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RE: [F_minor] Idea of north and 'crys of London'.
Orson Welles was another Larger-Than-Life Wunderkind whose achievements
mere mortals gape at in awe. Among the "Cahiers du Cinema" crowd, one of
his greatest achievements was the revolutionary act of mixing many
simultaneous conversations and voices in crowded, public scenes, starting
with "Citizen Kane," and it's also a distinctive feature of "The
Sound films began with "The Jazz Singer" in 1929, and if the cineastes are
to be believed, not a single director ever mixed multiple voices before
Welles did in 1941. (He's also credited with inventing ceilings for
interior room scenes -- previously interior room sets in sound stages had
This suggests that like Gould, Welles was an obsessive technology innovater
and even, if necessary, an inventer. The mixing in Kane and Ambersons gives
the audience the ultra-realistic "random" sensation of listening to other
patrons in a diner or dozens of guests at a fancy party.
But in Welles' movies it's not random at all, it couldn't be more
controlled and synthetic. Welles wants you to hear particular snatches and
phrases, he wants you to very clearly hear specific snippets of idle gossip
and chitchat. He uses them as very specific and very important details to
construct and reflect nuance of character, and to emphasize the calendar
moment -- "... saw one of those flying machines yesterday ..." -- far
beyond the visual cues of costume and architecture that try to depict 1910
to the audience.
But his previous work with sound -- stage drama and live broadcasts of
radio dramas -- would tend to force him to think about simultaneous
conversations. An actor who starts his line before the previous actor's
line is finished is said to have "stepped on" the first actor's line.
Unwanted silence on stage is a director's nightmare, and "dead air" in a
live radio broadcast is worse, so there's a lot of intentional stepping on
lines to hustle the pace and beat the clock.
Welles was also the (anonymous, uncredited) voice of radio's biggest hit,
> [Original Message]
> From: Houpt, Fred <email@example.com>
> To: <firstname.lastname@example.org>; <F_MINOR@EMAIL.RUTGERS.EDU>
> Date: 7/2/2008 11:35:17 AM
> Subject: RE: [F_minor] Idea of north and 'crys of London'.
> Don't know. In the very good movie "32 short films of GG", there is a
> scene, perhaps derived from a real event, where GG stops in at one of
> his favorite all night trucker coffee shops off the highway, just
> outside of Toronto, sits down for his regular food and he just listens
> intently to all the conversations flowing around him. The film depicts
> his focus as he perceives the voices as a symphony of sounds, with his
> fingers already separating voices into layers. If this is truly the way
> he got the idea, then it is a stunning perception on his part. Most of
> us lesser lights spend all of our mental energies filtering out noises
> of which a crowded room is full of. He did the exact opposite and
> opened his attention much further. Now, if all of this is true, it was
> the seed idea for the radio documentary he did.
> BTW, there is a slight hint of just this type of blending of voices, now
> that I think of it, on a Simon and Garfunkel album, one of their first.
> You know that section just immediately before "Old Friends", where you
> hear the ragged voices of the old people speaking in the retirement
> home....well the voices sometimes for a second or two slip by each other
> by almost touching, almost at the same moment. Have a listen again and
> you'll see my point. Juxtaposing voices is not really a new idea but
> the way he used it was far advanced to anything I can recall.
> Fred Houpt
> -----Original Message-----
> From: email@example.com
> [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org] On Behalf Of email@example.com
> Sent: Wednesday, July 02, 2008 11:11 AM
> To: F_MINOR@EMAIL.RUTGERS.EDU
> Subject: [F_minor] Idea of north and 'crys of London'.
> Thanks for the mention of the 'idea of north' and the mixed voices.
> I have wondered if GG was influenced by Gibbons "Crys of London" with
> its mix voices. It sounds very GG to me. The first time I heard the
> Gibbons I thought of Gould's Idea of North immediately. Did he ever
> comment on this work?
> Peter in Seattle
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