Walter Murch stands behind a laptop.

Prolific film editor and sound designer Walter Murch has been in Hollywood for over half a century, working on such films as “Apocalypse Now,” “The Godfather” and “The English Patient.” But the three time Oscar-winner has another hobby: astrophysics. In his spare time, Murch steps away from the big screen and tries to prove Bode’s Law, a 240-year-old theory on the spacing of the planets in the solar system. Murch joins us to discuss his work in astrophysics and the connections he sees between astronomy and sound editing.

Guests:
Walter Murch, film editor and sound designer

  • Kevin Skipper

    The comment board won’t let me criticize the S.O.I.’s PM on the related page so I’m forced to do it here. KQED. Stop calling Zionists by their affectionate nicknames. Cut that ‘Bibi’ B.S. out.

    “Israel as the general manager of mid-east peace (in the form of an endless, racist, pseudo-religious war) for the last 40 years.”

    That’s really really really really really really sad.

  • Kevin Skipper

    Iran is not a terrorist state. Israel is indignant because Iran’s Muslims are willing to say that Israel is a farcical exercise. They are willing to detail Israel’s aggression, genocide and most importantly cultural misappropriation. The story goes further. Israel is invested in hiding the identity of Captive and Isolated Melanated American populations. Iran and other Muslim neighbors use this as a prodding tool, effectively embarrassing the unjust state at every turn.

  • Kevin Skipper

    One free state in which Hebrew identity and laws are respected. Get the bleached-out swine-munching supplanters out of there and return the land to it’s native people.

  • Kevin Skipper

    “To the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword.” -Rev. 2:12

    Netanyahu and the rest of Israel are NOT from Judea. Everyone knows that. Funny that he offers that explanation and qualifies it with a side stoty of some poor Zionist that got shot in the streets.

    I invite anyone to go ahead and defend the Israeli PM’s stance. Qualify his comments into historical terms. Compare his and his country’s views on race, history and heritage to Judeaic scripture (the Holy Bible included). Israel is Rome. Israel is Pilate. Israel is St. Nicolai. Israel is secular. Israel is the apostate. The Hebrew Bible, itself portends that the False Israel will rise and then it will fall. The righteous don’t need bombs to accomplish that. The Hebrew God has already stated what side that He will take.

    “But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.”
    “Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality. Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans.”
    -Revelations 2:6, 14-15

    • William – SF

      I believe he said it was an American that was shot. Telling if the American was Jewish and that fact not worthy of recognition. Bibi is selling …hard.

      • Kevin Skipper

        “True that.” -B.J. Horseman

        “That’s the art of the deal.” Came out strained and, frankly, desperate. Reminds us that despite the desire to demonize these guys, BJT, BM, and all the others are just servants. Workers. Laborers. If we hope to overcome being controlled under that construct, we must have compassion. Anger, hate, rage and resentment all fail us. The brain is a traitorous agent. The heart is our only salvation. Not sad. Not very sad.

        • William – SF

          I don’t hate DJT or BN (you’ve been using BM, prolly nothing notable about that acronym, ..prolly), and what they do and want to do to this country I take great exception with. It’s very difficult to rationalize compassion for views of someone who refuses compassionate views.

          • Kevin Skipper

            Oops! Honest mistake. lol..

          • William – SF

            “The brain is a traitorous agent.”

          • Kevin Skipper

            “D*mn You, omniscience!!!!”

          • Kevin Skipper

            I agree. At the same time, their polarities will eventually feed an effect of clarity. Notable that, despite frenetic pandering, neither Trump nor Netanyahu is able to drum up any significant support from even the most conciliatory members of the mainstream press. Gives a clue as to how America really feels about the necessary terms of a two-state solution. Trump’s claim to being okay with either a one or two states effectively tosses the ball into Netanyahu’s lap and will require him to drum up his own support. Leading from aside.

            “It’s a good thing that war is terrible, otherwise, men would love it too much.” -Robert E. Lee, Confederate General

          • Kevin Skipper

            Inadvertent (Freudian?) slip as I hurried to join a real science conversation. Political psychiatry brings out my knee-jerky side. Science is a nice counterpoint. Even the disorderliness is orderly. Therapeutic.

          • William – SF

            Amen.

          • Kevin Skipper

            Hotep.

            Shalom.

  • William – SF

    Trump says he thinks Michael Flynn was treated unfairly … what?!
    Donald, it was the truth that was maligned.
    This is bad!

    • Kevin Skipper

      I thought he was talking about BM and Israel being treated unfairly.
      Flynn took a fall. True soldier. He’ll be honored in posterity.

      • William – SF

        I think we saw in real time, or heard, being the case, walls being erected around Trump’s ability to hear anything other than what he wants to believe.

  • Kevin Skipper

    Okay. Now that we have all they straight, lets get on to more unifying subject matter.

