The sonic precision and cohesion of the Coens’ films have much to do with the close collaboration between Mr. [Skip] Lievsay and Mr. [Carter] Burwell. Extensive discussions between a film’s sound editor and composer are rare, given typical post-production schedules. It’s customary, Mr. Burwell said, for the two parties to meet only “at the final mix where everyone will be arguing about what should be the loudest.” But Mr. Burwell and Mr. Lievsay, having worked on all 12 Coen films, have figured out a cooperative approach. “We try to be complementary, or we stay out of each other’s way,” Mr. Lievsay said. On some films, like “Barton Fink,” they have gone so far as to divide up the sonic spectrum for individual scenes, so that one of them tackles the high end and the other the low end.
Hearing the wallpaper glue unpeel with unnerving clarity in Barton Fink was one of the first times I was aware of sound as a designed, not just found, element of filmmaking. Now I wonder which one of the Coen’s guys did it.
Exploiting Sound, Exploring Silence