Exklusive Screenings- Making Waves:The Art of Cinematic Sound

13.12., 14.12, 15.12.2019 Studio Kino

The film Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound proves that sound designers are also storytellers, characterising and emotionalising characters with their sounds and noises. Director Midge Costin is a sound designer herself and works as a professor of sound design at the USC School of Cinematic Art. In her film directors such as George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, David Lynch or Sofia Coppola explaine the importance of sound design for her films. She also brings together sound designers Walter Murch (The Conversation, Apokalypse Now!), Alan Splet (The Elephant Man), Ben Burtt (Star Wars, ET) and Gary Rydstrom (Toy Story, Jurassic Park). MediaSoundHamburg presents the film, which had its German premiere at the Filmfest Munich 2019, exclusively on three evenings at the Studio Kino, Bernstorffstraße 93-95 in Hamburg. “This film is a must for all film and music enthusiasts, it is a 90-minute master class and matches perfectly with our International Summer Academy for Film Music, Gamemusic and Sound Design in Hamburg, especially as some of our friends and former guests such as Ben Burtt are part of it,” says MediaSoundHamburg director Achim Esser-Mamat.


MediaSoundHamburg presents:
Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound
Fr., 13.12. 20.30 Uhr
Sa., 14.12. 20.30 Uhr
Su., 15.12. 20 Uhr
Studio Kino, Bernstorffstraße 93-95, 22767 Hamburg

Since 2011, national and international film composers, gamemusicians and sound designers have been meeting international industry professionals and renowned experts in Hamburg. In workshops, master classes and forums, participants work on concrete projects and receive new inspiration for their artistic work. Guests included Michael Nyman, Chris Huelsbeck, Randy Thom, Alva Noto, Michel van Dyke, Hauschka, Annette Focks and one of the film’s protagonists, Ben Burtt. MediaSoundHamburg is celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2020 and will take place from 11 to 16 August.

Scholarship Collaboration with ACCES 2019

Media Sound Hamburg, in partnership with ACCES 2019, is calling on young Ghanaian film music composers, video game music composers and sound designers to apply for a summer school that will take place in Hamburg, Germany, in August 2020.

The successful candidate will get to attend various masterclasses, workshops, forums and special events while interacting with international film composers and industry professionals. The application deadline is 31 October 2019. The winner of the scholarship will be announced at the 2019 Music In Africa Conference for Collaborations, Exchange and Showcases (ACCES) in Accra, Ghana, starting 28 November, where lecturer Stephan Eicke will conduct a workshop aimed at music producers who are looking to tap into the film industry. The session will also cover the basics of sound design and music for the gaming industry.

This is the third scholarship to be given under the partnership. The winner in 2018 was South African sound designer Rethabile Nyamate , while Alice Ragoi (on the photo with Media Sound Hamburg-Director Achim Esser Mamat) from Nairobi, Kenya, won the 2019 scholarship.

ACCES is a pan-African trade event for music industry players to exchange ideas, discover new talent and create business linkages. ACCES is held in a different African city every year, attracting active music industry players from across the globe. ACCES is organised by the Music In Africa Foundation, a non-profit and pan-African organisation, in partnership and with the support of Siemens Stiftung, Goethe-Institut, Reeperbahn Festival, Alliance Française, the Prince Claus Fund and the ANT Mobility Grant from Pro Helvetia Johannesburg, financed by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).


Farewell Party & Talk

17/08/2019 19:30
…with Franziska Pohlmann and Susanne Hardt

On our last evening of MSH MediaSoundHamburg 2019 we invite all participants, partners and guests to enjoy a relaxed summer evening with a lot of program and music in our wonderful location. The evening will be hosted by actress Laura Ehrich. DJ MAECK takes care of the party music.

