Cinema and Media Studies Music and Cinema, Classical Hollywood
by
David Neumeyer
  • LAST REVIEWED: 19 December 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 October 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791286-0118

Introduction

Commercial film production in the United States developed rapidly after World War I. Theater programs focused on full-length narrative feature films along with secondary one-to-two-reel films such as newsreels, comedy shorts, travelogues, and (by the late 1920s) cartoons. Industry consolidation favored efficient large-scale production practices. Performance practices with respect to sound and music remained quite diverse until the introduction of recorded sound (which happened first in newsreels and shorts, then moved to feature films by 1926 and 1927), the rapid development of sound technology in the period 1927–1932 (the latter date being when reliable post-production re-recording became possible), and the establishment of a consistent soundtrack aesthetic (between 1935 and 1938). Thus, the period of classical Hollywood film—or what is often called the “Studio Era” or the “Golden Age of Hollywood Cinema”—encompasses the radically different sound practices of live performance and recorded sound. Typically in the literature, however, “Classical Hollywood Film” means the sound-film era stretching from roughly 1930 to 1960 (though the end date can reasonably be pushed as far as 1972, when Dolby stereo was introduced, and the contemporary era of sound design began in earnest). The silent era is covered in a separate article; the sound era is the topic of the present article. The aesthetic of the integrated monaural soundtrack that was developed by the mid-to-late 1930s and whose priorities were immediacy (Rick Altman’s “for-me-ness”) and narrative clarity, not acoustic realism, prevailed throughout this period, despite changes in production and exhibition structures in the late 1940s, the introduction of widescreen ratios in the 1950s, and the increasing use of popular music as underscore (background music) in the 1960s. The establishment of studio music departments in the late 1920s, combined with the conventionalizing pressures of intense production (the major Hollywood studios together were releasing more than 500 feature films a year by the mid-1930s), produced an identifiable “classical practice” for music in the context of feature film narrative and its soundtrack aesthetic. Although many people wrote about theoretical and practice-related issues from the earliest years of the cinema, film studies in a disciplinary sense only came into being with the French filmologues in the 1950s, after which it moved into American college literature and communications departments in the 1960s and early 1970s. Film music studies came later (Gorbman 1987 being the establishing document), and sound studies later still (only in the first decade of the 21st century).

Bibliographies and Research Guides

Two major contemporary research guides for the study of film music have been published: Pool and Wright 2011 and Sherk 2011. Everett 2004 includes chapters on film musicals. Among bibliographies, Wescott 1985 was comprehensive for its time period; it is updated by Anderson and Wright 1995 and Stilwell 2002. More recent publications can be traced using standard periodical indices (Film & Television Literature Index 2006–, RILM, and Music Index 1949–).

Music Titles and Credits

The sheer number of feature films means that volumes listing and indexing credits are necessary research tools. Bloom 1995, Hischak 1999, and Strong 2008 index song titles; Stubblebine 1991 lists songs published as sheet music. Meeker 1982 is specific to jazz and is best for performer credits. Wright 2003 covers published sheet music for instrumental underscore. Screen credits for classical Hollywood sound films rarely ever provide complete information. For that, McCarty 2000 is the most reliable listing of contributions of composers, arrangers, and orchestrators; also consult Limbacher and Wright 1991 and Marill 1998. See Pool and Wright 2011 (cited under Bibliographies and Research Guides) for information on cue sheets.

Anthologies

Essay anthologies have been crucial to the development of film music studies over the past decade because they provided a reliable publication venue not generally available in scholarly journals until quite recently. Graeme, et al. 2009 covers the field most comprehensively, but other anthologies also have essays on a variety of topics (McCarty 1989, Donnelly 2001, Gorbman and Sherk 2004, Conrich and Tincknell 2006, Buhler, et al. 2000). Still others are devoted to specific topics (popular music in Robertson Wojcik and Knight 2001) or collect previously published essays (Dickinson 2003). Most of the volumes listed here also contain essays that range outside classical Hollywood or beyond American cinema.

Textbooks

Textbooks on film music, in the form of “how to do it” manuals, have been written since the early days of film production and exhibition. The past decade, however, has seen a flourishing of textbook publications designed for film-music appreciation classes. Most of these focus exclusively or heavily on Hollywood feature films: Karlin 1994, Timms 2003, Hickman 2006, and MacDonald 1998. The latter three are intended for history classes, as are Cooke 2008, which is the most comprehensive and offers much non-Hollywood material, and Wierzbicki 2009, which is a traditional film history that includes music. Cooke 2010 and Hubbert 2011 are source readers. Buhler, et al. 2010 includes a technological history of sound and music along with a focus on listening and film style.

