Heyser Memorial Lecture
AES 117th Convention
Moscone Convention Center - San Francisco, CA, USA
Saturday, October 30, 2004 - 6:30pm
Edison's First Sound Film and the Three Fathers of Cinema
by Walter Murch
A presentation of Edison's first sound film from 1894, thought to be
lost for many years. Patrick Loughney at the Library of Congress
recently re-discovered and repaired the long-lost cylinder, and sent it
to me to resync with the nitrate picture. An explanation of how this was
done, despite the fact that there was no start mark, no standard frame
rate for film, nor rpm for cylinder. Then, using Edison as a
springboard, examine the hypothetical question: what would have happened
to cinema if film+sound had been invented 100 years earlier? Would we
have known what to do with it, or were, as I suspect, certain other 19th
century cultural developments - dynamism in music (Beethoven) and
realism in literature (Flaubert) - needed to prepare the way for film to
catalyze cinema's true strengths: the dynamic representation of
Walter Murch has been honoured by both British and American Motion
Picture Academies for his picture editing and sound mixing. In 1997, Murch
received an unprecedented double Oscar for both film editing and sound
mixing on The English Patient (Anthony Minghella), as well as that year's
British Academy Award for best editing. Seventeen years earlier, he had
received an Oscar for best sound for Apocalypse Now ( F. Coppola), as well as
British and American Academy nominations for his picture editing. He also
won a double British Academy Award in 1975 for his film editing and sound
mixing on The Conversation (F. Coppola), was nominated by both academies
in 1978 for best film editing for Julia ( F. Zinnemann), and in 1991 received
two nominations for best film editing from the American Academy for the
films Ghost ( J. Zucker) and The Godfather Part III (F. Coppola).
Among Murchs other credits are: picture editing for The Unbearable
Lightness of Being (P. Kaufman), Romeo is Bleeding (P. Medak), First Knight
(J. Zucker), The Talented Mr. Ripley (A. Minghella), and K-19: The
Widowmaker (K. Bigelow).
His most recent credit is for Cold Mountain (Anthony Minghella) for which
he received an Academy Nomination for Editng, and British Academy
Nominations for Editing and Sound Mixing
He has also been involved in film restoration, notably Orson Welless Touch of
Evil (1998), Francis Coppolas Apocalypse Now Redux (2001), and Thomas
Edison's Dickson Experimental Sound Film (1894).
Murch was also sound effects supervisor for The Godfather (F. Coppola), and
responsible for sound montage and re-recording on American Graffiti (G.
Lucas), The Godfather Part II (F. Coppola), and Crumb (T. Zweigoff), as well
as being re-recording mixer on all of the recent films for which he has also
been picture editor.
Murch also directed and co-wrote the film Return to Oz, released by Disney in
Between films, he pursues interests in the science of human perception,
cosmology and the history of science. Since 1995, he has been working on a
reinterpretation of the Titius-Bode Law of planetary spacing, based on data
from the Voyager Probe, the Hubble telescope, and recent discoveries of exoplanets
orbiting distant stars.
He has also translated into English a number of previously untranslated works
by Curzio Malaparte.