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Chuck Burgess
Chuck Burgess
Sound design and audio post; Music supervisor

Chuck Burgess, an Emmy award winner for sound design, worked very hard to make the viewer of Kentucky's Underground Railroad uncomfortable. When you see an old photograph or a painting of a slave at the whipping post, you'll hear the sound of the whip, screaming, and foreboding music.

"I don't want you to feel good at seeing this," he says.

There are people who don't believe or don't know Kentucky's slave history, says Chuck. "You hear it wasn't so bad, that Kentucky didn't have that many slaves. But I found out (Central Kentucky) was a breeding ground - I always thought for horses, but it was horses and slaves."

One photograph in the program stands out in particular, says Chuck. It's of a group of slaves in front of their ramshackle house. "I had been running the tape over and over because I was putting down several layers of audio," he says. "You'll see it one time, but I saw it over and over. When you look at their faces you can see their misery."

Chuck grew up in Clark County, Kentucky. He remembers finding slave shackles under a portion of a rock fence he and his father were dismantling.

"We rolled the rock over and there were these shackles," he says. "I always wondered what happened to the fella who had 'em on. Did someone hide them for him so he could escape? Did he have to wear them while he worked?"

As the sound designer, Chuck was responsible for adding all of the sound other than the natural sound recorded on the shoots and the dialogue, though he enhances that audio as well. His work contributes to the overall mood of the program.

For the slaves who found freedom and helped others to freedom, he provided a more hopeful accompaniment.

"From the very beginning, I had this one piece of music that I knew I would use to end it," he remembers. "When I laid (the audio) down (over the video), I almost cried. It really moved me."

"I wanted you to realize there were people, black and white, who didn't believe in slavery and who tried to help. Therein lies the hope and the humanity."




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Last Updated: Tuesday, 09-May-2006 10:39:15 EDT