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

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    Focuses on listening rather than composer-based narratives; places music in the context of the sound track and the latter within film narrative. Part 1 develops critical listening skills, Part 2 discusses and illustrates uses of music in film genres and typical film scenes, and Part 3 is a technological history of music and sound, primarily in the United States.

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

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    The most comprehensive history available at present, dedicating chapters to major national cinemas in addition to Hollywood, as well as chapters on opera, musicals, classical music in film, and animated films. Very composer-centric, which limits the historical narrative that the book develops.

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

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    Thirty-one source readings cover the history of cinema, with by far the largest concentration in classical Hollywood. The majority are texts by, or interviews with, composers ranging from Max Steiner and Aaron Copland to Henry Mancini and Jerry Goldsmith. Less comprehensive than Hubbert 2011.

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  • Hickman, Roger. Reel Music: Exploring 100 Years of Film Music. New York: W. W. Norton, 2006.

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    Similar to Cooke 2008 but even more composer-centric and focused almost entirely on Hollywood. Provides many short analysis-listening guides.

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

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    This is as much a history as an anthology of source readings in that each of its five sections has an extensive introduction of twenty to thirty pages. Readings number more than fifty and are quite varied: interviews, critical essays, practice-oriented documents, even two silent-film cue sheets. Parts 2 and 3 cover classic Hollywood sound film.

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  • Karlin, Fred. Listening to Movies: The Film Lover’s Guide to Film Music. Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning, 1994.

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    This is an unusual but efficient film-music appreciation text. Karlin was a composer for film and television, and his book covers topics such as planning and composing the score, working within the studio system, and freelancing. The book is enriched by interviews with composers, production material, analyses of film scores, and many stills featuring composers and the production process. Original publication: New York: Schirmer, 1994.

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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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    Organized around film scores and their composers, this book is limited to Hollywood film scoring. The emphasis here is on descriptions accessible to students, film historians, aspiring filmmakers, and film enthusiasts. Does not offer musical analyses but does include numerous short biographical sketches of composers.

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  • Timms, Larry D. The Soul of Cinema: An Appreciation of Film Music. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2003.

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    This is a chronological survey of film music with emphasis on appreciation. Focus is on individual scores and composer biographies and interviews. Interesting ancillary material (Timms is a practicing Hollywood studio musician) includes helpful charts and diagrams, photographs, film stills, musical excerpts, and a detailed glossary of film music terminology.

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

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    Although on a smaller scale than MacDonald 1998, Hickman 2006, or Cooke 2010, the book positions film music in a broader historical narrative than they, a narrative that emphasizes cultural and technological contexts, consistently placing music within film history.

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Journals

Scholarly journals devoted to film music are a very recent phenomenon. Journal of Film Music, Music and the Moving Image, and Music, Sound, and the Moving Image are all refereed journals. A few other journals, such as American Music and Cineaste, have published special partial or complete issues devoted to film music or music for media. The Cue Sheet is more of an upgraded newsletter but often contains valuable information on composers and other music professionals, particularly those of previous generations.

Disciplinary Overviews

This section includes books and essays that summarize and take positions on film music historical narratives, film music studies as a scholarly discipline, or broadly based questions of interpretation and analysis. The early books (de la Motte-Haber and Emons 1980 and Gorbman 1987) try to cover the entire field. Gorbman 2000, Neumeyer 2000, Donnelly 2001, Stilwell 2002, and Rosar 2009 all focus on disciplinary issues. Gorbman 1995 addresses film criticism as a practice, and Marks 1997 discusses research methods and materials.

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

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    Foundational German source equivalent in scope to Gorbman 1987. Divided into parts with chapters on early theories, music in abstract film, film-music aesthetics, music and image, music and narrative, and music in relation to the viewer. Wide range of repertoire discussed, including many classical Hollywood films.

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  • Donnelly, K. J. “Introduction: The Hidden Heritage of Film Music: History and Scholarship.” In Film Music: Critical Approaches. Edited by K. J. Donnelly, 1–15. New York: Continuum, 2001.

