Music Film Music
by
James Wierzbicki
  • LAST REVIEWED: 05 May 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 22 February 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199757824-0113

Introduction

The English-language literature on film music dates back to c. 1909, when advice columns on film accompaniment (likely for solo piano) began to appear in the numerous trade magazines that sprang up to serve the needs of the cartel-linked companies that provided one-reel films to nickelodeon-style cinemas. Film music was for the most part professionalized after World War I, when one-reel films were replaced by multireel features, and when the typical venue for films changed from the small nickelodeon to the capacious “movie palace” that required accompaniments played by an orchestra or by a single performer at the newly invented instrument called the “theater organ”; accordingly, the literature shifted from practical articles to a combination of critical commentaries and “human interest” stories centered on music directors for large urban cinemas. The 1930s witnessed the publication of a number of theoretical books and articles; the 1940s and 1950s saw not many books on film music but a proliferation of film music criticism (by writers such as Hans Keller and Antony Hopkins in England and Lawrence Morton in the United States) in journals normally devoted both to film and “serious” music. As noted in the next section, in the 1970s there appeared books on film music aimed at the lay reader, but film music scholarship as it is known today was not launched until the mid-1980s, when musically attuned scholars from the established field of comparative literature and the relatively new field of film studies began to pay close attention to film scores. With very few exceptions, the musical precincts of the academic world paid no attention at all to film music until the mid- to late 1990s; nevertheless, since 2000 the study of film music, from the perspective both of film studies and musicology, has been one of the academy’s “hottest” fields. This bibliography progresses from general works, through anthologies, guidebooks, bibliographies, and academic journals now being devoted entirely to the burgeoning field of film music, to, finally, specialized studies, early studies, and region-specific studies. The ten subsections grouped under the heading Specialized Studies, which includes literature on the film-related areas of television and video games, represent only the most prominent of the field’s subcategories. The section labeled Early Studies deals not with studies of the early period of film music, but, rather, with studies of film music that appeared relatively early in the field’s history; the section labeled Region-Specific Studies deals for the most part with studies focused on film music in various ways geographically distant from the Hollywood mainstream.

General Overviews

Books that sing the praises of famous composers and famous film scores have been in circulation, with a fair amount of commercial success, since the mid-1970s (for example, books by Tony Thomas and Mark Evans). Perhaps due to the rise of film music scholarship in the 1980s and 1990s (beginning especially with Gorbman 1987 and Kalinak 1992), books that attempt to explain film music in general (e.g., Duncan 2003, Larsen 2007, Chion 2009, Kalinak 2010) are a more recent phenomenon.

  • Brophy, Philip. 100 Modern Soundtracks. BFI Screen Guides. London: British Film Institute, 2004.

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    Although most of the films treated here date from the early 1980s onward, Melbourne-based filmmaker/composer Brophy begins his survey of “interesting” soundtracks with Fritz Lang’s 1931 M. The discussions are short and arguably superficial, but the writing is consistently engaging.

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  • Chion, Michel. Film, a Sound Art. Translated by Claudia Gorbman. Film and Culture. New York: Columbia University Press, 2009.

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    Originally published in French in 2003, this book by former composer and current film critic Chion eloquently makes the case that since the late 1920s the cinema has been—at least for some filmmakers—an art form as much sonic as visual. Special attention is paid to the work of Jean Vigo, Max Ophuls, Jacques Tati, Alfred Hitchcock, Orson Welles, and Andrey Tarkovsky.

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  • Duncan, Dean W. Charms That Soothe: Classical Music and the Narrative Film. Communications and Media Studies 9. New York: Fordham University Press, 2003.

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    Although its focus, as the subtitle suggests, is on the role that so-called classical music plays in the cinema, this highly readable book nevertheless covers film music’s broad range.

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  • Gorbman, Claudia. Unheard Melodies: Narrative Film Music. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987.

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    Trained not in music but in French-oriented comparative literature, Gorbman triggered the current wave of film music scholarship with this dissertation-based monograph. Her neat list of seven musical “conventions” in the so-called classical-style film is ubiquitously cited, yet the book itself remains available only in its original edition.

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  • Kalinak, Kathryn M. Settling the Score: Music and the Classical Hollywood Film. Wisconsin Studies in Film. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1992.

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    Like Gorbman 1987, Kalinak in the late 1980s and early 1990s approached film music from the perspective not of a musicologist but from someone trained in literature-based film studies. She covers the same ground as does Gorbman but focuses on different examples and thus offers different insights.

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  • Kalinak, Kathryn M. Film Music: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.

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    In keeping with the brief of Oxford’s series of “very short” introductions, Kalinak within a small number of pages not only surveys the entirety of film music but also—often quite brilliantly—articulates the concerns of today’s film music scholar. For academics new to film music, this is an excellent introductory text.

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  • Lacombe, Alain. Hollywood Rhapsody: L’âge d’or de la musique de film à Hollywood. Paris: Transatlantiques, 1983.

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    This is an “appreciation” of film music geared toward the general public. Although it stems from France, its focus—as suggested by the title—is the music of mainstream Hollywood films.

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  • Larsen, Peter. Film Music. Translated by John Irons. London: Reaktion, 2007.

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    Larsen teaches in the Department of Information Science and Media Studies at the University of Bergen in Norway. His focus is for the most part on music in Hollywood films, yet his grasp of film music practice is impressively universal.

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Reference Works

To date, the only comprehensive encyclopedia or dictionary of film music seems to be the German-language Gervink and Bückle 2012; comprehensive reference works in English are rumored to be in progress, but these have yet to materialize. Whereas Gervink and Bückle 2012 is indeed a dictionary, McCarty 1972, Limbacher 1981, Marill 1998, and McCarty 2000 are for the most part listings of film composers and their works. Limbacher 1981 features a brief glossary of film music terms, and sources such as the periodically updated Grove Music Online (see Cooke), of course, include entries on the most-famous composers of film music.

  • Gervink, Manuel, and Matthias Bückle, eds. Lexikon der Filmmusik: Personen, Sachbegriffe zu Theorie und Praxis, Genres. Laaber, Germany: Laaber-Verlag, 2012.

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    More than seven hundred pages in length and covering the entirety of film music’s history, this new dictionary includes entries on composers, directors, production methods, film genres, theories, and—impressively—film music’s various channels of dissemination.

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  • Cooke, Mervyn. “Film Music” Grove Music Online.

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    The 1995 second edition of The New Grove contained this brand new overarticle (the previous by Christopher Palmer) and considerably more entries on individual film-music composers than the 1980 hard-copy New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, which had relatively few entries on composers of film music.

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  • Limbacher, James L. Keeping Score: Film Music, 1972–1979. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow, 1981.

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    The book is a worthy follow-up to the filmographic information included in Limbacher’s Film Music: From Violins to Video (Limbacher 1974, cited under Source Readings). Along with a brief bibliography and “necrology” and a fairly extensive discography, it includes alphabetical lists of film titles, films with their composers, and composers with their films. The focus is entirely on Hollywood.

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  • Marill, Alvin H. Keeping Score: Film and Television Music, 1988–1997. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow, 1998.

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    Along with discographies and biographical information, the volume contains more than seven thousand entries that give the musical credits for French-, Spanish-, and—for the most part—English-language films and television productions.

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  • McCarty, Clifford. Film Composers in America: A Checklist of Their Work. New York: Da Capo, 1972.

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    Originally published in 1953 (Glendale, CA: John Valentine), when it was printed in a limited edition of only four hundred copies, this pioneering effort lists musicians alphabetically and then categorizes their credited films according to their efforts as sole composer, contributing composer, arranger, or musical director.

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  • McCarty, Clifford. Film Composers in America: A Filmography, 1911–1970. 2d ed. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

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    At 534 pages, McCarty’s massive expansion of the above-mentioned work (McCarty 1972) is indeed encyclopedic in nature. It lists composers alphabetically and with terse abbreviations specifies the nature of their chronologically listed contributions; very usefully, the last 160 pages are an index of film titles with references to their composers. Alas, the book is limited to film music activity in the United States, and its timeframe ends at 1970.

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Primary Sources

Film music scholarship depends not only on observation-based analysis of specific films, of course, but also—increasingly significant in recent work, it seems—on examination of archival materials (e.g., scores and sketches, drafts of scripts, directors’ notes), on published materials contemporaneous with the film music under examination, and on statements that come directly from the actual creators of film music. The collections of source readings listed in the subsections are for the most part carefully annotated, and the interviews with composers are for the most part in “journalistic” style. All the materials need to be read with a scrupulous critical eye, of course, but even the most outrageously opinionated of them add considerable resonance to what might otherwise be dry analyses of film music.