We start the evening with our traditional workshop talk. This years’ guests are the film and media composers Franziska Pohlmann and Susanne Hardt. In conversation with presenter André Feldhaus, they will not only present their own current works, but will also talk about the female composer collective Track 15, founded in 2015. The collective covers a diverse musical spectrum from TV and cinema films to games, from pop and jazz to classical music. Track15 cooperates with studios, film festivals, orchestras – most recently with the Filmorchester Babelsberg – and other partners such as WIFT (Women in Film and Television). The members of the collective come from Berlin, Cologne, Weimar and Vienna, maintain regular contact and exchange information at industry-relevant festivals. The aim is to strengthen the female presence in the industry and to make exceptional works heard. Franziska Pohlmann has specialised as a film composer in working with choirs and orchestras, Susanne Hardt composes music for film and computer games.

Admission: free
Location: Elsa Brändström Haus, Hamburg-Blankenese
Supported by: Coppola Wine

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Know-how with a View

MediaSoundHamburg – Program 2019

  • Four MasterClasses, three workshops & 15 forums with international experts* & Emmy and Oscar winners*
  • African Night in the resonance rau
  • Price-Giving Ceremony Young Talent Award Media Music with the Kaiser Quartett
  • Special Events & Workshop Talks

Highlights of this year’s MediaSoundHamburg from July 9 to 18 August 2019 at the Elsa Brändström Haus in Hamburg-Blankenese are among others the MasterClass Sound Design with Randy Thom (Director Sound Design, Skywalker Sound, double Oscar winner, The Right Stuff /1984 and The Incredibles/ 2005), the “MasterClass Filmmusik” with the Danish film composer and sound designer Kristian Eidnes Andersen (Antichrist, Lars von Trier; Submarino, Thomas Vinterberg, Ida, Pawel Pawlikowski), and the “MasterClass Foley” with Sue Harding (Foley artist and Emmy-Award winner/Sherlock; involved among others in I, Daniel Blake, Quantum of Solace, In Bruges ) and Adam Méndez (Foley and ADR mixer, involved among others in Tulip Fever, Dance into Life, Florence Foster Jenkins, Exodus: Gods and Kings, Jason Bourne and Inspector Barnaby).

The musician, music producer and composer Alexander Hacke (Einstürzende Neubauten) develops strategies against stereotypical film music in his forum “Radical Soundtracks”. One week before the start of the International Summer Academy for Film Music, Gamemusic and Sound Design, the “Music Production Workshop” will take place in cooperation with HAW from August 5 to 8. Thomas Görne and Made Indrayana will give insights into the production of a sound carrier with the band Sahad & The Nataal Patchwork from Senegal.

“Every year great international film composers*, industry professionals and artists* come to our international summer academy in Hamburg to pass on their knowledge in our wonderful location overlooking the Elbe and to exchange ideas with the participants*. This year, we would like to offer our guests an even bigger stage and open ourselves more to a wider audience than before with public concerts in the city centre. We are delighted to be hosting two events in the resonance room for the first time this year,” says MediaSoundHamburg-director Achim Esser-Mamat.

At the African Night on 10 August 2019, Sahad & The Nataal Patchwork from Senegal, Topher Jaxx from Zanzibar/Tanzania and Eric Wainaina from Kenya will play in the resonance room from 9 p.m. onwards. (Advance booking:15 €, box office: 20 €)

The award ceremony for the Young Talent Award Media Music will also take place in the resonanzraum. On August 14, at 8 pm, the Kaiser Quartett will premiere the award-winning compositions of the first three prizewinners, David Kolder (Netherlands), Tharcisio Vaz (Brazil) and Deanna H. Choi (Canada). Also on the programme are pieces by Gijs Knol and Rinkie Bartels, who won this year’s Buma Music in Motion Awards, and Levente Kovacs, who won this year’s German Game Music Award. All winners will receive a scholarship to MediaSoundHamburg. The Dutch composer and arranger Bob Zimmerman will play his own compositions as a special guest together with the Kaiser Quartett. The event is open to the public and free of charge.

