, more often, than not on Hungarian Rhapsody #2, –to the expansive Napoleon, of Abel Gance’s, projected before a live, full orchestra in a sunken pit, and conductor (proprietary, to that point, for operatic productions, –and Vaudeville, exclusively), playing the dedicated musical score, with all the theatrical perspiration and bombast of a full-blown New York City premier, –at its premieriest! there was SOUNDsound. I will never know how they got fastened on the term, ‘Silent’s’..Silent’s is golden..and so it was Hollywood’s age d’or; leading to leading man John Gilbert’s fall from grace, –with audiences who first heard Greta Garbo’s paramour golden idol! Mssr. Gilbert, speaking in actual voice, to the goddess of the silver screen, –the “I want to be alone!” (girl) the poetry of love..and discovered, of a sudden, a voice that was not the voice they had been hearing through that previous span of a few short and glorious years, insinuating itself into ears beneath celestial strains, skillfully caressed from ivories by the then sound-guys, the musicians, –happily employed organists across this great land, –from the mountains, to the the oceans, etc., and soon to be terminated, permanently and forever, more or the advent of sound.

And Now, Miguel..we arrive at the actual content! (This was supposed to be an assiggnment, Right? with specific Sound-guy Kevin _______? I’ll think of it! (soon). In the very listenable Interview, on the GO _______ channel, –I’ll think of it, CREATIVE? GO CREATIVE?? Kevin __________ takes us on a lively romp over his substantial career as a sound technician doing it all, bulit on the backs of those who came before the back of my mom’s ‘Uncle John’. Mr. John Kenneth Hilliard was one of the first to begin the R&D working the ‘bugs’ out of the heart of amplified sound reproduction, –namely the amp’s. Then, at that precise date (somewhere in the late 1920’s – the Roaring 20’s! can you hear it?), amplifiers were a bunch of scary, noisy newborns, screeching for their al-ge-bray-ic formula’s, and needing their stuff changed. And Hilliard, among a handful of other audio maternity-nurse/geniuses, did change all of that (with a little product that came along, eventually, called Voice of the Theatre, –VOTT..oh! but you read all this already by clicking on the clickable link supplied above! Sorry..I digressed).

So! sound got there, changing media history before it was media, when it was just plain motion pictures (before it was a medium, even!) And hopping gaily over that string of box-cars to get us close enough to the thundering, plodding train engine – the power that’s been pulling all of this, media down the tracks..”We’r-r-r-re..Off! to see the wizard..” So what did we learn from the GO CREATIVE interview? besides Poetry is never enough! TO BE CONTINUED..

Hi! So back where it started..with sound, I mean, actors became instant slaves to the sound-guys, and their little tricks to make the audience love it..”There’s a trick to it.” But it was a two or three-way street. Sound-guys behaved slavishly to the directors of photography, –the gods of the movies, beholden to no one! who needed to not see – sound-guys are to be heard and not seen – needed to na-zi! the visually annoying boom microphone straining to pick up what actors were enunciating, –while everyone did his job (digressing again). But oh well. Hey! anybody!! anybody recall the pratfall gag where the flowers, pot and all, fall on the prat-fallee’s head in the street below..beneath the window-sill, high above? Remember that?? Well I wonder if that old shtick didn’t have its origins in the gimmick the first sound-guys making the ‘soundies’ came up with in order to obey RULE NUMBER ONE for excellent clear sound recording. The First Rule of Good Audio Recording Dynamics states: PUT THE MIC IN THE ACTOR’S FACE! (what we learned) ~the End, hope you liked

EPILOGUE, –and so it was they (the sound technicians) put them, the mic’s, in the flower-pots on the tables in all the scenes; or concealed in lamps, and wherever they could be conveniently placed. And the actors had to talk to the flowers and never stray far. The illusion, or keeping it real had to be maintained, according to etiquette established long ago before the sound got there, powered by the industry locomotive (chug! chugging her freight-cars of nickelodeonetically cloned thrilled-to-be-killed,-here-with-you flicks, –from 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea (1916) and Steamboat Bill, Jr., to EASY RIDER (’69) sandwiched somewhere in there around GEORGY GIRL and THE KILLING OF SISTER GEORGE’s quik epoch of free spirit indy-flick’s, screened in ALICE’S RESTAURANT’s Hippielodeon library of experimental-film genre’s, under projector-rays fanning through a heavy sickly, sweet-smelling veil of pot-smoke, –reaching back, from eternity, to –Un Chien Andalou (1929), and etc., etc.,you get the think dogs can’t recognize a poem? Try saying “Good..”; and “Bad! BAD CHIEN!”), billowing clouds of flatulent brass, –like the voice of the unfortunate Gilbert, blissfully buoyed, formerly, in the golden age, on heavenly pipes. Then, after flower-power, along they came, the lapel-mic’s, and proved their mettle and were instantly embraced in a big bear-hug of love of the sound-guys, by virtue of sheer, amazing maintain the grand illusion; or alternately, embracing the best of both – not unlike the blatant Berle – as iconoclast Zappa said to the interviewee:

TALK INTO THE SHIRT (sorry to have digressed)


ps: Parker..KEVIN PARKER@GO CREATIVE (a channel)

Published by scrunchymacscruff

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