Source Readings

Notwithstanding the pioneering effort of Limbacher 1974, the very idea of film-music source readings—that is, materials generated not from a distance by academics but, rather, by journalists, film music practitioners, and others working close to the scene—is quite new. Illustrative of the apparent fact that film music studies is an increasingly “hot” field of scholarly activity, it should be noted that three of the four items mentioned in this section (Cooke 2010; Wierzbicki, et al. 2011; Hubbert 2011) were published within a twelve-month period.

  • Cooke, Mervyn, ed. The Hollywood Film Music Reader. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.

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    As its title suggests, the thirty-one items—not much annotated but each accompanied by its own introduction—all relate to filmmaking in the United States. The material ranges chronologically from 1920 to 1999.

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  • Hubbert, Julie B., ed. Celluloid Symphonies: Texts and Contexts in Film Music History. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011.

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    Hubbert’s collection comprises fifty-three English-language sources, mostly American, dating from 1909 to 2005. While the items are not much annotated per se, the lengthy essays that introduce each section certainly are.

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  • Limbacher, James L., ed. Film Music: From Violins to Video. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow, 1974.

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    The second (and larger) part of Limbacher’s book consists of filmographies and discographies; the first part (approximately two hundred pages) consists of fifty source readings that range chronologically from 1946 to 1970. Annotation is meager, but the collection is rich in material not available elsewhere.

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  • Wierzbicki, James, Nathan Platte, and Colin Roust, eds. The Routledge Film Music Sourcebook. New York and London: Routledge, 2011.

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    The collection contains seventy-four thoroughly annotated items, introduced both individually and by group, that range chronologically from 1910 to 2010. Along with sources from Canada, England, and the United States, the collection includes items—in original translations—from China, France, Germany, Italy, and the Soviet Union.

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Interviews

While scholarly commentary on film music is valuable, it cannot take the place of commentary—practical, philosophical, or otherwise—from the people who actually create film music. The immediate value of composer interviews depends, of course, on the questions the composers are asked, yet it seems that most composers who figure into these collections manage to get their points across regardless of the interviewers’ skills or the format of the interviewer’s writing. Thomas 1979 features interviews with “golden age” composers; Schelle 1998 and Morgan 2000 deal with composers prominent during the 1980s and 1990s; DesJardins 2006, Hoover 2010a, and Hoover 2010b are very up to date and include comments not just from composers but also from arrangers, producers, etc.

  • DesJardins, Christian. Inside Film Music: Composers Speak. Los Angeles: Silman-James, 2006.

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    The collection includes not only question-and-answer interviews with thirty-three composers but also interviews with four orchestrators, three director/producers, and a music contractor.

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  • Hoover, Tom. Keeping Score: Interviews with Today’s Top Film, Television, and Game Music Composers. Boston: Course Technology, 2010a.

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    The question-and-answer interviews are with twenty-three composers affiliated primarily with film and with six composers affiliated primarily with television, most of whom in one way or another are also working in the field of music for computer games.

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  • Hoover, Tom. Soundtrack Nation: Interviews with Today’s Top Professionals in Film, Videogame, and Television Scoring. Boston: Course Technology, 2010b.

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    This collection includes question-and-answer interviews with sixteen composers, five studio musicians, four music producers, six journalists who regularly report on music in multimedia, four record company executives, and one public relations officer whose job it is to promote music in multimedia products.

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  • Morgan, David. Knowing the Score: Film Composers Talk about the Art, Craft, Blood, Sweat, and Tears of Writing for Cinema. New York: HarperEntertainment, 2000.

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    Like Schelle 1998, this collection consists of question-and-answer interviews, with Elmer Bernstein, Carter Burwell, John Corigliano, Mychael Danna, Patrick Doyle, Philip Glass, Elliott Goldenthal, Mark Isham, Michael Kamen, Alan Menken, Basil Poledouris, Jocelyn Pook, and David Shire as subjects.

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  • Schelle, Michael. The Score: Interviews with Film Composers. Los Angeles: Silman-James, 1998.

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    The collection consists of question-and-answer interviews with John Barry, Elmer Bernstein, Terence Blanchard, Bruce Boughton, Paul Chihara, John Corigliano, James Newton Howard, Mark Isham, Daniel Licht, Joel McNeely, Thomas Newman, Marc Shaiman, Howard Shore, Shirley Walker, and Christopher Young.

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  • Thomas, Tony, ed. Film Score: A View from the Podium. South Brunswick, NJ: A. S. Barnes, 1979.

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    An early and thus valuable compilation, the book consists of interviews in prosaic style with John Addison, William Alwyn, Elmer Bernstein, Aaron Copland, Jerry Fielding, Hugo Friedhofer, Jerry Goldsmith, Bernard Herrmann, Bronislau Kaper, Erich Korngold, Henry Mancini, Alfred Newman, David Raksin, Leonard Rosenman, Miklós Rózsa, Hans Salter, Fred Steiner, Max Steiner, Dimitri Tiomkin, and Franz Waxman. In spite of its title, the book does not focus on the business of conducting film music; rather, its focus is on film music composition.

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Textbooks

Many academics who now teach classes in film music prepare “readers” whose material—pertinent to whatever agenda the professor might espouse—is drawn from a wide variety of sources. Except for MacDonald 1998 and Timm 2003 (perhaps suitable for classes at the most-fundamental levels), there are in fact no standard-format textbooks in existence today that might lead eager and intelligent students from a basic understanding of film music essentials toward an appreciation of the myriad of usages of music in contemporary films. Buhler, et al. 2010 seems aimed toward students who have already had a basic class in film music; although they contain lucid introductory materials, Bazelon 1981, Burt 1994, and Karlin 2000 are designed primarily for aspiring film music composers.

  • Bazelon, Irwin. Knowing the Score: Notes on Film Music. 2d ed. New York: Arco, 1981.

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    The author was a composer, and his book—first published in 1975—is on the whole geared more toward students who seek to write film music than to students who simply seek to learn about it. Much of its content, nevertheless, is suitable for the “general” student.

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  • Buhler, James, David Neumeyer, and Rob Deemer. Hearing the Movies: Music and Sound in Film History. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

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    Aimed at knowledgeable undergraduates and dealing as much with film music analysis as history, this carefully documented text is an outgrowth of the teaching of film music that Buhler and Neumeyer have for years presented at the University of Texas at Austin.

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  • Burt, George. The Art of Film Music: Special Emphasis on Hugo Friedhofer, Alex North, David Raksin, Leonard Rosenman. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1994.

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    Although concentrating on the works of Friedhofer, North, Raksin, and Rosenman, this well-organized text in fact covers the full range of film music; although admittedly aimed at aspiring filmmakers and composers, it is a valuable resource for any student seriously interested in film music.

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  • Karlin, Fred. Listening to Movies: A Film Lover’s Guide to Film Music. 2d ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning, 2000.

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    Karlin’s book, first published in 1994 (New York: Schirmer) and well deserving of a second edition, focuses more on the creation of film music than on the appreciation of it. It is rich with filmographies and information-packed appendices.

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  • MacDonald, Laurence E. The Invisible Art of Film Music: A Comprehensive History. New York: Ardsley House, 1998.

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    Although in the preface Macdonald writes that it is aimed at film historians and would-be film composers, this smoothly written book clearly has the format of a textbook for university undergraduates who major in neither music nor film studies.

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  • Timm, Larry M. The Soul of Cinema: An Appreciation of Film Music. 2d ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2003.

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    First published in 1998, Timm’s effort comes complete with sidebars and sets of review questions. Notably lacking in depth, it nevertheless remains a suitable “music appreciation” text for students at community colleges.

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Guidebooks

For the most part these are not scholarly texts but simply are practical guides—more or less formal—to the profession, combined with collections of anecdotes and possibly useful advice to the aspiring composer of film music. Whereas Hagen 1989, Hagen 1990, and Karlin and Wright 2004 deal primarily with the composition of film and television music, Kompanek 2004, Bellis 2006, Rona 2009, and Davis 2010 deal with the composition of screen music as well as with the marketing of it.

  • Bellis, Richard. The Emerging Film Composer: An Introduction to the People, Problems, and Psychology of the Film Music Business. Santa Barbara, CA: Richard R. Bellis, 2006.