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    A concise summary of the history of the discipline construed as an interdisciplinary field; creates unusually good contexts for the anthology’s ten chapters.

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

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    The foundation of American film music studies. Chapter 1 covers basic aesthetic and methodological issues, positioning film music in relation to narrative and the viewer. Chapter 4 adds and illustrates a detailed analytical model based on classical Hollywood practice. Chapters 2–3 focus on history. Case studies of Mildred Pierce and Hangover Square.

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  • Gorbman, Claudia. “The State of Film Music Criticism.” Cineaste 21.1–2 (1995): 72–75.

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    Focuses specifically on writing about films and their music but also comments on the relationship of criticism and narratological studies.

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  • Gorbman, Claudia. “Film Music.” In Film Studies: Critical Approaches. Edited by John Hill and Pamela Church Gibson, 41–48. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

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    General introduction to film music studies in relation to the central concerns of film studies. Firmly interdisciplinary in orientation.

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  • Marks, Martin. “Film and Music: An Introduction to Research.” In Music and the Silent Film: Contexts and Case Studies, 1895–1924. By Martin Marks, 1–25. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.

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    An excellent general introduction to research issues, especially with respect to treatment of source materials. Despite the book’s focus on the silent era, much of this chapter is equally relevant to the classical sound film. Updated by Pool and Wright 2011 (cited under Bibliographies and Research Guides).

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  • Neumeyer, David. “Introduction.” In Music and Cinema. Edited by James Buhler, Caryl Flinn, and David Neumeyer, 1–29. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 2000.

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    Assesses the situation in the year 2000 and promotes the anthology’s agenda of an interdisciplinary studies of film and music. Includes commentary on some common topics: diegetic/nondiegetic music, counterpoint and synchronization, classical music in film, and canon formation.

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  • Rosar, William. “Film Studies in Musicology: Disciplinarity vs. Interdisciplinarity.” Journal of Film Music 2.2–4 (2009): 99–125.

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    Rejects film music study’s critical, historical, and interdisciplinary grounding in favor of a philology-centered film musicology.

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  • Stilwell, Robynn. “Music in Films: A Critical Review of Literature, 1980–1996.” Journal of Film Music 1.1 (2002): 19–61.

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    The critical survey runs thirty pages and is divided into nine sections that create strong contexts for the cited items. The final section (pp. 45–48) assesses the present (as of 1996), noting that researchers come from a number of different disciplines and that the greatest practical challenge is achieving a balance between description and interpretation.

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Theory and Analytical Description

The cinematic medium is dense with information, aural, visual, and narrative. Given the force of narrative, it is a challenge to pay attention to the other aspects, much less to describe them in any systematic way. And yet that is exactly what is required to build convincing accounts of style, technique, and effects. Altman, et al. 2000; Buhler, et al. 2010; Neumeyer 2001; and Tagg and Clarida 2003 all speak directly to methodology and analytic representations. Chion 1994 and Chion 2009 address the same issues in creative, less systematic ways. Larsen 2005 offers an excellent model analysis. Cohen 2000 surveys the empirical literature, and Cook 1998 folds film music into a broad multimedia theory.

  • Altman, Rick, McGraw Jones, and Sonia Tatroe. “Inventing the Cinema Soundtrack: Hollywood’s Multiplane Sound System.” In Music and Cinema. Edited by James Buhler, Caryl Flinn, and David Neumeyer, 339–359. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 2000.

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    The authors provide a succinct and compelling history of the development of an aesthetic of the integrated (“multiplane”) sound track during the decade 1929–1938. Case studies are illuminated by a very detailed graphing method that traces the three sound elements (music, speech, sound effects) on a second-by-second basis.

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

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    Part 1 of this textbook lays out a method and terminology for critical listening. The method does not separate music out as somehow a special agent but places it in the context of the sound track. It is the sound track that functions in the overriding systems of film narrative.

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

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    Although it is concerned with the sound track as a whole and only addresses music specifically on a few pages, Audio-Vision offers a theoretical framework that is essential to understanding the functional relations of sound and image, along with many creative terms and techniques for analysis. Its arguments are largely absorbed into Chion 2009.

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

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    The subtitle of the original French edition makes evident the book’s design: histoire, esthétique, poétique. Reproduces and greatly expands on most of the argument of Chion 1994 as well as The Voice in the Cinema (1999). Covers a wide range of film repertoire, but its theoretical arguments and historical narrative include classical Hollywood in their purview.