The Kenyan singer/songwriter Eric Wainaina will talk about his work as a film composer at the audience event An Evening with … on 11 August 2019 at the Elsa Brändström Haus. Among other things, he wrote the film music for the project One Fine Day Films initiated by Tom Tykwer, produced the 52-part British Kenyan children’s TV series Tinga Tinga Tales and also wrote the music. The musical Tinga Tinga Tales has been performed on Broadway since last summer. (Admission: 5 €)

MediaSoundHamburg is an international summer school for film music, gamemusic and sound design supported by national and international partners and sponsors including Dolby Institute (USA), Genelec (Finland), Buma (Netherlands), Körber Stiftung, Hamburg Kreativ Gesellschaft and HAW Hamburg. Since 2011, national and international film composers, gamemusicians and sound designers have been meeting international industry professionals and renowned experts at the Elsa Brändström House in Hamburg-Blankenese. In various workshops, master classes and forums, the participants work for ten days on concrete projects and receive new inspiration for their artistic work. Previous guests in Hamburg included Patrick Doyle, Michael Nyman, Chris Huelsbeck, Christopher Young, Ben Burtt, Alva Noto, Michel van Dyke and Hauschka.



Forum: The Magic of Musical Collaboration

…when Sound and Music is the DNA of the Storytelling

15/08/2019, 10:00 – 13:00
Peter Albrechtsen & Jonas Struck

Composer Jonas Struck and sound designer Peter Albrechtsen are two of Denmark’s most acclaimed in their field, and they have now collaborated on seven films, both feature films and documentaries. Sound and music is closely intertwined in their extraordinary work with both Struck and Albrechtsen being part of the productions very early, so that music and sound informs both the scriptwriting, the shoot and the picture editing. In this forum, they will dig deep into their close collaboration with different examples from their movies, ranging from dystopian sci-fi to political thriller to personal dramas, showing how they’ve developed their extraordinary style and how music and sound can interact together in many creative ways.

Tuition Fee: 50 € (incl. 19 % VAT) or
Forum Flaterate: 150 € (incl. 19% VAT) or
Flaterate:1800 € (incl. 19% VAT)
for any of master classes, workshops, forums and special events, excl. MasterClass Sound Design
2500 € (incl. 19% VAT)
for any of master classes, workshops, forums and special events, incl. MasterClass Sound Design
Student Discount: 20 %
Working Language: english
Location: Elsa Brändström Haus, Hamburg-Blankenese

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Peter Albrechtsen is an award winning Danish sound designer, mixer and music supervisor working on both feature films and documentaries. Recent credits include festival favorites Generation Wealth, The Distant Barking of Dogs, Blind Spot, Thelmaand sound effects recording for Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk. In 2017, Peter was invited to become a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and 2019, he was nominated for a MPSE Golden Reel Award – one of the most prestigious US film sound awards. Peter Albrechtsen also works as music supervisor and has collaborated with internationally acclaimed musicians like Jóhann Jóhannsson, Antony Hegarty and Efterklang. Has written about music and movies for different Danish and international magazines and has been lecturing about sound design around the world.

Award-winning composer Jonas Struck is a graduate from the prestigious Royal Academy of Music in Copenhagen. He has worked for more than ten years as a film composer scoring and supervising various feature films, national TV-drama series, and a large number of documentaries. Filmography- political cold-war thriller The Idealist, the epic tennis drama Borg McEnroe, starring Shia Le Beouf, the Sci-Fi movie Qeda – Man Divided and the American TV-drama Conrad & Michelle. Struck’s sound is a mix of electronic soundscapes and organic instruments with strong signature themes that sums up the DNA of the movie.

Theme music desired


Young musicians, composers, game musicians and sound designers up to 35 years of age can now submit their compositions for the Young Talent Award Media Music. The deadline for entries is 1 June 2019, and this year’s task is to o compose a theme music for Raymond Chandler’s novel Playback. The prize will be awarded on 14 August 2019 as part of this year’s MediaSoundHamburg (9 to 18 August 2019).

Playback from 1958 is Chandler’s last complete detective novel with the melancholic private detective Philip Marlow. For the seventh case, the American author revised his screenplay of the same name from 1949, which was rejected at the time and only published after Chandler’s death. Playback is Chandler’s only novel that was not filmed.