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    The book’s subtitle succinctly describes the music’s emphasis. Books on film music rarely touch upon the human element, but this one addresses the matter articulately and insightfully.

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  • Davis, Richard. Complete Guide to Film Scoring: The Art and Business of Writing Music for Movies and TV. 2d ed. Berklee Guide. Boston: Berklee, 2010.

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    Along with interviews with more than twenty composers and producers, the book—first published in 2000—includes information on contracts, equipment, and the highly competitive job market.

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  • Hagen, Earle. Scoring for Films. Rev. ed. Los Angeles: Alfred, 1989.

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    Probably the earliest text (originally published in 1971, New York: E. D. Music) to address the techniques of film scoring, Hagen deals thoroughly—albeit pedantically, and never elegantly—with everything from click tracks to microphone setups.

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  • Hagen, Earle. Advanced Techniques for Film Scoring: A Complete Text. Los Angeles and New York: Alfred, 1990.

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    A sequel to Hagen 1989, this one comes with a CD containing recorded examples.

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  • Karlin, Fred, and Rayburn Wright. On the Track: A Guide to Contemporary Film Scoring. 2d ed. New York and London: Routledge, 2004.

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    Originally published in 1990, this weighty book remains the most thorough, and most useful, text for anyone teaching a class for aspiring film music composers. The chapters focus on practicalities, and the pages teem with examples from fairly recent scores.

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  • Kompanek, Sonny. From Score to Screen: Sequencers, Scores & Second Thoughts: The New Film Scoring Process. New York: Schirmer, 2004.

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    Like Davis 2010, this one deals aplenty with the business of contemporary film scoring. The “new process” mentioned in the subtitle involves, for the most part, the use of MIDI equipment to create sample scores in advance of actual orchestration.

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  • Rona, Jeff. The Reel World: Scoring for Pictures; A Practical Guide to the Art, Technology, and Business of Composing for Film, TV, and Video. 2d ed. MusicPro Guides. New York: Hal Leonard, 2009.

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    The emphasis here is indeed on practical matters that range from the composition of music to the selling of such music to the industry. Originally published in 2000, the book brings together material from columns that Rona since the mid-1990s has penned for the monthly magazine Keyboard.

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Anthologies

Because of their diversity of topics, well-edited anthologies serve both as useful entry points for persons new to the field of film music and as valuable sources of stimuli for persons deeply immersed in it. Some anthologies (e.g., Powrie and Stilwell 2006; Conrich and Tincknell 2006; Goldmark, et al. 2007) are based on a single theme; others (e.g., McCarty 1998; Buhler, et al. 2000; Donnelly 2001; Dickinson 2003; Gorbman and Sherk 2004) cover a wide range of themes. In all cases, the anthologies’ content represents not a summary but, rather, a sampling of current work.

  • Buhler, James, Caryl Flinn, and David Neumeyer, eds. Music and Cinema. Music/Culture. Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University Press, 2000.

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    This important collection of fifteen essays was one of the first widely circulated books to represent the “new” engagement of academic musicology with film studies.

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  • Conrich, Ian, and Estella Tincknell, eds. Film’s Musical Moments. Music and the Moving Image. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2006.

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    The fifteen essays, most of them by scholars based in the United Kingdom, deal primarily with diegetic musical performances within filmic narratives and—from a variety of international perspectives—the so-called musical.

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  • Dickinson, Kay, ed. Movie Music, the Film Reader. In Focus—Routledge Film Readers. New York and London: Routledge, 2003.

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    The collection brings together, in their entirety or in excerpts, fourteen examples of previously published writing on film music. The topics range from film music history to pop music, politics, and race/gender representation.

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  • Donnelly, K. J., ed. Film Music: Critical Approaches. New York: Continuum, 2001.

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    The eleven essays include not just case studies and theoretical overviews but also (from David Neumeyer and James Buhler) a historical survey of film-music analysis styles and a model for future studies.

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  • Goldmark, Daniel, Lawrence Kramer, and Richard D. Leppert, eds. Beyond the Soundtrack: Representing Music in Cinema. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007.

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    Most of the sixteen essays are case studies that indeed hold to the collection’s stated theme (i.e., the meaning of more or less familiar music whose performance is somehow represented within a filmic narrative). The outgrowth of a conference, the collection for the most part represents the viewpoints of musicologists who are not film music specialists.

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  • Gorbman, Claudia, and Warren M. Sherk, eds. Film Music 2: History, Theory, Practice. Sherman Oaks, CA: Film Music Society, 2004.

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    This sequel to the Film Music Society’s first anthology (McCarty 1998) features a half-dozen case studies, essays on soundtrack marketing and film music pedagogy, a bibliography of Internet sources, and an interview with the songwriting team of Jay Livingston and Ray Evans.

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  • Greene, Liz, and Danijela Kulezic-Wilson, eds. The Palgrave Handbook of Sound Design and Music in Screen Media: Integrated Soundtracks. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016.

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    The book contains twenty-five essays by film-music scholars and five interviews with leading practitioners of sound design, all of which add up to a powerful argument that—as the brief subtitle suggests—in many example of recent cinema the impact has to do with the totality of what listeners take in with their ears.

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  • McCarty, Clifford. Film Music 1. 2d ed. Los Angeles: Film Music Society, 1998.

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    Predating all the other anthologies listed here (originally published in 1989, New York: Garland), this undeservedly little-known book includes nine thought-provoking essays on various film music topics, a literature review, a summary of archival resources, and an interview with composer Bernard Herrmann.

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  • Neumeyer, David, ed. The Oxford Handbook of Film Music Studies. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.

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    This voluminous collection contains twenty-five essays from leaders in the field of film-music scholarship. Its sections are titled “Central Questions,” “Genre and Platform,” “Interpretive Theory and Practice,” “Contemporary Approaches to Analysis,” and “Historical Issues.”

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  • Powrie, Phil, and Robynn J. Stilwell, eds. Changing Tunes: The Use of Pre-existing Music in Film. Ashgate Popular and Folk Music. Aldershot, UK, and Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2006.

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    Half the twelve essays focus on the use—diegetic and otherwise—of classical music in film; the others focus on various forms of popular music.

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Bibliographies

The earliest bibliographies listed here—Zuckerman 1950 and Sharples 1978—appeared in film journals and date from long before film music became a field of scholarly endeavor; later bibliographies typically build on what has come before (Stilwell 2002 springs directly from Marks 1979, for example, and Pool and Wright 2011 is an updating of an earlier work by Wright and Stephen M. Fry), but because of space limitations they almost always omit some of the items included in the earlier work. Wescott 1985, Wright 2002, and Sherk 2011 are the work of librarians, and these efforts have occasionally been embellished by librarian-authored journal articles on film music bibliography (for example, Melissa Goldsmith in Choice and Desmond Maley in Canadian Association of Music Libraries Review). Some journals (for example, Music and the Moving Image, cited under Journals) have lately featured annual bibliographies listing items published in single years.

  • Anderson, Gillian B. Music for Silent Films: 1894–1929; A Guide. Washington, DC: Library of Congress, 1988.

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    Drawing on her long experience as a staff member in the Library of Congress’s music department, Anderson here offers exhaustive details on cue sheets and original scores for silent films preserved both at the LOC and at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

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  • Marks, Martin. “Film Music: The Material, Literature, and Present State of Research.” Notes of the Music Library Association, 2d ser., 36.2 (December 1979): 282–325.

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    The first thirty pages or so of the article deal with such archival materials as scripts, directors’ notes, and scores. Then comes “a selective bibliography of film music publications” that lists performance manuals, books, dissertations, and journal articles. Available online by subscription.

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  • Pool, Jeannie Gayle, and H. Stephen Wright. A Research Guide to Film and Television Music in the United States. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow, 2011.

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    This is a much-needed updating of Stephen H. Wright and Stephen M. Fry’s 1996 Film Music Collections in the United States: A Guide (Hollywood, CA: Society for the Preservation of Film Music). It is arranged alphabetically by American state, and it lists—with terse but useful commentary—the film music holdings (i.e., scores and sketches) of various libraries.

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  • Sharples, Win. “A Selected and Annotated Bibliography of Books and Articles on Music in the Cinema.” Cinema Journal 17.2 (Spring 1978): 36–67.

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    This bibliography includes more than four hundred sources, including newsletters and magazine articles in addition to scholarly materials, most of them delivered with fairly detailed commentary. Available online by subscription.

