The Elephant Man’s Sound, Tracked.
One single breath. Or rather: the absence of that single breath. That is all it takes for Liz Greene to embark on an epic sound sleuthing adventure. An adventure that resulted in this video essay, published in the journal of media studies NECSUS, which is nothing short of, well, breathtaking.
Liz Greene has demonstrated before that she can find novel and inspiring ways to approach David Lynch’s work and that she has an astute ear for the sound design of his features. This video essay takes things a couple of steps further, in that it is an investigation that is not only formally rich and varied but also so meticulous that it may well have the Pinkerton agency vying for her services before long.
It all starts with the discovery that one single breath that Greene found in the on-set recording of Lynch’s Elephant Man is missing from the final mix of that movie. This leads to an exhaustive forensic investigation of the film’s postproduction history and that of its soundtrack in particular. From combing existing literature to conducting new interviews, from using iZotope Spectogram to sifting through back issues of Screen International and American Cinematographer: Greene’s detective work leaves nothing to chance. The result is a great insight into the production circumstances and creative frictions that led to Lynch’s masterpiece, and a convincing case for the importance of the sound designer as a creative force on this (and any) film.