For this year’s Young Talent Award Media Music, MediaSound Hamburg invites young musicians, composers, game musicians and sound designers up to the age of 35 to write title music for the renowned Kaiser String Quartet. The entire material, including audio files, score for string quartet, and a brief written explanation of the composition process must be submitted by 1 June 2019. A jury of three experts consisting of the Dutch, German and Danish composers Than van Nispen, Stefan Eicke and Kristian Eidnes Andersen will decide on the winners. The first three award-winning compositions will be performed live by the Kaiser Quartett at this year’s MediaSoundHamburg at the award ceremony on 14 August 2019 in the resonanzraum. The winner of the first prize will receive an invitation to MediaSoundHamburg including free accommodation and board

The Young Talent Award Media Music will be presented for the sixth time at MediaSoundHamburg in 2019. The winners of the past years were Lev Tyrnov / Ukraine and Rune Eskildsen / Denmark (2018), Maxime Hervé / France (2017), Hayat Selim / Egypt (2016), Simon Schmidt / Germany (2015) and Alin Oprea / Germany (2014).

Workshop with Band


In the four-day Music Production Workshop (August 5 to 8, 2019) with the band Sahad the Nataal Patchwork, Thomas Görne and Made Indrayana from the Hamburg University of Applied Media (HAW) give insights about producing a record. The event is organised by the International Film, Television and Music Academy (IFFMA) in cooperation with HAW and MediaSoundHamburg. The following public concert with the well-known band from Senegal on 9th August 2019 at 9 p.m. in the Resonanzraum will conclude the workshop and start the 9th International Hamburg Summer Academy for Film Music, Gamemusic and Sound Design.

The practical workshop “From microphone to finished mix” is aimed at musicians, composers, producers and sound engineers who would like to gain more experience in the field of recording and mixing. Among other things, it is about room acoustics, the interaction of instrument, room and microphone as well as the placement of the microphones and the mixing console including outboard effects in the recording process to support the musical goals of the band or producer. On-site work will be done with the band Sahad the Nataal Patchwork. Frontman Sahad Sarr and his musicians build a bridge between different cultures and mix many musical styles: from Senegalese Mbalax to Malian desert blues, Afrobeat, Cuban music to rock and jazz.

Out to Africa

Acces – Music in Africa and MediaSoundHamburg in Nairobi

by Stephan Eicke

When I mentioned to my doctor I would be going to Africa, a smile appeared on her face, a smile so bright it showed her remarkably white teeth. “Whereabouts in Africa?” “Nairobi,” I answered, and could see her face drop. “Oh.”

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ACCES 2018


In cooperation with ACCES 2018 (Africa Conference for Collaborations, Exchange and Showcases) Media Sound Hamburg announces a scholarship for young Kenyan filmmusic composers, gamemusicians and sound designers.

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A Broad Spectrum

Interview with Walter Murch
Stephan Eicke

Walter Murch has had a distinguished career in film as an editor and sound designer. Among many other productions, he worked on The Godfather, Apocalypse Now, The Conversation, The English Patient, and received three Oscars for his outstanding work. In this excerpt of an extensive interview that will be published as part of a book in 2019, Murch talks about how sound designers and composers can work together, and about his experiences on some of the greatest films ever made.

Stephan Eicke: Mr. Murch, younger directors seem to be afraid of long stretches of silence in their films, especially when it comes to Hollywood productions. Is there an explanation for that?

Walter Murch: Hearing is the first of our senses to be turned on. It is fully active – according to those who know about these things – four and a half months after conception. That leaves another four and a half months where the child is developing in the womb. We also know from ultrasound videos that the child is very active in the womb and reactive to external sounds. But there’s also a very rich internal symphony within the womb, sounds of the mother’s heart and her breathing and her intestines. This has only recently been measured acoustically, and the people who measured this were astonished at how loud it was inside the womb. There’s an average of 75 decibels with peaks around a 110 decibels – which is very loud. And it’s constant. We can presume that the child a few hours after conception doesn’t have any kind of consciousness, but by the fifth or sixth month there is a consciousness. So this consciousness came into being within a sonically rich constant environment without the possibility of silence. The first time silence is ever heard is after the child is born and perhaps in a bassinet in a hospital and is lying there in the dark, hearing nothing for the first time in its life. The absence of sound probably is a very threatening sound, because all of our developed consciousness has emerged in the presence of sound.

