Sunday, April 23, 2006

Story of the THX Deep Note

The rumble that builds into a boom and then finally into an F Major chord at the beginning of movies with THX sound is heard in a movie theater, somewhere, every 20 seconds. Computer music extraordinaire Andy Moorer created the THX Deep Note, as it came to be known, in 1982. He tells the story of its creation to Music Thing:

I was working in what was then called the "Lucasfilm Computer Division" as head of the audio group. In about 1982, we built a large-scale audio processor. This was in the days before DSP chips, so it was quite a massive thing. We called it the ASP (Audio Signal Processor). "At the same time Tom Holman was also working at Lucasfilm. He had developed what is now called the THX sound system. It was to premiere with Lucasfilm's "Return of the Jedi." They were making a logo to go before the film. I was asked by the producer of the logo piece to do the sound. He said he wanted "something that comes out of nowhere and gets really, really big!" I allowed as to how I figured I could do something like that.
He did it by writting a computer program to output a series of parameters that would perform live music on a set of oscillators, resulting in a slightly different Deep Note each time the program was run--when everyone heard the version we have come to know, they settled on it. Later, they lost the original recording, but obviously found it in time to stamp it all over a bajillion movies and DVDs.

And of course, we'd be remiss not to link you to the Simpsons parody of Deep Note, a sound that comes out of nowhere and gets really, really big, like big enough to blow the audience away.

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