    Welcome Mr. Murch. I’ve heard that ‘black holes’ emit a certain variety of electromagnetic radiation that is, in some iterations, describes as audible. I’ve heard similar thing about the sonic qualities of Cosmic Background Radiation.
    I’m eager to learn the difference between sound that can be directly ‘heard’, that which can be ‘sensed’, and that which can be transmuted into an audible form. Is there a difference?

    BTW, Thanks Mr. Krasny for yet another worthwhile guest.

    • Robert Thomas

      Louis de Broglie showed that there is a peculiar oscillatory frequency associated with any bit of matter, according to the bit’s momentum, p:

      f = p / h

      where h is Planck’s constant of action.

      The reciprocal of this frequency, λ, is called the bit’s “de Broglie wavelength”. Simple linear or logarithmic transformations can bring the frequency of the various bits of any system into an oscillatory range sensible to humans, either as colors or as sounds.

      • Kevin Skipper

        Compelling. Leads me to wonder if our time/space experience is, in some way, subject to variations in the ambient fluctuations or logarithmic transformations. If time is subjective, then perhaps it’s component features can be manipulated and made subject. Perhaps the Hadron Collider is, in fact, a microcosmic social model. Smashing ideas and world-views into one another at near light-speeds. In that case, Donald and Benjamin are just crash test dummies. I like that model.

  • Kevin Skipper

    Sounds like composite soundscapes similar to the technique employed to simulate the dinosaur’s roars in “Jurassic Park.”

    Polymath gone Polyphonic. NIce!

  • Bill_Woods

    “Inter Jovem et Martem planetam interposui.”
    — Johannes Kepler

  • Kevin Skipper

    I heard that Marconi travelled to India and Jamaica to consult with scientists as well as mystics and yogis for the information that provided the basis of his research. Have you found similar interdisciplinary, cultural relationships in your work, so far?

    Music is 4-D!

    • William – SF

      Yes, spatial as well as temporal. Given some see music as colors, can we say 5-D?

      • Kevin Skipper

        Why not? Multi-spectral projections, from the present, to the past and future. 6th and 7th.

        • William – SF

          Present, past, and future are all temporal, hence the fourth dimension, what’s the 6th, 7th?

          • Kevin Skipper

            It’s up to interpretation. I always think of time only existing in the present, hence sequential order and incremental movement of anything three-dimensional. If the innate fluctuations or variations in reflectivity or light absorption (color) are the fifth dimension (in line with your offering) then we might imagine that these variations extend beyond the measurable to the various levels of hypothetical possibility (7th) or impossibility (6th). Some could argue that this is all part of the 4th dimension, an idea towards which I hold no grudge. I just like the idea of spreading it all out.

          • William – SF

            The shudder and then inevitable scowl from Mr. Niderkorn, my college physics instructor, would compel me to point out dimenions x, y, z make up 3-D, with time the fourth, evidenced easily as an object moving through space, whether forward or backwards in time, the latter, to date, not observable. He might further remind me that a brain interpreting sound waves as colors, while not common, is also just a specific kind of object moving (with ‘moving’, again, asserted as only 4-D) and requires no additional dimension to resolve.

            But I wonder.

          • Kevin Skipper

            As you should. The ideas of movement forward or backward through time are, themselves projections towards hypothetical, non-existent-in-three-dimensional-reality destinations. These projections and conjectures take place in a section of existent time-space defined as the present. One must account for fact that all changeability and evidence of it, occur in this present. The ability to imagine, remember, or intuit gives evidence of our brains ability, using four-dimensional modeling to effectively create the additional dimensions into which it places or categorizes what is real, fake, possible, impossible, truthful of the past, or a fabricated version of it. It is in these created dimensions that we, as individuals, synthesize the composite report of these dimensions. Our views.

            We agree that the third and fourth dimensions are, to a degree, objective. Factual. Actual. Creation.
            Any dimensions beyond this factual present are subjective. Conjectural and hypothetically surmised. Some of these are subject to actualization, that which is ‘possible’. Effectively, they are, by a unified human organic consciousness, created.

            If we step back into the conversation with Walter Murch, he goes into the idea that sound and music, as well as silence, effectively create impressions so strong, so believable that our brains treat them as reality. The unseen elements of communication allow messages to influence the broad-based creation of completely subjective reality that, when experienced simultaneously, people are able to treat as objective. The willful suspension of disbelief becomes the driver by which we navigate and orienteer our collective, shared mindscape.

            Depending on one’s individual place in these projected co-created realities, this is either a really good or really bad thing. Ultimately, it’s all subjective and therefore changeable at any moment. To me, that’s always a good thing.

          • Robert Thomas

            KS, you write, “Any dimensions beyond [the four of space + time] are subjective. Conjectural and hypothetically surmised.”

            Why should I assume this? In fact, I don’t. Ideas that call for mor than four dimensions are developed well beyond hypothesis and mere conjecture.