Because of our biology, silence has a meaning to it that is really the opposite of what we all assumed. Until recently, we all assumed that the child was in a coma in the womb and not reacting to the world. We didn’t know that the hearing was plugged in. We assumed that the child was born and became conscious at the moment of birth. Now we know that that’s not true, that sound is always present. It’s a very rich sonic environment. Silence has this extra radiation to it. Once we get used to life in this particular dimension that we are in, we do find ourselves surrounded frequently by lots of noise. Then silence becomes a relief. It turns to have a positive aspect. But underlying that is this other aspect of silence where, if the mother in fact dies while the child still is in the womb, silence means death and termination.

Silence in films is used especially to make the audience feel anxious or at least nervous.

There have been many films over the course of film history that have used silence for those same ends. Fritz Lang’s M has no music other than the whistle, Wages of Fear has no music, No Country for Old Men has one tiny piece of string music in it that sounds like crickets, Michael Haneke’s Amour has no music – shockingly it has no music over the end credits. Music is played on the piano and we hear a CD playing but there is no score. What is that? The common theme of all these films is a mounting sense of doom or dread that is empowered by the absence of music. Even in a conventional horror film which was scored by Bernard Herrmann, the presence of that music does scare us, but it does so in a companionable way. It’s as if your big brother is going to scare you. In a sense the music puts its arm around you and says, ‘Now I am really going to scare you.’ And it does. It does a good job, but you get the sense that there’s somebody there, trying to modulate your reactions, whereas a film with no music […] is abandoning you to your own devices, so that you have to react and have to come to emotional terms with the film without the music being any guide to you. That’s a scarier prospect – if the film is a good film. That’s the key all of these films have in common: they are extremely good films. The construction of the film itself acknowledges the fact that there is no music in a sense.

Whereas in big studio productions the audience is bombarded with all sorts of sounds for long stretches of time.

That’s true, and that’s clearly a determining factor. It’s also because we can now do this. When I started out 50 years ago, we would just have a dialogue track and no music and no sound effects as we were putting the films together. We had to imagine the film with this compliment of other sounds to it. As time went on we got to the point where we could run two or three tracks simultaneously – one dialogue track, one sound effects track and one music track. Now of course you can run 99 tracks or even an unlimited number of tracks. Because we can do this, this creates an expectation that we should do it. Once the expectation is that you should do it then to not do it becomes a statement. That makes people nervous and uncertain, because they might lose an advantage to some other film which the producer remembers where there was all this music. Studio executives are very busy. They have many projects going at the same time. Their talents are not always to see under the skin of a film. Some of them are very talented in that way, some of them aren’t. So to have an almost finished mix of the film with music and sound effects from very early stages now is becoming the accepted way of doing things. On the other hand, that’s exactly how I worked on THX 1138. When George [Lucas] and I were putting that film together, during the day he would be editing the film to picture with the dialogue track. At night I would be adding the sound effects and music – the temp track – to it. As the film was emerging it had a full music track of sound effects and temp music that I put together from records.

Unfortunately, composers and sound designers are rarely able to work closely together on the sonic concept of a film.

That’s always been the case. We were a strange bunch of people who left Los Angeles in 1969, primarily because the world that you just described was the world that we saw. That was not what we wanted. All of us had worked another way in film school. So we left and moved to San Francisco to be able to do that kind of extensive cross collaboration. In 1969, the unions were still very powerful in dividing crafts one from the other. We had not worked that way in film school and we didn’t want to work that way. In San Francisco there wasn’t the same kind of strict division of sound effects editors from music editors to mixers to picture editors. When you worked in post production on a film you were all in one group. That’s what suited us because that’s what we wanted to do.