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  • Sherk, Warren M., ed. and comp. Film and Television Music: A Guide to Books, Articles, and Composer Interviews. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow, 2011.

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    At 667 pages, this book is about as comprehensive as a scholar of film music could wish for. To a certain extent modeled on Wescott 1985, it covers materials in detail up to 2005.

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  • Stilwell, Robynn J. “Music in Films: A Critical Review of Literature, 1980–1996.” Journal of Film Music 1.1 (2002): 19–41.

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    Stilwell quite deliberately takes up where Marks 1979 left off. Far more than a mere listing of materials, this admirably thorough bibliography categorizes items by type. Conducted in the mid-1990s, the research—alas—was severely out of date when it was published in 2002.

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  • Wescott, Steven D., comp. A Comprehensive Bibliography of Music for Film and Television. Detroit Studies in Music Bibliography 54. Detroit: Information Coordinators, 1985.

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    Tightly organized and highly detailed, the bibliography runs to 432 pages. A supplementary bibliography pertaining to music in early film, by Gillian B. Anderson, was published by the Society for Film Preservation in 1995.

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  • Wright, H. Stephen. “Film Music Web Sites.” Notes of the Music Library Association, 2d ser., 59.1 (September 2002): 128–130.

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    Albeit brief, this annotated bibliography of websites devoted to film music goes a long way toward separating the wheat from the abundant chaff. Available online by subscription.

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  • Zuckerman, John V. “A Selected Bibliography on Music for Motion Pictures.” Hollywood Quarterly 5.2 (Winter 1950): 195–199.

    DOI: 10.2307/1209451Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This important bibliography, which dates from long before the dawn of “modern” studies of film music, lists articles on the psychological effects of music, articles by composers and film professionals, and even bibliographies (printed in Hollywood Quarterly) from 1943 and 1949. Available online by subscription.

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Journals

The number of recently launched peer-reviewed journals devoted exclusively to film music or music in other image-based media is indicative of the field’s growth, and acceptance, since the turn of the 21st century. These journals include the Journal of Film Music, started in 2002; Music, Sound and the Moving Image, started in 2007; Music and the Moving Image, started in 2008; Screen Sound: The Journal of Australasian Soundtrack Studies, started in 2010; and the New Soundtrack, started in 2011. The mainstream journals of film and musicology have long been open to film-oriented articles, but articles on film music have appeared in these publications only rarely.

Theory

Film music is an ever-changing thing, and thus a definitive “theory” of film music—that is, not just an explanation of what film music is but also an explanation of how film music works—will likely never be articulated. Nevertheless, various serious thinkers over the years have attempted to grapple seriously with the relevant questions. None of the items listed in this section give the “real” answer, yet each of them contributes significantly to any serious thinker’s grasp of the matter in general. The earlier texts (Eisler and Adorno 2007, originally published in 1947; La Motte-Haber and Emons 1980) treat film music in a highly systematic manner; the texts from the 1990s (Brown 1994, Chion 1994, Smith 1996) have in common a psychological, even psychoanalytical, approach; the more recent texts (Kassabian 2009, Davison 2004, Dickinson 2008, Gimello-Mesplomb 2010) typically base their new theories on a challenge to one or another older theory on film music.

  • Brown, Royal S. Overtones and Undertones: Reading Film Music. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994.

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    More a compilation of essays than a through-composed work, Brown’s highly readable book includes not only speculations about the various functions of film music but also close examinations of the music in several films and interviews with eight composers. An appendix titled “How to Hear a Movie: An Outline” is especially useful to anyone involved in film music pedagogy.

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  • Chion, Michel. Audio-Vision: Sound on Screen. Translated and edited by Claudia Gorbman. New York: Columbia University Press, 1994.

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    Originally published in 1990. Formerly a composition student of musique concrète pioneer Pierre Schaeffer, Chion here expounds of Schaeffer’s thinking and applies it to multimedia situations that include the narrative film.

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  • Davison, Annette. Hollywood Theory, Non-Hollywood Practice: Cinema Soundtracks in the 1980s and 1990s. Ashgate Popular and Folk Music. Aldershot, UK, and Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2004.

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    Not nearly so theoretical as its title suggests, the book is for the most part a set of case studies focusing on Jean-Luc Godard’s Prénom: Carmen, Derek Jarman’s The Garden, David Lynch’s Wild at Heart, and Wim Wenders’s Der Himmel über Berlin.

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  • Dickinson, Kay. Off Key: When Film and Music Won’t Work Together. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195326635.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Dickinson’s book deals thoughtfully with the sometimes profound psychological effects—generated often in “post-classical” films—of combinations of music and imagery that at first glance seem to be at odds with one another.

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  • Eisler, Hanns, and Theodor W. Adorno. Composing for the Films. Continuum Impacts. London and New York: Continuum, 2007.

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    When this book was originally published in 1947, it bore only Eisler’s name, Adorno apparently having “distanced” himself from the composer because of the latter’s much-publicized problems with the US House Committee on Un-American Activities. It was not until 1969 that Adorno was listed as coauthor, but many scholars believe that the book is primarily his work. The text is famously impractical and highly theoretical, its essential theory being that film music ought not mimic the onscreen imagery but, rather, work in counterpoint to it. The 2007 edition includes a new introduction by Graham McCann.

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  • Gimello-Mesplomb, Frédéric, ed. Analyser la musique de film: Méthodes, pratiques, pédagogie. Paris: Books on Demand, 2010.

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    Along with a half-dozen analyses of music in films dating from the 1930s through the 1980s, the volume includes thought-provoking essays that explore the idea of film music analysis and the uses to which such analysis might be put in the modern university.

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  • Kassabian, Anahid. Hearing Film: Tracking Identifications in Contemporary Hollywood Film Music. New York and London: Routledge, 2009.

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    Written with a sharp feminist edge, the book intriguingly contrasts what Kassabian calls the “assimilating identifications” triggered by classical-style film music with “affiliating identifications” triggered by preexisting music with which audience members already have a relationship. Originally published in 2000.

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  • Kulezic-Wilson, Danijela. The Musicality of Narrative Film. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015.

    DOI: 10.1057/9781137489999Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Bolstered by detailed case studies of Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man (1995), Darren Aronofsky’s Pi (1998), and Joe Wright’s Anna Karenina (2012), Kulezic-Wilson makes a compelling argument that at least some films indeed share with music certain rhythmic details and large-scale temporal designs.

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  • La Motte-Haber, Helga de, and Hans Emons. Filmmusik: Eine systematische Beschreibung. Munich: Carl Hanser, 1980.

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    The authors’ “writing up” of all that might be said about film music is indeed, from the perspective of 1980, “systematic.” At the same time, it is didactic in tone and rather narrowly focused on what, in 1980, constituted the film music mainstream. For all that, the book remains a foundation for contemporary film music theory.

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  • Neumeyer, David. Meaning and Interpretation of Music in Cinema. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2015.

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    The text on the back jacket describes the book as “the capstone of Neumeyer’s 25-year project” in the study of film music. Much more than Neumeyer’s commendable early efforts, this valedictory book comes very close to explaining how music in film actually works.

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  • Smith, Jeff. “Unheard Melodies? A Critique of Psychoanalytic Theories of Film Music.” In Post-theory: Reconstructing Film Studies. Edited by David Bordwell and Noël Carroll, 230–247. Wisconsin Studies in Film. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1996.

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    In a challenge to the idea posited in Gorbman 1987 (cited under General Overviews) that most film music is not consciously noticed by filmgoers, Smith suggests that in recent films, music—especially preexisting music—is very much meant to be heard and contemplated.

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  • Walker, Elsie. Understanding Sound Tracks through Film Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199896301.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Each of the book’s five sections feature two case studies that allow the author to reflect on the general areas of “genre studies,” “postcolonialism,” “feminism,” “psychoanalysis,” and “queer theory.” Walker’s chapters are in effect responses to, or dialogues with, leading theorists in those areas whose brief essays introduce the various sections.

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Histories

Geared toward the increasingly large readership of “lovers” of the art form, books on film music have been in circulation since the mid-1970s. Many of these purport to tell the history of film music, but most of them in fact are simply “appreciations” of the landmark scores by this or that famous composer of film music. Although their titles suggest otherwise, some of the works mentioned below (e.g., Darby and Du Bois 1999, Burlingame 2000, Hickman 2005, Cooke 2008) hold to that format; others (especially Thiel 1981, Lack 1997, Wierzbicki 2009, and Kloppenburg 2012) are indeed disciplined historical accounts of film music’s development. Prendergast 1992 is a combination of celebrations of “great” film scores and, but only in its early pages, a genuine history.

