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Toronto sound designer Jane Tattersall at SYRFILM

(Canadian sound designer/editor Jane Tattersall has worked on over 120 films, including Fernando Meirelles' "Blindness," starring Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo.)

"The voice is the skeleton of sound," said Jane Tattersall last Thursday afternoon during what has become the Syracuse International Film Festival's annual forum on sound and music in film. "But the human voice alone isn't sufficient."

Then Tattersall peeled back layer after layer of cinema sound to show us how it's done, while visiting filmmakers in the crowd sat as intently as the rest of us. Tattersall spoke third, after Wolfgang Eckert and Jeff Beal. Eckert scored the German film in competition at the festival, "The Puppeteer of Havana," and discussed how music expresses character. Beal, who scored Ed Harris' "Appaloosa" (which screened that evening at the Palace) showed clips from his earlier collaboration with Harris on the film "Pollack," and from television work on "Nightmares and Dreamscapes" and "Ugly Betty." He emphasized how music arcs a film's story-line, particularly in the absence of dialogue.

Canadian sound editor and designer Jane Tattersall instead discussed everything but the music in studio-produced sound -- all the layers of sound that together create reality even though you may not notice them individually, from flesh striking flesh, to wind and rain, to birds flying up through brush, to footsteps, to the whoosh and crackle of sudden flames, to guns and explosions and bones breaking. Tattersall screened a series of individual sound layers from a single scene from Showtime's "The Tudors" -- shot in Ireland with Toronto post-production -- and another from the war film, "Paschendaele."

From the start, the six-year-old Syracuse International Film Festival has highlighted sound and music in film. Screening of classic silent films like "Ben-Hur" (1925), with J.C. Sanford's commissioned new score performed live by the CNY Jazz Orchestra, is an annual signature event that has earned New York State Council on the Arts' mention. Italian producer-director Gian Vittorio Baldi -- recipient of SYRFILM's Lifetime Achievement Award for 2009 -- has paid special attention to sound throughout his career as both filmmaker and cinema scholar. An overture of composer and keyboardist Jeff Beal's film music, performed live by the Society for New Music, preceded Thursday's "Appaloosa" screening.

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