In a way the old system never left. The old system is very well suited to a certain kind of industrial product, because everything is clearly defined and everything has its box. You wait until this stage and then you move to the next stage. You don’t turn the film over to the composer before a certain point, because that’s the most efficient way to do it from a business point of view – not artistically, certainly. If you gave me a magic wand and said, ‘You can change one thing in the film industry,’ it would be to get the composer and the sound designer, who ideally would almost be the same person sometimes, to start working on the film even before the shooting. […] I am thinking of Apocalypse Now, where by the time the music was being mixed […] we had developed fairly complete sound effects pre-mixes. We gave them to the music mixers so that they could hear the sounds that were going to be in the film at that point. Francis also encouraged them to steal the sounds from the pre-mixes and then maybe integrate those sounds through processing into the music itself. I did a similar thing with The Conversation. That was part of our mission statement to ourselves – not that we ever wrote it down formally, but in the late 60s we tried to create a broad spectrum between sound effects and music, so that there wasn’t a clear definition between one and the other. On The Conversation, the sounds of the conversation itself and the distorted elements of that conversation worked their way into the music and vice versa. Some of the music distortion effects came and influenced the sound of the conversation. It was very primitive by today’s standards, but it was aesthetically of a piece. I know that this is the way the Coen Brothers work. As they are editing the film, Skip Lievsay will put together a pre-mix of sounds for certain sequences and then give those to Joel and Ethan to integrate what Skip has done into the tracks of the project that they are editing. Then that influences what Carter Burwell does with the music. They are very much on the same wavelength. It is relative simple to do. You just have to decide that this is what you want to do.

On certain kinds of films there are a lot of people working on the sound. But it’s really the question of how soon does the sound designer get involved in a project. Ideally, again, it should really be before the film is shot to take advantage of ideas in the screenplay that would produce interesting and sometimes even money-saving ideas, ideas where you can achieve something in sound which tell you that you necessarily don’t have to shoot something if you can create the impression of something through sounds alone. That might save tens of thousands of dollars per item.

It takes somebody who is predisposed to think that way from the beginning, or somebody who has been educated by whatever process – by film school or just by the films that he worked on – to realise the advantage of this. Again, I am remembering Apocalypse Now because we were working in a format that had never been used before, what we now call 5.1. I had never even worked on a stereo film, everything I had done up until that point had been mono. I was a little terrified of that prospect, of how was I going to do that and how was I going to avoid any traps that weren’t clear in advance because nobody else had worked in this particular format before as well. I prepared a map for the music and for the sound effects to show where the music would be full 5.1, where it would be only stereo in the front and where it would be mono. Then I did the same thing for the sound effects. They were not always coincident. In fact, sometimes rarely coincident. This was a big help to the people who were editing the music and the sound effects because they could just look at that diagram which ran for the whole film and they could say, ‘What scene am I working on today?,’ and then they could look and say, ‘In this case both music and sound effects are mono’, so the sound effects editor now knew the things to do. Whereas for a full complex battle scene – the Ride of the Valkyries – where the music and the sound effects are both in 5.1, clearly I had to spend a lot of time doing that both in terms of music and in terms of sound effects. The reason for that is not only to save time and money, but the acknowledgement that the ear of the audience gets fatigued if the entire film was 5.1. The ear of the audience accommodates itself to that eventually and then expects that to be there all the time. It gets tired of it in a sense, whereas if you can sculpt it, depending on what the content of the scene is, and say, ‘This scene is going to be mono,’ then during the length of that scene the ear of the audience accustoms itself to mono. So when you open up to stereo, there is the sense that you are hearing something new. When you go from stereo to 5.1 there is another blossoming. People are mostly aware of these things when there is a significant change. To articulate that as much as possible was the goal of that mapping procedure.


You did discuss this approach as a team along with the composers though, didn’t you?

Yes, the music was written by Francis, Carmine and Shirley Walker. The three of them collaborated. They would write a piano version of the music and lay that down on one track of a 24 track tape. Then this would be given to one of four synthesists who were working on the film. The job of that synthesist was to orchestrate that piano track into a fully dimensional 24 track sound. On Apocalypse Now I was very busy in other areas. I would occasionally go over and watch them. My memory is that Shirley was playing the piano most of the time to something that Carmine had written and that Francis was then modifying. Francis is also musical. He plays tuba, he can read music and loves music and has a vast knowledge of opera and other things. My impression is that Shirley had her hands on the keys and that was what got laid down on that one track of the 24 track. But exactly how they all worked together I don’t know. The orchestration was done by the synthesists. There was also a temp track on the film, but it was used loosely. Mikey Hart and the percussion end of the Grateful Dead did a music track for the entire film. They screened the whole film at a certain point and then improvised a percussion track that went along with the entire film. We had that available to us and that appears several times in the film.

