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Julie Burstein is fascinated by the roots of creativity, and she has pursued that passion through her work as a reporter, producer, and host at WNYC and PRI. In 2000,[…]

Inspiration could be lurking somewhere as commonplace as your bathroom. That was the case for iconic sound designer Ben Burtt who has created some of the most memorable film sound effects of the past 40 years.

Julie Burstein: It is so essential to stop and really pay attention. That ability to attend, to really take in what's happening can spark ideas or directions that we wouldn’t have come upon if we hadn’t just slowed down and really paid attention.  

Ben Burtt is the sound designer for many of the films that if you think of films of the last 25, 30 years, you think, "Oh, I remember the sound of Indiana Jones’ whip."  That's Ben Burtt.  "I remember the sound of the light sabers in Star Wars."  That's Ben Burtt.  He has created the iconic sounds for so many movies. He is someone who is exquisitely attuned to what his world sounds like.  

You may have seen Wall-E and there is little robot in it called Mo, and he said, "The basis for Mo is my shaver in the bathroom. I thought, 'That sounds like Mo!'" And so he recorded the shaver, and he then manipulated it and suddenly you have this hilarious character running around, but came right out of this bathroom. 

What he said was even if it has been transmuted into something new, we recognize the origins in what's around us.

The ability of Ben Burtt to really pay attention to what is around him, to recombine and rethink things so suddenly is quite wonderful.