  • Burlingame, Jon. Sound and Vision: 60 Years of Motion Picture Soundtracks. New York: Billboard Books, 2000.

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    This is a lightweight, and thus highly readable, summary of film music since c. 1940, but it is not so much a “history” as a rather thin account of the various scores by allegedly “great” film music composers.

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  • Cooke, Mervyn. A History of Film Music. Cambridge, UK, and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511814341Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Despite its title, and despite its heft and impressive amount of documentation, Cooke’s book—like Burlingame 2000—deals for the most part not with the history per se of film music but with the contributions of its various “canonic” figures.

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  • Darby, William, and Jack Du Bois. American Film Music: Major Composers, Techniques, Trends, 1910–1990. McFarland Classics 19. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1999.

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    Although packed with useful information, the book in essence is not a history but a set of annotations—more or less in chronological order—on arguably important film scores.

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  • Hickman, Roger. Reel Music: Exploring 100 Years of Film Music. New York: W. W. Norton, 2005.

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    Like Cooke 2008, Hickman’s deceptively titled account of a hundred years of film music is not so much a history as an appreciation of the scores of the various composers who, decade by decade, contributed to film music’s rich treasury.

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  • Kloppenburg, Josef, ed. Filmmusik: Geschichte–Ästhetik–Funktionalität. Laaber, Germany: Laaber-Verlag, 2012.

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    The book indeed deals with the aesthetics and the function of film music, but it is in essence a very thorough history that focuses as much on film music in Europe as on mainstream film music originating from or influenced by Hollywood.

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  • Lack, Russell. Twenty-Four Frames Under: A Buried History of Film Music. London: Quartet, 1997.

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    Notably weak in scholarly documentation, Lack’s book nevertheless is a historical account of film music, from its origins in the 1890s right up to its various manifestations at the end of the 20th century. The book is highly readable and deserves more attention than the academic community has thus far given it.

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  • Prendergast, Roy M. Film Music: A Neglected Art; A Critical Study of Music in Films. 2d ed. New York: W. W. Norton, 1992.

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    Originally published in 1977, Prendergast’s book was for decades the only English-language work that—at least in its first half—took a genuinely historical approach to the topic.

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  • Thiel, Wolfgang. Filmmusik in Geschichte und Gegenwart. Film, Funk, Fernsehen. Berlin: Henschelverlag, 1981.

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    Available only in its original German (translates as “Film Music Past and Present”), Thiel’s book is a somewhat pedantic yet admirably thorough and logical account of film music’s history.

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  • Wierzbicki, James E. Film Music: A History. New York and London: Routledge, 2009.

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    Instead of simply celebrating film music masterpieces, the book deals—logically and thoroughly—with the complex socio-industrial “machine,” whose smooth running allowed those occasional masterpieces to happen and whose periodic adjustments—for reasons of economics, technology, politics, etc.—prompted the large-scale twists and turns in film music’s path.

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Specialized Studies

The mid-1990s onward—that is, the period that began with the reluctant acceptance by the “academy” of film music as a legitimate area of study—has witnessed an extraordinary blossoming of specialty-oriented publications. The categories listed in the following subsections represent only the most prominent, and thus most populated, of the various specialty areas.

Silent Film

For historically minded musicologists, and for film historians with a penchant for the early days of the medium, music (and sound effects) as used in the so-called silent film remains a fertile field. While it might seem that all the basic facts of the matter have by this time been revealed (systematically, as in the dissertation-based Berg 1976 or Marks 1997; in a narrative, as in Anderson 1987 or Altman 2007; or in piecemeal fashion, as in Abel and Altman 2001), it remains that much work still needs to be done on silent-film performance practice in countries both Western and non-Western.

  • Abel, Richard, and Rick Altman, eds. The Sounds of Early Cinema. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001.

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    Along with twenty-five essays whose content ranges from international performance practice to theories of spectatorship, the book offers the original French texts of six of the translated items.

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  • Altman, Rick. Silent Film Sound. Film and Culture. New York: Columbia University Press, 2007.

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    Lavishly illustrated, this large-format book is a treasure chest of information not just on music for the silent film but on all things sonic—including sound effects and spoken narrations—that enlivened cinema during its first three decades.

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  • Anderson, Gillian B. “The Presentation of Silent Films, or, Music as Anaesthesia.” Journal of Musicology 5.2 (Spring 1987): 257–295.

    DOI: 10.2307/763853Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Anderson’s lucid account of silent-film performance practice is perhaps the first study of silent-film music to appear in the mainstream musicological press. Available online by subscription.

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  • Berg, Charles Merrell. An Investigation of the Motives for and Realization of Music to Accompany the American Silent Film, 1896–1927. Dissertations on Film. New York: Arno, 1976.

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    In essence a reprint of a 1973 doctoral dissertation, Berg’s work remains valuable for its detailed information on instruction books for silent-film accompanists and published collections of generic music for silent films.

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  • Marks, Martin. Music and the Silent Film: Contexts and Case Studies, 1895–1924. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.

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    Along with information on virtually all the American-made silent films for which “special scores” were composed, the book—originally a 1990 doctoral dissertation—contains close examinations of Saint-Saëns’s music for the 1908 L’assassinat du Duc de Guise, Breil’s score for the 1915 Birth of a Nation, and Satie’s score for the 1924 Entr’acte.

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Opera

Perhaps because they felt it was so obvious as not to be worth mentioning, writers on film music between the 1920s and the 1970s almost never discussed the connection between music for the narrative film and the music that formed the essence of German, French, and Italian opera in the second half of the 19th century. In recent years, scholars of film music have opted to make explicit this connection, and to explore the linkage within a variety of theoretical frameworks. Tambling 1987 is a pioneering effort in linking film music to opera, and the study paved the way for Citron 2000, Schroeder 2002, Grover-Friedlander 2005, and Citron 2010; the breadth of content in Joe and Theresa 2001 and Joe and Gilman 2010 illustrates how widespread the thinking about film music in terms of opera has lately become.

Popular Music

The “new wave” of film music scholarship that started in the 1980s with efforts by persons based in literature departments for the most part focused on the study of music—usually orchestral in medium, symphonic in style—that had been composed expressly for use in a particular film. It seems that more-recent scholarship on film music, however, has been fairly overwhelmed by interest in the use of examples of “popular music” that came into existence before, and quite independently of, whatever film is under discussion. Mundy 1999 and Donnelly 2001 offer historical accounts of popular music in film, Smith 1998 and Wojcik and Knight 2001 focus on the commercial aspects of popular music in film, and Kubernik 2006 is a collection of interviews with persons in various ways involved with the use of popular music in film; the other books mentioned here—Romney and Wootton 1995, Inglis 2003, and Lannin and Caley 2005—for the most part comprise case studies of specific songs in specific filmic usages.

  • Donnelly, K. J. Pop Music in British Cinema: A Chronicle. London: British Film Institute, 2001.

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    An outgrowth of the author’s doctoral dissertation, the book covers the use and function of popular music in British films from the 1950s through the 1990s.

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  • Inglis, Ian, ed. Popular Music and Film. London and New York: Wallflower, 2003.

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    Although only two of the twelve essays are so labeled, most of them to a certain extent are case studies. The perspectives are refreshingly international, from contributors from Australia, Canada, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

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  • Kubernik, Harvey. Hollywood Shack Job: Rock Music in Film and on Your Screen. CounterCulture. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2006.

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    Authored by a former artist & repertoire (A&R) agent for a major record label, the book comprises interviews not just with composers and performers who have contributed rock music to film soundtracks but also with directors who have made extensive use of such music.

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  • Lannin, Steve, and Matthew Caley, eds. Pop Fiction: The Song in Cinema. Bristol, UK: Intellect, 2005.

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    This valuable collection contains twelve essays, each of them cast in the form not of a case study of music in a single film, but, rather, of a study of several songs and their often-contrasting treatments in a variety of films.

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  • Mundy, John. Popular Music on Screen: From the Hollywood Musical to Music Video. Music and Society. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1999.

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    Ambitiously, this scholarly monograph addresses the history, aesthetics, sociology, and economics of popular music in cinematic contexts.

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  • Romney, Jonathan, and Adrian Wootton, eds. Celluloid Jukebox: Popular Music and the Movies since the 1950s. London: British Film Institute, 1995.

