I’m posting this for my friend Larry Blake, well-known in the post-production world as the sound supervisor for Steven Soderbergh’s movies, as well as for having written more articles about post-production sound than probably anyone else in the world. But I am also posting it because it’s a matter that concerns me deeply as a film sound professional.
Larry is very annoyed, as am I and many other people who were intimately involved in the film sound scene in the 1970s and 1980s, about some academic articles in recent years written by a man named Eric Dienstfrey. Dienstfrey is currently a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Texas at Austin in its Music Department. In the articles Dienstfrey has attempted to diminish the stature of, among other things, “Apocalypse Now” as a landmark achievement, and to also diminish the technological achievements of the Dolby Laboratories during that same period.
Among the implications Dienstfrey makes that I find most disturbing are that “Apocalypse Now” and Dolby merely made modest improvements on practices and technologies that had been developed decades before and, even more disturbing, that Walter Murch and Dolby sought to construct false myths to exaggerate the value of their achievements during this period in order to enhance their respective professional standings. I judge these notions to be preposterous. They are in a piece Dienstfrey wrote called “The Myth of the Speakers.”
A later paper of Mr. Dienstfrey’s called “Under the Standard” concocts an equally preposterous thesis—this time that the Academy mono standard was arrived at to “get back” at AT&T. It does not involve people and companies familiar to most of us, but it is equally without basis in fact or context. Larry knew the man who chaired the committee to standardize Academy mono, and as is the case with the Dolby/Apocalypse article, Larry has written a rebuttal to set the record straight regarding that Dienstfrey article as well.
I join Larry Blake in challenging the technical and historical accuracy of a large number of Dienstfrey’s claims in both articles. Here are the two Eric Dienstfrey articles in question, and Larry Blake’s rebuttal of each.