            After Hermann Minkowski reformulated the parabolic geometry of the four independent absolute dimensions of classical mechanics into a hyperbolic four-dimensional spacetime, pretty quickly (1919), Theodor Kaluza conceived of a five-dimensional field model from which both Maxwell’s equations of the electromagnetic field and Einstein’s General Relativity equations of the gravitational field could be derived. Subsequently, Oskar Klein and others took up Kaluza’s framework and used the ideas to encompass not only the classical fields addressed by Einstein and Kaluza but also the gauge fields emerging from quantum mechanics and subsequently quantum electrodynamics and quantum chromodynamics. After a hundred years, these efforts have culminated – among other ways – in the various superstring conceptions gathered together by Edward Witten of CalTech and others in their development of eleven-dimensional “M” supergravity theory.

            Consider
            “Up, Up and Away! The fifth dimension in physics”
            J. Beichler
            The Journal of Paraphysics, Volume 1, Issue 2, Summer 1997: 128-157
            http://www.academia.edu/8012837/Up_Up_and_Away_The_fifth_dimension_in_physics

            I only have a lay person’s understanding of this but apparently, the idea is that the seven further dimensions of M theory are accounted for by means of their compactification. Two “curled up” supersymmetric so-called “Calabi–Yau” manifolds are associated with each of the three familiar spatial dimensions and a seventh compactified parametrical dimension that amounts to an extension between two parallel ten-dimensional branes accounts for the extension of events into one-dimensional strings.

            String theory is complicated and had its heyday twenty years ago. It has been much assailed for its un-testability, complexity and slow progress. Other conceptions such as that of loop quantum gravity (which is formulated in four dimensions) have vied for attention among researchers attempting to extend the Standard Model of particle physics. But I can’t dismiss a hundred years of work by very serious minds all around the world merely because their conception of the physical world doesn’t comport with my everyday experience. Classical Minkowski space doesn’t comport with my everyday experience, either – until I turn on GPS.

          • Kevin Skipper

            I think we may be interpreting my comment differently. I’m not saying that theories about additional dimensions are without basis. Just the opposite, in fact. I’m merely stating that there is a limitation to what can be defined as extant in terms of the phenomenal, material realm of empirically measurable objects and events.

            Note that Witten’s model was just that, a model. Though logical, effectively, conjecture.

  • spiropentane

    You’re mispronouncing Lawrence Weschler’s name (Weschler not Wechsler)

    • William – SF

      Maybe he can’t hear the difference? …just kidding

  • Ben Rawner

    When doing war movies like K-19 Widowmaker did you go out and visit the military machinery or did you create the sound from scratch?

    • Kevin Skipper

      I can’t imagine a substitute for the sound of the two-blade Huey helicopters, Starfighter jet and M-16 machine guns.

      Even those of us born in the 80’s would learn that these were the mechanical components of every Vietnam Veteran’s flashbacks and nightmares. Powerful associations. Sound links us to our sub-conscious. It’s all Pavlovian.

      • Kevin Skipper

        Did he just say that he recorded Valkyrie aircraft as opposed to Starfighters?

  • Kevin Skipper

    What about the relationship between sound, gravity and magnetism? Universal gravitation?

    If the sonic qualities of various celestial bodies is to be considered spiritual, would you say that you see this as evidence of the original scientific underpinnings of classical theology and religion.
    Could that be related to the Oriental Scale having more notes and variations than the western scale?George Lucas is pretty big on the Vedas and such. I wonder what experiences inspired Vangelis’ compositions.

    • Kevin Skipper

      Wait. I think I remember him, Stevie Wonder and Carl Sagan partying together. Probably on the Blade Runner set. Wonder if P.K. was there.

Host

Michael Krasny

Michael Krasny, PhD, has been in broadcast journalism since 1983. He was with ABC in both radio and television and migrated to public broadcasting in 1993. He has been Professor of English at San Francisco State University and also taught at Stanford, the University of San Francisco and the University of California, as well as in the Fulbright International Institutes. A veteran interviewer for the nationally broadcast City Arts and Lectures, he is the author of a number of books, including “Off Mike: A Memoir of Talk Radio and Literary Life” (Stanford University Press) “Spiritual Envy” (New World); “Sound Ideas” (with M.E. Sokolik/ McGraw-Hill); “Let There Be Laughter” (Harper-Collins) as well as the twenty-four lecture series in DVD, audio and book, “Short Story Masterpieces” (The Teaching Company). He has interviewed many of the world’s leading political, cultural, literary, science and technology figures, as well as major figures from the world of entertainment. He is the recipient of many awards and honors including the S.Y. Agnon Medal for Intellectual Achievement; The Eugene Block Award for Human Rights Journalism; the James Madison Freedom of Information Award; the Excellence in Journalism Award from the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association; Career Achievement Award from the Society of Professional Journalists and an award from the Radio and Television News Directors Association. He holds a B.A. (cum laude) and M.A. from Ohio University and a PhD from the University of Wisconsin.

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