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    The dozen essays deal for the most part with the history of popular music in film; the final portion of the book is devoted to interviews with directors (Penelope Spheeris, Quentin Tarantino, Wim Wenders) and composers (David Byrne, Ry Cooder).

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  • Smith, Jeff. The Sounds of Commerce: Marketing Popular Film Music. Film and Culture. New York: Columbia University Press, 1998.

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    Smith’s book remains the fundamental text for anyone embarking on a study of popular music in film. Its focus is not the aesthetics of pop music usage in film but, rather, the intimate relationship of filmmakers with the pop music industry.

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  • Spring, Katherine. Saying It with Songs: Popular Music and the Coming of Sound to Hollywood Cinema. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199842216.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Rich with appendices that detail the profitable relationship between film studios and music publishers in the early years of the “sound film,” Spring’s book sheds brilliant light on an area of film production that most historians today comfortably ignore.

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  • Wojcik, Pamela Robertson, and Arthur Knight, eds. Soundtrack Available: Essays on Film and Popular Music. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2001.

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    As in Smith 1998, the eighteen essays in this collection deal primarily with the commercial aspects of popular music in film. The range here, however, is broader, with studies not just of “Hollywood” and UK music but also of music in China, France, and India.

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Jazz

Because of its commercial aspects, jazz has long been considered a subgenre of “popular music,” but the undeniably serious content of much jazz since the mid-1940s has placed the music into a category of its own. Whereas nowadays scholarly treatments of jazz focus more or less equally on the music itself and on its myriad racial/social implications, the study of jazz in film still tends strongly toward interpretation of the music as “signifier” of one thing or another. Filmic jazz as signifier of a noir subculture is the focus of Butler 2002 and Ness 2008; filmic jazz as a signifier of complex racial, and thus societal, issues is at the center of Gabbard 1996 and Stanfield 2005.

  • Butler, David. Jazz Noir: Listening to Music from Phantom Lady to The Last Seduction. London and Westport, CT: Praeger, 2002.

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    This well-written monograph deals in part with depictions of jazz in films of all sorts, but primarily it deals with the “smoky jazz” that served as extradiegetic accompaniment for—and to a large extent defined—the noir films of the 1940s and 1950s.

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  • Gabbard, Krin. Jammin’ at the Margins: Jazz and the American Cinema. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996.

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    The book is not so much a study of the function of jazz in film but, rather, a study of the racial issues that are represented or symbolized by jazz and jazz musicians as depicted in various films.

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  • Ness, Richard R. “A Lotta Night Music: The Sound of Film Noir.” Cinema Journal 47.2 (Winter 2008): 52–73.

    DOI: 10.1353/cj.2008.0011Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In his very first sentence the author notes that most of the abundant writing on film noir focuses on the narratives and fairly ignores the music. It makes many of the same points that Butler 2002 does; still, this is one of the first music-oriented articles on noir to appear in the mainstream film studies literature. Available online by subscription.

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  • Stanfield, Peter. Body and Soul: Jazz and Blues in American Film, 1927–63. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2005.

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    Like Gabbard 1996, Stanfield’s book has as its main topic the societal issues raised by the diegetic presentation of jazz, and blues, performers in American film. The analysis is thorough; the perspective is decidedly British.

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Animated Films

Ever since Disney’s 1928 Steamboat Willie (the third cartoon “starring” Mickey Mouse, but the first to feature a recorded soundtrack), music has been closely linked with the animated film. Indeed, as is clear from their series titles (“Silly Symphonies,” “Looney Tunes,” “Merrie Melodies”), most animated films from the middle of the 20th century were in essence visual accompaniments to medleys of musical materials. Film music scholarship for the most part (e.g., Goldmark and Taylor 2002, Clague 2004, Goldmark 2005) has focused on the technology that made possible these “historical” items; consideration of purely aesthetic matters (e.g., in many of the essays in Coyle 2010) is relatively new.

Music Video

Whereas music in television and music in computer games (see Television and Computer Games) can be regarded—like music in film—as simply a component of a multimedia art form, music in the so-called music video is in many ways its art form’s very reason for being, with the visual imagery being the added material instead of the other way around. The scholarly study of the music video as an art form in its own right is still new, and obviously there is much room for growth. Work from the late 20th and early 21st centuries includes both historical studies (e.g., Austerlitz 2008 and certain essays in Beebe and Middleton 2007) and probing efforts to make sense of the current phenomenon (e.g., Frith, et al. 1993 and Vernallis 2004).

  • Austerlitz, Saul. Money for Nothing: A History of the Music Video from the Beatles to the White Stripes. London: Continuum, 2008.

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    This is a well-written book, packed with information and flavored with sharply critical insight, but not annotated in any way.

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  • Beebe, Roger, and Jason Middleton, eds. Medium Cool: Music Videos from Soundies to Cellphones. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007.

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    The thirteen scholarly essays cover mainstream music video, of course, but also deal with such topics as synesthesia, the aesthetics of pastiche, and—intriguingly—more-recent developments in the cultures of Finland and Papua New Guinea.

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  • Frith, Simon, Andrew Goodwin, and Lawrence Grossberg, eds. Sound and Vision: The Music Video Reader. New York and London: Routledge, 1993.

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    One of the first books to take music video seriously, the collection features ten well-researched essays that for the most part include studies in musico-sociology or postmodern media theory.

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  • Vernallis, Carol. Experiencing Music Video: Aesthetics and Cultural Context. New York: Columbia University Press, 2004.

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    Following a deep theoretical consideration of all the many aspects of the music video, the author offers analyses of specific works by Madonna, Prince, and Peter Gabriel.

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Music and Film Genres

The proliferation of film music scholarship has naturally resulted in quite a few writers “staking claim” on specialized areas. The abundant work on music in such popular film genres as science fiction, horror, and the Western, however, for the most part consists of independent articles or case studies gathered into theme-based anthologies. Exceptions are Stanfield 2002 and Kalinak 2007, which are monographs that focus specifically on music in the Western, and Hentschel 2011, which a monograph that focuses specifically on music in the horror film.

  • Bartkowiak, Mathew J., ed. Sounds of the Future: Essays on Music in Science Fiction Film. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2010.

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    The thirteen essays deal not just with music in individual science-fiction films but also with such more general topics as the iconography of electronic sounds, early representations of dystopian futures, and the sci-fi style of composer Jerry Goldsmith.

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  • Decker, Todd. Hymns for the Fallen: Combat Movie Music and Sound after Vietnam. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2017.

    DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520282322.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The book’s intriguing premise has it that America’s involvement in the Vietnam War had a profound effect on how the American film audience perceived war in general, and how the new perception in turn had an effect on music in war-oriented films. Some of the films discussed are indeed about the Vietnam War, but many are about World War II and the recent conflicts in the Middle East.

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  • Hayward, Philip, ed. Off the Planet: Music, Sound and Science Fiction Cinema. London: John Libbey, 2004.

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    The first early-21st-century anthology to address music in science-fiction films, its introduction in effect “covers the territory,” but all eleven essays focus on individual films or sets of films by individual directors.

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  • Hayward, Philip, ed. Terror Tracks: Music, Sound, and Horror Cinema. Genre, Music and Sound. London and Oakville, CT: Equinox, 2009.

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    A follow-up to the collection in Hayward 2004, this collection features—after a comprehensive introduction by the editor—essays on individual horror films and such more general topics as music in the Hammer Studio’s vampire films and the use of sound/music in Japanese Horror.

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  • Hentschel, Frank. Töne der Angst: Die Musik im Horrorfilm. Deep Focus 12. Berlin: Bertz & Fischer, 2011.

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    This set of essays deals with music in the full range of horror films, with special attention focused on atonality, electronic music, and the use of children’s songs, and case studies of the music and sound effects in such films as The Birds, Candyman, The Shining, and The Innocents.

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  • Johnson, Bruce, ed. Earogenous Zones: Sound, Sexuality and Cinema. Genre, Music and Sound. London and Oakville, CT: Equinox, 2010.

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    Another installment in the Equinox series of genre-based collections, this somewhat awkwardly titled book features a dozen or so lucid essays on music not just in various types of “porn” films but also in narrative films that, for various reasons, exceeded the limits of social norms.

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  • Kalinak, Kathryn M. How the West Was Sung: Music in the Westerns of John Ford. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007.

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    The book indeed focuses on music within the films of a single director, but the author’s insights often apply to music in the Western in general.