I believe Shirley Walker helped out Carmine Coppola on the scoring for The Black Stallion.

I wrote the original screenplay for that. My name is not on the film because of various political things which were very painful. But other than that I was not involved in the making of the The Black Stallion. I was working on Apocalypse Now while The Black Stallion was being made. It was a project that Carol Ballard and I worked on. We wrote the screenplay together in 1975. Then Gill Dennis, who I collaborated with on Return to Oz, joined us later that year. We finished a shooting script in January of 1976 and at that point I left because Carol was not happy with that draft of the screenplay. I left to come to England to edit Julia for Fred Zinneman. I worked closely with Georges Delerue. We mostly spoke French. I remember one time when talking about the music for the drive to the mansion in the country, Delerue said, ‘Here I am just going to do write some poussière musical,’ some musical dust, not real music but just some musical dust, sprinkled on the scene.

Would it then be better to have the music first or the sound effects first?

I am just speaking about the way I work. With Anthony Minghella and Gabriel Yared, as well as with Francis Coppola and David Shire, we had the music prior to shooting the film and certainly we had the music as the first assembly was put together. Then I would add sound effects. 80 percent of the time it would be sound effects that I felt were necessary to help tell the story, not atmospheric sounds. There are many exceptions to that. The use of the train elevator train in The Godfather during the Sollozzo murder scene is certainly a case where a sound effect was used in a musical sense. It’s like a string section where ultimately the low strings start to be added to the screeching of the breaks, which sound like very high violins. That’s a sound effect that is performing a musical job because there is nothing in the picture that makes you think there is a train in the neighbourhood. In that particular case it was a decision that Francis and Nino Rota had made because until fairly late in the process there was always the intention to have an intermission in the film after the Sollozzo murders, which was at the midway point. Nino and Francis wanted a piece of music to come in after the murder happened as Michael was running out of the restaurant. The big, operatic music would take you into the intermission, then there would be an intermission and then a similar piece would pull you back into the film after the intermission. As a result, Francis and Nino decided not to have any music prior to that moment of the killing which meant that the whole scene, which is maybe four minutes long – half of which is in a foreign language without subtitles –, had no music in it by design. So I thought of adding the sound of a train as something to modulate the emotion of the scene.

Did you work closely with Nino Rota on that movie then?

I never met Nino. In The Godfather all of the music that’s performed in the film was written by Carmine. Another one of my jobs was to make selections of period music that would be played on the radio. So I went through my vast library of that stuff and made selections of that and presented those to Francis. The crisis with Nino’s music was that Robert Evans didn’t like it. He felt it was too lethargic and too romantic and it needed to be harder hitting. He wanted to get rid of all of the music and have a new score written in five weeks by Henry Mancini. Luckily Francis was able to work Francis’ magic and convince Evans that this was not a good idea. Evans then proposed a scenario very late in the process where by Evans with a music editor would re-cut Nino’s music and then we, meaning Francis and I, would re-cut what Evans did and then we would preview that version of the film. Then the opposite would happen: We would re-cut Nino’s music and then Evans would re-cut our cut and we would preview that. Whichever version got the highest score that’s what we would go with. The decision came down to who was going to go first. It was clear to anyone who was in that meeting that whoever got to go first would get the prize because there was not enough time to do what Evans wanted. Luckily just at that moment, Ali MacGraw came in, who was married to Evans at that time, and she said, ‘Don’t forget we are going to Acapulco for a vacation.’ So Evans said ‘Okay, well, you go first,’ At that point I looked at Francis and Francis looked at me and we thought, ‘Okay, this is a win.’ When we went back to the studio Francis said, ‘Good luck, Walter, I am going back to San Francisco. Do the best you can!’ I thought, ‘What?’ (laughs) I was left alone with Evans essentially and I tried to think of the way he thought. What’s his problem? I loved Nino’s music so the question is why doesn’t he love it? Intuitively I zeroed in on the horse’s head scene which Francis and Nino had written music for that played against the horror. They had carousel music. I thought, ‘Well, maybe in this case Evans has a point. Maybe it plays so much against it… What can we do?’ I looked at the music which had an ABA structure to it. Then I ordered up another transfer of the music and slid the new transfer one structural unit against itself so that the A plays and the the B plays, but the B plays along with another version of the A so that they are harmonically related but play against each other. Luckily this just exactly coincided with the moment where you see the first bit of blood on the bed. When I called Evans in to listen to this cue he loved it and basically that satisfied him that everything was going to be alright.

