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The Sound Design of The Clangers: A Whistle-stop Tour

This week’s post explores elements of the sound design in the iconic animated children’s programme the Clangers. Originally produced between 1969 and 1972 by Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin of British production company Smallfilms, the Clangers joined other Smallfilms classics Bagpus, Ivor the Engine & Noggin the Nog to create a highly distinguished body of work.

The video essay embedded in this post draws upon literature, interviews and archival footage to discuss the foundations of the sound design employed in the programme and goes on to explore how its characters were able to realise such a profound connection with their audience.

It considers the impact of the score composed by Vernon Elliott, the skilful narration provided by Postgate and presents an argument that the subtle production techniques underpinning the Clangers’ distinctive whistled speech patterns are perhaps the most integral contributing factors to their enduring appeal.

The sources used in the production of the video are listed as follows:

- Embray, R., & Trunk, J. (2014). The Art of Smallfilms: The work of Oliver Postgate & Peter Firmin. London: Four Corners Books.

- Hayward, P. (2013). Whimsical Complexity: Music and Sound Design in The Clangers. In K, J, Donnelly (Ed.) & P, Hayward (Ed.), Music in Science Fiction Television: Tuned to the Future (pp. 72-86). New York: Routledge.

- Postgate, O. (2009). Seeing Things: A Memoir. Edinburgh: Canongate Books.

- Postgate, O. (Writer, Animator & Narrator), & Firmin, P. (Modelmaker & Illustrator). (1969). The Clangers: Flying [Television programme]. Canterbury: Smallfilms.

- Welch, F. [Director]. (2009). Oliver Postage: A Life in Small Films. [Television programme]. Bristol: Timewatch.

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