Larry Sider founded the School of Sound four years ago, creating a forum that united a diverse collection of individuals involved in all aspects of film, AV and multi-media sound production - for a lively interchange of experiences and ideas.

Sider’s own background is in film: Chicago born, he went to film school at NorthWestern University and has worked as a sound designer and editor for 25 years. He settled in the UK in 1979, and in addition to his sound and film work, teaches and lectures on various audiological topics at various academies, including the Royal College of Art and the National Film & Television School.

The fourth School of Sound annual symposium was held this year at the Royal Scottish College of Dramatic Art, Glasgow. The four-day event attracted over 180 people from 15 countries and included presentations and talks by those at the leading edge of the arts and media involved in moving image. Speakers included radical film director Nic Roeg, composer and sound artist Hans Peter Kuhn, producer Bob Last, head of the Medici String Quartet Paul Robertson, musician and composer David Toop and many more.

This year’s School of Sound focused on music for the moving image, and the themes were diverse, ranging from exploration of the blurring boundaries between truth and fiction, through sound effects and music, to the use of sound in classic movies. One of the many highlights was producer Bob Last, who explained the complexities of hiring composers for films - often involving three or four, who may or may not contribute to the soundtrack, with the credits going to the incumbent composer at the wrap. Last’s point was that this changes the emphasis on film music production from creative input to favour ego, money and power.

Sider explains that the first School of Sound was triggered by the fact that although plenty of lip service is paid to the idea of ‘good’ sound and creative ways of using it, it’s too often an ‘add-on’ at the end of the production cycle. He wants to encourage the idea that all aspects of sound - from the composition of scores to the technical production of soundscapes and use of sound effects - should become integrated with the movie (or media) making process from the outset. The School of Sound is not restricted to film purists: anyone creatively using mixed and multimedia elements - in documentaries, commercials, interactive computer technologies, animations, video, TV, promos etc - is welcome.

Sider has strong opinions on specific sound points. One is that lessening budgets and the pressure for instant payback are stunting creative use of, and experimentation with, sound: too often he feels it’s a case of finding a competent technician to mix effects and a soundtrack at the last minute - with whatever’s left in the coffers. Sider also feels that UK film schools put too much emphasis on technical production and not enough on encouraging individuals to develop their own aesthetics and creative articulation of sound. "Technicals are important, but it’s not what sound is all about," he states adamantly. "It’s not something that should be limited to sound designers, composers and editors. Directors and producers should all know about the role of sound."

It’s these and many other issues that the School of Sound encourages. It is aimed at industry professionals - contemporary and future; approximately 50% of half this year’s attendees were students, primarily from Europe - itself an indicator of cultural perceptions about the importance of sound in film and moving image related industries.
Louise Stickland

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