Talking about The Godfather, it’s amazing, and this is another book to be written, the wonderful congruity that happens spontaneously between one piece of music that’s correctly selected either by the composer in terms of his process or even frequently with temp music. In an ideal sense you find a piece of temp music, line it up with an edited version of the film, select a likely starting point – where she puts the glass down – and run them together. The chances are high that if you have selected correctly the music, the scene and the music will dance together and frequently they will come to an end at the same moment. Why is that? This is a piece of music that may have been written 30 years earlier, performed ten years earlier and now you are syncing it up with a scene that you have just finished editing for a film that was just shot a few months ago. The organic nature of these things work together in miraculous ways. I think it’s part circumstance, but it’s also that both film and music are temporal arts with a high degree of modularity. Somehow the internal workings of a temporal, highly modular art, whether it’s film or music, constrict certain developmental patterns that if you do this, you have to do this, followed by that and then you have do that. And then you have to stop and the piece comes to an end. The difference of course is that music is the most abstract of all of the arts and film is the most specific of all of the arts. The reason they love each other so much is each one saves the other one from the dilemmas. Music relieves film of its specificity and film relieves music of its abstraction. They love to work together to achieve that result.

I remember on The English Patient we were still putting the film together and Saul Zaentz the producer, and there was only one producer on the film which was him – and that was great -, had to show 20 minutes or so of the film to theatre owners and get financing. He asked us to put something together and suggested the ending. I said, ‘Well, I put the a-cappella singing at the end.’ ‘Why don’t you put the Bach at the end?’ I did and then I thought, ‘Hm, why don’t we put both together?’ Here’s Bach, written in the 1700s, recorded by Glenn Gould in 1955, and here is a Hungarian folk song written in the 1400s and recorded in the 1990s – and yet they are in the same key and go through the same changes and they come to an end. That’s what I was getting at with the same kind of modularity in some weird inevitable way. If you do this and this and this, then you must do this. It happens with the image as well as two pieces of music simultaneously. This was at an early stage. In the end Gabriel wrote a variation on that. It’s funny because we got the singer Martha Sebastian into the Air Studios up here and played Gabriel’s composition and told her, ‘Just do something.’ In the end she couldn’t do it. She did something but it didn’t have that magic thing, so in the end we went back to something that she had done a few years previously and just found a way to put them in sync with each other. It’s that trade off between spontaneity and control. Theoretically she had control in the studio and yet that was inhibiting. So the fact that we could take something that was done without any reference to Gabriel’s music and obviously the Bach as well and put them together to give you this funny kind of spontaneity.

I was under the impression that Evans did take a lot of music out of the final cut of The Godfather.

No. I don’t think in the final version that is the case. That may have been at some point during the struggle.

Did you receive any feedback from Nino Rota about your work on his music?

No. It was all through Francis. Nino was in Italy and just stayed in Italy. He never came to the United States. I am sure he saw the film, though. There was a controversy about that because many of the themes were written for another film as it turned out.

Did you or Francis Coppola know about this at the time the film was made?

I don’t know. I certainly wasn’t aware of it myself and I never heard Francis talk about it at the time. I think it was a problem later on. It wasn’t nominated for best music, although it’ a great score.