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  • Lerner, Neil W., ed. Music in the Horror Film: Listening to Fear. Routledge Music and Screen Media. New York and London: Routledge, 2010.

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    The inaugural volume of Routledge’s Music and Screen Media series, the book contains a dozen essays that for the most part address single films within the horror genre.

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  • Meyer, Stephen C. Epic Sound: Music in Postwar Hollywood Biblical Films. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2016.

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    The title aptly describes the book’s contents, which is by and large a set of case studies of films ranging from Cecil B. DeMille’s Samson and Delilah (1949) to George Stevens’s The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965). Significantly, Meyer deals not just with how these movies sounded, but also with the reasons why—at that particular point in American history—they were made.

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  • Pelkey, Stanley C., II, and Anthony Bushard, eds. Anxiety Muted: American Film Music in a Suburban Age. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015.

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    The book contains fourteen chapters whose content ranges from considerations of the music that was used in films and television shows from the 1950s and 1960s to case studies of works that nostalgically depict that troubled period in American history.

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  • Stanfield, Peter. Horse Opera: The Strange History of the 1930s Singing Cowboy. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2002.

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    Focusing especially on the careers of Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, and Tex Ritter, the book deals as much with film music economies and audience relations as with the actual music.

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Gender

Gender issues as presented in the “texts” of films (i.e., the imagery and narrative content) have long been a favorite topic for writers in film studies. Studies of gender issues in film music are more recent, and many of them focus not so much on music per se but on the persons who create or perform the music. Scholarship that focuses on gender issues as represented in film music is a natural development of these two streams of thought, but as a category of film music studies it nevertheless represents a new, and barely explored, territory. Flinn 1986 and Franklin 2011 treat the subject theoretically, Flinn 1992 and Laing 2007 deal with gender issues in the music of the “classical” Hollywood film, and Halfyard 2001 focuses on gender issues in a popular television series.

  • Flinn, Carol. “The ‘Problem’ of Femininity in Theories of Film Music.” Screen 27.6 (November–December 1986): 56–73.

    DOI: 10.1093/screen/27.6.56Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This is a pioneering article on matters of gender as represented in Hollywood film music; its content, for the most part, is reiterated in Flinn 1992. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Flinn, Caryl. Strains of Utopia: Gender, Nostalgia, and Hollywood Film Music. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1992.

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    Like Gorbman 1987 and Kalinak 1992 (both cited under General Overviews), Flinn’s book is the outgrowth of observations made from the perspective of a scholar not of music but of literature. For the most part its topic is the music, in general, of the “classical-style” Hollywood film, but many of its arguments indeed deal with musical representations of gender.

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  • Franklin, Peter. Seeing through Music: Gender and Modernism in Classic Hollywood Film Scores. Oxford Music/Media. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195383454.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Starting with a chapter that contrasts the ideology of “men’s musicology” with the content of “women’s films,” Franklin gives—from a conservative British perspective—an often-dazzling account of gender issues in Hollywood film music. Only the final chapter deals with matters of modernism.

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  • Halfyard, Janet K. “Love, Death, Curses and Reverses (in F Minor): Music, Gender, and Identity in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel.” Slayage: The Online International Journal of Buffy Studies 4 (2001).

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    This is only one—and perhaps the first—of an ever-growing number of female-authored essays on gender representation via music in currently popular film and television series. The arguments are astute, yet edgy.

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  • Laing, Heather. The Gendered Score: Music and Gender in 1940s Melodrama and the Woman’s Film. Ashgate Popular and Folk Music. Aldershot, UK, and Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2007.

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    Along with gender issues as represented by accompanimental film music, Laing deals head-on with the intriguing differences between the ways in which male and female musical performers are depicted in filmic narrative.

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Television

Conferences on film music and journals devoted to film music have since the turn of the 21st century broadened their horizons to include analysis of and commentary on music in television. Many articles and conference presentations in this “first wave” of scholarship on television and music have been, perhaps not surprisingly, quite historical in focus. Rodman 2009 and Tagg and Clarida 2003, however, are impressively theoretical monographs that indeed deal with the aesthetics and theory of television music, and Deaville 2011 and Negus and Street 2002 bring together a variety of informed points of view.

  • Deaville, James A., ed. Music in Television: Channels of Listening. Routledge Music and Screen Media. New York and London: Routledge, 2011.

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    The second installment in Routledge’s Music and Screen Media series, the book features ten essays. Half of them qualify as case studies of music in specific television contexts; the others deal with broad historical, sociological, or genre-based topics.

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  • Negus, Keith, and John Street, eds. Special Issue: Music and Television. Popular Music 21.3 (October 2002).

    DOI: 10.1017/S0261143002002167Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Leading the charge in musicology’s belated effort to come to grips with music in television, this special issue of Popular Music comprises eight articles whose topics range from music in children’s shows and documentaries to television’s appropriation—for better or worse—of pop music and classical music. Articles available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Rodman, Ron. Tuning In: American Narrative Television Music. Oxford Music/Media. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195340242.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Interweaving history, theory, and analysis, this thoroughly researched book is essential reading for anyone attempting to come to grips with the vitally important role music has played in American television since the 1950s.

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  • Tagg, Philip, and Bob Clarida. Ten Little Title Tunes: Towards a Musicology of the Mass Media. New York and Montreal: Mass Media Music Scholars’ Press, 2003.

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    For a long while available only in unofficial photocopies, this at-last-published study deals insightfully with the extraordinary amount of information that typically is communicated—in film music in general, but especially in the title music for television programs—in just a few seconds.

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Computer Games

The number of “fan” magazines devoted to computer games is vast, of course, and almost all of them feature commentary on music. This commentary, however, tends to deal largely with how the music sounds or “feels”; the items listed below for the most part deal with how music in computer games—from aesthetic and psychological standpoints—actually works. Collins 2008a and Collins 2008b offer historical perspectives; Zehnder and Lipscomb 2006 and Pichlmair and Kayali 2007 dig deep into the psychological aspects of computer game music.

Director-Based Studies

A significant trend in film-music studies in recent years has been the shifting of attention away from the composer and toward the filmmaker. As early as 2007 (in Goldmark, et al. 2007, cited under Anthologies), Claudia Gorbman applied the French term mélomane to directors who seemed more than usually interested in how their films used both diegetic and extra-diegetic music; in 2008 Jay Beck and Tony Grajeda, in their edited collection Lowering the Boom: Critical Studies in Film Sound (Urbana: University of Illinois Press), coined the term “acoustic auteurs” to describe the large and growing number of modern-day filmmakers who apparently pay as much attention to the totality of their films’ soundtracks as to their screenplays and production designs. Scholars of film music still produce case studies of music in individual films, but more and more of them are concentrating on the use of music (and sound in general) across a body of cinematic work.

  • Gengaro, Christine Lee. Listening to Stanley Kubrick: The Music in His Films. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow, 2013.

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    As the title suggests, the book focuses on the music in Kubrick’s films, which for the most part is not originally composed but borrowed from a number of preexisting repertoires. The analyses are thorough; the appendices, which list the exact sources of Kubrick’s borrowed music, are impressively detailed.

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  • Luko, Alexis. Sonatas, Screams, and Silence: Music and Sound in the Films of Ingmar Bergman. New York and London: Routledge, 2016.

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    This monograph intelligently intertwines an account of Bergman’s life story with an account of how his life experiences affected his relationship with sound in general, and how his attitudes toward sound affected his considerable output of films.

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  • Magee, Gayle Sherwood. Robert Altman’s Soundtracks: Film, Music, and Sound from M*A*S*H* to A Prairie Home Companion. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199915965.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    While focusing sharply on only a few selected films, Magee’s book nevertheless puts into perspective “sonicity” in the entirety of Altman’s work and compares it with concurrent developments over a forty-year period.

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  • McQuiston, Kate. We’ll Meet Again: Musical Design in the Films of Stanley Kubrick. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199767656.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Based in large part on research conducted at the recently opened Stanley Kubrick Archive in London, McQuiston’s book takes a provocatively thematic approach to the director’s relationship not just with music, but with sound in general.

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  • Schroeder, David. Hitchcock’s Ear: Music and the Director’s Art. New York and London: Continuum, 2012.

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    Despite its limiting title, Schroeder’s book deals with much more than just the “music” in Hitchcock’s films; following the example set by Weis 1982, it deals—lyrically, and sometimes even philosophically—with the director’s savvy manipulation of all things sonic.

