The sound of slaughter

My family went to see War Horse on Christmas day, and the kids loved it -- Zeke remarked that that the cinematography was fantastic.  I didn't see much of it, because I couldn't bear to watch the combat scenes and spent most of the movie with my head buried in my husband's shoulder. 

But I couldn't close my ears, and I did marvel at the extraordinary soundscape, which was gruesome but also had a lyricism to it, at least when listening without looking at the carnage on screen.

So I was fascinated to read Melena Ryzick's story in The New York Times about how the sound designer Gary Rydstrom did his work.  Here's his description of creating the feeling of an incoming shell, which was so jarring in the theater that the sound was felt as well as heard:

“That’s one of the scariest sounds in war to me, knowing that a shell is coming in to explode near you. I recorded my vacuum cleaner. I was vacuuming my stairs and if you vacuum in the crack of the stairs in the carpet, it makes this crazy whoosh. This happens to sound people all time, you’re doing something mundane one day and you hear this great sound. My wife has long thought I’m crazy; she probably had to be quiet for a few hours while I recorded a vacuum cleaner. The cracks of my stairs are so clean now.”

Rydstrom's comments reminded me of Ben Burtt's wonderful descriptions on Studio 360 of how he came up with the sounds for Star Wars and Wall-E, which is always worth another listen.