Sound Sampling and Genre

Sampling is what Whittington refers to as “to retrieve a portion of another sound or piece of music and integrate into a new construction” ( 259).  This technique of sampling was used substantially in Science Fiction films, as filmmakers drew upon concepts from the old Hollywood era. This notion of sampling within sound design comes into play with the conventions of genre. And though the Hollywood era saw a “period that was highly dependent on the reusable studio libraries that would reinforce house style”, the sound design for Star Wars rejected the notion of “using previously recorded sound libraries” to “offer the film a new and innovative sound texture” (Whittington 101). In the creation of the sound design for Star Wars, sound designer Ben Burtt used “sound selection and creation” to unify “over the various reels of the film to build motifs, accentuate themes, and punctuate dramatic passages” (Whittington 107). Burtt then intentionally used these conventions of genre by engaging “the film’s themes (good versus evil, man versus machine), the iconography (lasers, spacecraft, and communication devices) and the narrative archetypes (good son/evil father) with his sound design to offer new layers of meaning” (Whittington 107). Within Burtt’s design, he wished to harken back to “the style of classic serials, particularly Westerns and science fiction shorts” (Whittington 107). It is therefore very important to note as a sound designer that “there is a historically vested component to any sound design. How sounds were captured, manipulated, and applied in the past often informs how they are created and used in films today” (Whittington 112). It was this attention to “past codes and methods of sound construction and capture” that painted the overall “style of Star Wars, which offers a pastiche of elements borrowed from classical Hollywood genres but has implications for subsequent blockbusters” (Whittington 112).

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