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  • Cohen, Annabel J. “Film Music: A Cognitive Perspective.” In Music and Cinema. Edited by D. Neumeyer, C. Flinn, and J. Buhler, 360–377. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 2000.

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    A survey of the empirical literature, which has focused particularly on the interaction of music and image and music’s role in invoking or reflecting emotion. Updated by Cohen, “Music in Performance Arts: Film, Theatre and Dance,” in Susan Hallam, Ian Cross, and Michael Thaut, eds., The Oxford Handbook of Music Psychology (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), pp. 441–451.

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  • Cook, Nicholas. Analysing Musical Multimedia. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.

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    This volume encompasses all manner of combinations of music with other elements in media such as song, opera, and dance, in addition to visual media such as film and television. A defense of music’s role, the theory sets interaction between media elements as its functional principle: for cinema, music engages with the image rather than maintaining a merely supportive role.

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  • Larsen, Peter. Film Music. Translated by John Irons. London: Reaktion, 2005.

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    A film history text, but its chapter 6, on The Big Sleep, is an exceptionally good example of a clear, concise, but thorough analysis of a film for its music. The musical examples are well placed and very helpful.

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  • Neumeyer, David. “Analytical and Interpretive Approaches to Film Music (I): Analysing the Music.” In Film Music: Critical Approaches. Edited by Kevin J. Donnelly, 16–38. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2001.

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    Methods of music analysis can be adapted (or may resist adaptation) to film music, contributing to a richer understanding of what music, considered on its own terms, can accomplish in a film. The book suggests ways to reveal connections and continuities between the practices of composers in cinema and concert.

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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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    Expansive (at eight hundred pages) and intense, this volume is the best traditional semiotic model of communication as it applies to analysis of music in visual media, a method Tagg calls “musematic analysis.” The third chapter delineates the method systematically, after which the “ten title tunes” are offered as case studies.

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Aesthetics and Interpretation

For the literature on a famous document in film music aesthetics, see Eisler and Adorno. The authors listed here propose models for interpretation based on a guiding functional principle: Brown 1994 tackles myth, Buhler 2001 and Kalinak 1992 deal with image-soundtrack parallelism, Gorbman 1987 proposes a narratological model, Laing 2007 offers a gender-based model, and Smith 1999 a cognitivist model. Keller 2006 mixes questions of method and priorities into exemplars of critical practice. The fruitful insights into the diegetic/nondiegetic pair in Stilwell 2007 reflect a practice in which writers seek their own interpretative ground by exploring some aspect of the basic relationships between image and soundtrack: diegetic/nondiegetic, synchronization/counterpoint, identity (representation)/music style (topics, association).

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

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    A wide-ranging book with historical, aesthetic, and critical components. The theory is presented informally; it is based on the idea of a “mythic mode of perception” in which sound—more specifically, music—combines with the image in generating a particular set of narrative effects consistent with a principle of clarity rather than realism.

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  • Buhler, James. “Analytical and Interpretive Approaches to Film Music (II): Analysing Interactions of Music and Film.” In Film Music: Critical Approaches. Edited by Kevin J. Donnelly, 39–61. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2001.

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    This essay presents a set of alternatives to analyzing music as a relatively autonomous element of film. The three elements of the sound track constitute an integral, parallel track to the images. Image and sound are most fruitfully interpreted as in a dialectical tension, each track structured in turn by its own internal dialectic.

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

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    Cited earlier in the section “Overviews.” The founding gesture of American film music studies. Chapter 1 covers basic aesthetic and methodological issues, positioning film music in relation to narrative and the viewer; to this chapter 4 adds and illustrates a detailed analytical model based on classical Hollywood practice. Chapters 2–3 focus on history. Case studies of Mildred Pierce and Hangover Square.

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

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    First to adopt the view that music is equal to the image in shaping narrative and, therefore, film analysis should always engage with the musical element—not a popular academic practice at the time. The specifically musical theory has some weaknesses, but the several case studies here are excellent: there are chapters on Captain Blood, The Informer, The Magnificent Ambersons, and Laura.

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  • Keller, Hans, ed. Christopher Wintle. Film Music and Beyond: Writings on Music and the Screen, 1945–59. Woodbridge, UK: Boydell and Brewer, 2006.

