Ben Burtt, Electronic Musician

Go see WALL-E. No, really. Do it now. I’ll wait here until you get back, if you want.

It’s a brilliant film. I thought Pixar would have trouble topping Cars, which was nothing less than the Great American Movie. WALL-E is drawn on a more expansive canvas, about nothing less than the indomitable human spirit (told through the experiences of a robot, oddly enough). The main characters’ limited vocabulary appears to have inspired director Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo, A Bug’s Life) to top-notch filmmaking. The first 20 minutes or so are without dialogue, being the story of the Last Robot On Earth.

The nicest surprise was seeing that the voice of WALL-E was supplied by Ben Burtt, in his first credited role.

Ben Burtt probably wouldn’t describe himself this way, but he is the greatest living electronic musician. He tends to call it “sound design” and, to be fair, he does have four Oscars to show for it.

Burtt works with found and synthesized sounds, molding and blending them into wonderful new sounds, never heard before outside his head. These sounds have a sense of rhythm, melody, and harmony that underscores the films he works on every bit as effectively as their music. Think R2-D2’s chirps and whirrs, or the Millennium Falcon in a dogfight.

The sound design of WALL-E is every bit as great as Burtt’s work on the Star Wars films. Which is to say, you don’t notice it – it sounds completely natural, as if they actually recorded all the nonexistent robots, spaceships, computers, and whatnot. But if you do listen, you will hear an amazing symphony created from nothing but a microphone, a computer, and some remarkable imaginations.

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