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  • Sullivan, Jack. Hitchcock’s Music. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2006.

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    Admirable more for its enthusiasm than its precision, Sullivan’s celebration of Alfred Hitchcock’s use of music is nevertheless an engaging argument for how seriously the “master of suspense” took the musical accompaniments to his films.

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  • Weis, Elisabeth. The Silent Scream: Alfred Hitchcock’s Sound Track. Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1982.

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    Long out of print, Weis’s close examination of music and noise throughout the Hitchcock oeuvre nevertheless remains the model for director-focused soundtrack studies.

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  • Wierzbicki, James, ed. Music, Sound and Filmmakers: Sonic Style in Cinema. New York and London: Routledge, 2012.

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    The collection contains twelve essays that focus on filmmakers’ “stylish” use of music and other sonic elements. Two of the essays deal with a body of work supervised by studio executives Val Lewton and David O. Selznick; the others deal with “sonic style” in films of directors Wes Anderson, Ingmar Bergman, Joel and Ethan Coen, Peter Greenaway, Krzysztof Kieślowski, Stanley Kubrick, David Lynch, Quentin Tarantino, Andrei Tarkovsky, and Gus Van Sant.

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Early Studies

A perusal of books and scholarly articles from the second two decades of the 20th century will yield a fair amount of commentary on the function of music in the silent film and, often interestingly, prognostications on the future of film music. The items listed in this section deal with the silent film only in an historical, or nostalgic, way; their primary concern is with music in the relatively new sound film, and in some cases (especially Potamkin 1929, Sabaneev 1934, Calvocoressi 1935, Toch 1936) the items address sound-film issues that at the time of the writing were still quite controversial; in light of the technological developments of the 1930s, the retrospectives offered in Milano 1941 and Winter 1941 are especially illuminating.

  • Calvocoressi, M. D. “Music and the Film.” Sight and Sound 4.14 (Summer 1935): 57–59.

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    An influential London-based music critic and aesthetician, Calvocoressi here lays out basic philosophical premises for the relationship between music and the moving image.

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  • London, Kurt. Film Music: A Summary of the Characteristic Features of Its History, Aesthetics, Techniques, and Possible Developments. Translated by Eric S. Bensinger. London: Faber & Faber, 1936.

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    Originally published in German, this is an important early book on the techniques of music in the sound film, although its perspective is rather narrowly German.

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  • Milano, Paolo. “Music in the Film: Notes for a Morphology.” Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 1.1 (Spring 1941): 89–94.

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    A professional philosopher, Milano feels no need here to explain what he means by “morphology.” He does, however, offer a properly philosophical, and thus thorough, breakdown of the various elements both of film and its accompanying music. Available online by subscription.

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  • Potamkin, Harry Alan. “Music and the Movies.” Musical Quarterly 15.2 (April 1929): 281–296.

    DOI: 10.1093/mq/XV.2.281Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The article for the most part reflects on accompaniments, both good and bad, for the silent film, yet it acknowledges the reality of the sound film and offers intelligent suggestions as to how music might best function in the new medium. Available online by subscription.

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  • Sabaneev, Leonid. “Music and the Sound Film.” Translated by S. W. Pring. Music & Letters 15.2 (April 1934): 147–152.

    DOI: 10.1093/ml/15.2.147Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Foreshadowing the content of Sabaneev 1935, this brief article for the most part deals with the serious disconnect between musicians who actually contribute to the sound film and musicians whose activity is limited entirely to the world of the concert hall. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Sabaneev, Leonid. Music for the Films: A Handbook for Composers and Conductors. Translated by S. W. Pring. London: Pitman, 1935.

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    Originally published in Russian, the English-language translation of Sabaneev’s book is very much internationally informed and deals, intriguingly, with aesthetic issues that remain unresolved today.

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  • Toch, Ernst. “Sound-Film and Music Theatre.” Modern Music 13.2 (January–February 1936): 15–18.

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    Toch was just one of the numerous composers (along with such others as George Antheil, Darius Milhaud, and Virgil Thomson) who commented on film music in the pages of the always lively but unfortunately short-lived journal Modern Music. In this article he makes the connection between film music and opera.

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  • Winter, Marian Hannah. “The Functions of Music in Sound Films.” Musical Quarterly 27.2 (April 1941): 146–164.

    DOI: 10.1093/mq/XXVII.2.146Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Primarily a dance critic, the author here offers an in-depth essay on the potential of music in the sound film. Most of her commentary deals with French films of the avant-garde sort, but she concludes the article with sharp criticism of Copland’s music for Of Mice and Men.

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Region-Specific Studies

Until recently the study of film music has focused on films emanating from western Europe and, primarily, from Hollywood. Several of the items listed in this section indeed focus on films from the United Kingdom (Huntley 1972), the Soviet Union (Egorova 1997, Stilwell and Powrie 2008), and various countries in Europe (Casadio 1995, Mera and Burnand 2006). Other collections, however, focus on the role of music in films from India (Morcom 2007, Booth 2008) or, more generally, from non-Western nations or Western nations not usually thought to be a part of the mainstream of Western filmmaking (Slobin 2008).

  • Booth, Gregory D. Behind the Curtain: Making Music in Mumbai’s Film Studios. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195327632.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Booth not only gives an overall history of film music in India but also offers interviews with composers and performers of Indian film music and—significantly—provides a detailed explanation of the intricate relationship between “Bollywood” and the country’s pop music industry.

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  • Casadio, Gianfranco. Opera e cinema: La musica lirica nel cinema italiano dall’avvento del sonoro ad oggi. Musica, Cinema, Immagine e Teatro 15. Milan: Longo Editore, 1995.

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    The focus here, of course, is on music in Italian cinema, but the book’s title is perhaps misleading. The book does not deal (as do the various items listed above in the Opera subsection) with individual operas and their cinematic treatments; rather, the book offers a comparison of opera in general with the art form of cinema.

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  • Egorova, Tatiana K. Soviet Film Music: An Historical Survey. Translated by Tatiana A. Ganf and Natalia A. Egunova. Contemporary Music Studies 13. Amsterdam: Harwood Academic, 1997.

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    This richly informative book covers the period from 1917 to 1991. Although there is much to be said about Soviet filmmakers’ theoretical ideas on music, Egorova deliberately and admittedly follows the historical model in Huntley 1972.

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  • Huntley, John. British Film Music. Literature of Cinema. New York: Arno, 1972.

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    Huntley lucidly tells the story of British film music from the “silent” years up until the time of the book’s original publication in 1947 (London: Skelton Robinson). Along with an insightful foreword by Muir Matheson, the book includes a “Forum” with comments by twenty-seven composers.

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  • Mera, Miguel, and David Burnand, eds. European Film Music. Ashgate Popular and Folk Music. Aldershot, UK, and Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2006.

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    The collection features a dozen essays, mostly by scholars based in the United Kingdom, on music in films not just in English and Irish but also in Greek, German, Spanish, French, and Polish.

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  • Morcom, Anna. Hindi Film Songs and the Cinema. SOAS Musicology. Aldershot, UK, and Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2007.

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    Part of a new series of books issued by London’s School of Asian Studies and illustrated with bountiful musical examples, the book focuses not just on songs in the Hindi language but on the relationship of those songs to Hindi culture.

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  • Slobin, Mark, ed. Global Soundtracks: Worlds of Film Music. Music/Culture. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2008.

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    The book includes four substantial essays by ethnomusicologist Slobin that quite brilliantly contrast the “ethos” of mainstream Western film music with its various non-Western counterparts. Dealing with film music in Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Martinique, and Mexico, the nine essays by expert contributors represent just first steps into what is obviously a rich, new field of scholarship.

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  • Stilwell, Robynn J., and Phil Powrie, eds. Composing for the Screen in Germany and the USSR: Cultural Politics and Propaganda. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008.

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    Apropos of its title, the collection indeed focuses on ideology, yet most of the nine essays do grapple musicologically with films by such directors as Sergei Eisenstein, Arnold Fanck, Joris Ivens, Leni Riefenstahl, Slava Tsukerman.

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  • Yeh, Yueh-yu. “Historiography and Sinification: Music in Chinese Cinema of the 1930s.” Cinema Journal 41.3 (Spring 2002): 78–97.

    DOI: 10.1353/cj.2002.0012Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Film music in China before, during, and after the “Cultural Revolution” remains an area that begs for English-language scholarship. Yeh’s detailed article on music in the Chinese film industry’s early years sets a high standard. Available online by subscription.

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