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    An impressive editorial feat that gathers periodical essays and newspaper articles and columns by the most famous British film-music critics. The repertoire covered is wide ranging; at least half of it is from Hollywood. Keller does not offer a systematic theory, but his writings are invaluable for their keen analytical-critical practice presented in a clear and engaging style.

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

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    The best contemporary formulation of a feminist theoretical and critical model for music in classical Hollywood. Updates Gorbman 1987 to permit readings with more complex and positive views of female subjectivity. Distinguishes between (biological) gender and cultural constructions of the masculine and feminine, bringing music more in line with contemporary viewpoints characteristic of literary-critical and feminist literatures.

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  • Smith, Jeff. “Movie Music as Moving Music: Intuition, Cognition, and the Film Score.” In Passionate Views: Film, Cognition, and Emotion. Edited by Carl Plantinga and Greg M. Smith, 146–167. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999.

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    Counters psychoanalytic suture theory (where the viewer identifies with emotions represented in the film) with a more complex model that combines a cognitivist level (by which viewer/listeners recognize but do not necessarily identify with emotions as represented) and an emotivist level (by which such identification does occur).

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  • Stilwell, Robynn. “The Fantastical Gap between Diegetic and Nondiegetic.” In Beyond the Soundtrack: Representing Music in Cinema. Edited by Daniel Goldmark, Lawrence Kramer, and Richard Leppert, 184–202. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007.

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    An exceptionally adroit unpacking of the complexities in the basic distinction between sound in the physical world of the narrative and sound “outside” it. Replaces the simple dichotomy, but not with a continuum: focuses on “crossing the border,” described as a “fantastical gap,” a rich intermediate space with its own complex, distinctive character.

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Eisler and Adorno

These authors’ classic text takes the contrarian point of view, listing the many faults of Hollywood’s aesthetics and commercial practices in the studio era and promoting a music that is in “counterpoint” with the image. Its Marxist critique is dated but Adorno (now acknowledged as the principal author) is still the focus of a substantial critical literature. The source texts are Adorno and Eisler 2007, Adorno and Eisler 2006, and Eisler 1947. Bick 2001 provides historical context for Eisler’s years in Hollywood. Rosen 1980 connects the book to Marxist theory. The other items listed, along with Bick 2001, compare the book’s detailed advice with Eisler’s own film music: Gorbman 1987, Gorbman 1991, and Schweinhardt 2008.

  • Adorno, Theodor W., and Hanns Eisler, ed. Komposition für den Film. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 2006.

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    The definitive edition of the book includes an extended essay by the editor, as well as the musical score of Eisler’s model composition and its synchronization with the film on DVD. German was the language of the authors’ original text; the first published edition was an English translation.

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

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    Reproduces the text of the 1947 English edition, with a newly written critical and historical introduction by Graham McCann. This is a reprint of the original publication, London: Athlone, 1994.

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  • Bick, Sally. “Composers on the Cultural Front: Aaron Copland and Hanns Eisler in Hollywood.” PhD diss., Yale University, 2001.

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    The most extensive documentary and interpretative study in English of Eisler’s aesthetic and political ideology in relation to his Hollywood film music practice.

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  • Eisler, Hanns. Composing for the Films. New York: Oxford University Press, 1947.

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    This is the first English edition, published three years after the German text was written. According to his own account, Adorno withdrew his name because Eisler’s political troubles at the time might have interfered with Adorno’s own plans to return to Germany after World War II.

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  • Gorbman, Claudia. “Eisler/Adorno’s Critique.” In Unheard Melodies: Narrative Film Music. By Claudia Gorbman, 99–109. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987.

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    A critical reading of Composing for the Films in light of the author’s own analytical-interpretative model of classical Hollywood practice, as developed in her chapter 4. Gorbman recognizes the validity of Adorno and Eisler’s critique of Hollywood, the more so as she demonstrates how their description of Hollywood synchronization norms coincide with her own analysis.

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  • Gorbman, Claudia. “Hanns Eisler in Hollywood.” Screen 32 (1991): 272–285.

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    Focuses on Adorno and Eisler’s prescriptions for an alternative film-scoring practice and, especially, on the extent and nature of Eisler’s realization of those ideas in his own Hollywood studio work.

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  • Rosen, Philip. “Adorno and Film Music: Theoretical Notes on Composing for the Films.” Yale French Studies 60 (1980): 157–182.

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    A critical appreciation of Composing for the Films that systematically explains the Marxist foundations of its several arguments and prescriptions for film music practice.

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  • Schweinhardt, Peter, ed. Kompositionen für den FIlm: Zu Theorie und Praxis von Hanns Eislers Filmmusik. Eisler-Studien Band 3. Wiesbaden, Germany: Breitkopf & Härtel, 2008.

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    Eleven essays, six of them in English (abstracts for all are in an appendix). The focus is on Eisler’s film compositional practice in the United States and in the DDR, but all engage Composing for the Films at some level. Two essays in English (Neumeyer and Buhler; Salmon) address the books’ theories directly.

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Musicals

Although often separated from dramatic feature films in the scholarly literature, musicals were very much a part of classical Hollywood practice in terms of basic aesthetics, narrative patterns, and production practices. The popular or trade-book literature on many film genres is very large, and musicals are no exception. The few works listed here are oriented to research: Altman 1987 is the classic scholarly survey in the field, and Knapp 2006 is a major study of both stage and film musicals. Cohan 2002 and Marshall and Stilwell 2000 are two essay anthologies. See also Furia and Patterson 2010 (cited under Popular Music and Jazz).

  • Altman, Rick. The American Film Musical. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987.

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    As much a theory of genre and genre analysis as it is a specific study of the film musical, its categories have become the standards in the field: fairy-tale musical, show musical, and folk musical.

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  • Cohan, Steve. Hollywood Musicals: The Film Reader. New York: Routledge, 2002.

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    A collection of fourteen previously published articles and book chapters, including one from Altman 1987. All topics are firmly situated in classical Hollywood and include not only considerations of the musical as a genre but also questions of gender, race, and sexual orientation (seen here in terms of camp).

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  • Knapp, Raymond. The American Musical and the Performance of Personal Identity. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006.

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    Companion volume to The American Musical and the Formation of National Identity (2005), the two forming a “thematic history” of the American musical. Film musicals lead a turn away from the national and political to the personal. Chapter 2 is specifically on the movie musical, but the case studies in later chapters include both film and stage works.

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  • Marshall, Bill, and Robynn Stilwell. Musicals: Hollywood and Beyond. Exeter, UK, and Portland, OR: Intellect, 2000.

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    Twenty-one essays covering the historical range of the musical, whose definition is somewhat expanded beyond its typical generic boundaries to include performance “moments” in other films. About half the essays concern classical Hollywood and work from a variety of starting points, including film structure, space and classical practice, the star, and identity.

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Television

Television drew mainly on the stage, radio shows, and film shorts (cartoons, serials) until the mid-1950s, when studios began licensing feature films. A spate of hour-length dramatic series followed, created using film apparatus and production methods. Personnel of studio music departments thus moved easily into television work, taking their skills and priorities with them. The later history of classical Hollywood is as much in television as it is in the famed “second generation” of directors or in music-oriented youth movies. Burlingame 1996 offers thorough documentation, and Rodman 2010 is a strong theoretical model. Goldmark 2005 is included here because cartoons are known to most people through television rather than theatrical presentation.

  • Burlingame, Jon. TV’s Biggest Hits: The Story of Television Themes from “Dragnet” to “Friends.” New York: Schirmer, 1996.

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    Broader in scope than its title suggests, this is in effect a history of music in television. Written in a highly readable trade-book style, the book is grounded in solid scholarship, based on extensive interviews and archival research.

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  • Goldmark, Daniel. Tunes for ’Toons: Music and the Hollywood Cartoon. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005.

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    Not a history but a set of case studies that collectively provide a good overview of music in short animated films during the classical Hollywood era. Does not discuss feature-length animated films. Chapters on two major composers in studio settings—Carl Stalling at Warner Bros. and Scott Bradley at MGM—on jazz, classical music, and opera in cartoons.

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  • Rodman, Ronald. Tuning In: American Narrative Television Music. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.

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    The strongest theoretical work to date on music in television. The first three chapters present an associative theory grounded in semiotics and built on the idea of ancrage (alignment or interaction of image and sound); the remaining chapters address topics (such as music performances) or genres (such as music in police dramas). Repertoire covered is from 1950 to 2000.

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Popular Music and Jazz

The musical practices of cinema exhibition from the beginning were complex but essentially egalitarian. Even in the first decades of the sound era, an association of diegetic music (performances) with popular music and underscore with classical (orchestral) music is inadequate to describe practice, especially as waltz songs or foxtrots were frequently incorporated into the musical underscoring. Nevertheless, the great majority of the scholarly literature focuses on underscore and its composers and says little about popular musics. The few items listed here cover some important aspects: songs in transition-era films (Spring 2007), jazz (Gabbard 1996), and the interplay of popular music, sound tracks, and marketing after 1950 (Smith 1998). Furia and Patterson 2010 offers a historical survey of songs in musicals and other films. Song indices are listed under Music Titles and Credits.

  • Furia, Philip, and Laurie Patterson. The Songs of Hollywood. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.

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    A well-written survey of the use of songs in Hollywood sound films. Ten of the eleven chapters concern classical Hollywood; each embeds functional readings of songs in well-known films within the chronological account. Very readable and thorough, if mostly uncritical and sometimes inclined to the anecdotal.

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

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    The classic study on the representation of jazz in feature films. Chapters are set up as case studies of genres (The Jazz Singer and films in its aftermath, jazz biopics), representation (jazz as high art, eroticized jazz), and artists (Ellington, Armstrong). The result, nevertheless, is a wide-ranging historical narrative that demythologizes jazz as put on offer by classical Hollywood.

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

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    Most of this book focuses on the period 1950–1970 and the interactions of popular music, recording, and the film industry. Theory (chapter 1), and historical summary (chapters 2 and 3), are followed by case studies of music by Henry Mancini, John Barry, and Ennio Morricone, and a chapter on pop songs and compilation scores.

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  • Spring, Katherine. “Say It With Songs: Popular Music in Hollywood Cinema During the Transition to Sound, 1927–1931.” PhD diss., University of Wisconsin–Madison, 2007.

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    Thorough historical and documentary account of popular songs not only in musicals (which dominated the box office at the time) but also other films that offer song performances. Shows processes at work in the earliest years of the sound feature film that are very like those Smith 1998 charts for thirty years later.

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Concert Music in Film

Historical musicologists traditionally focus on classical concert music and opera. Serious study of popular musics, even historical repertoires such as the Strauss waltzes of 19th-century Vienna, is quite a recent phenomenon. Since many still regard the artistic status of cinema with suspicion, musicologists understandably feel most comfortable addressing the narrow topic of classical music in film, despite the obvious danger that the historical narratives emerging from this work collectively give a distorted notion of classical music’s importance to cinema history. Kramer 2007 and Kramer 2006 are masterful exercises in interpretation despite these biases. Citron 2000, Gilman and Joe 2010, and Grover-Friedlander 2005 address different aspects of cinema in relation to opera. Long 2008 has a wider repertorial range, but Stilwell 1997 is a model of the study that gives equal weight to musical and cinematic priorities.

  • Citron, Marcia J. Opera on Screen. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2000.

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    Positive and searching account of the meeting of the traditional stage medium of opera with visual media. A study of filmed (or televised) opera, not dramatic feature films that highlight opera in their narratives. The essential book on the topic. The author’s recent When Opera Meets Film (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010) updates and continues the work, but the repertoire is outside classical Hollywood.

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  • Gilman, Sander, and Jeongwon Joe, eds. Wagner and Cinema. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2010.

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    Eighteen essays, plus editorial introduction and epilogue, a short archival article, and a sixteen-page filmography. Only a half dozen essays focus on classical Hollywood sound film, but these include especially insightful case studies by Marcia Citron and Scott Paulin; rich background information can also be gleaned from the four chapters on Wagner and silent film.

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  • Grover-Friedlander, Michal. “Brothers at the Opera,” In Vocal Apparitions: The Attraction of Cinema to Opera. By Michal Grover-Friedlander, 33–50. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005.

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    The only chapter on classical Hollywood sound film in this book, which is a set of case studies thematically organized about the idea of the operatic voice in cinema. This fetishization of the voice retraces a 19th-century trajectory in which the voice is the death of opera, a fate the Marx Brothers happily avoid by “mishearing” Il Trovatore.

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  • Kramer, Lawrence. “Recognising Schubert: Musical Subjectivity, Cultural Change, and Jane Campion’s The Portrait of a Lady.” Critical Inquiry 29.1 (2002): 25–52.

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    Several essays by this distinguished interpretive critic focus on, or otherwise involve, cinematic representations of traditional European concert musics. Here, drawing on references in Henry James’s novel, Kramer reads Campion’s use of Schubert’s music as a doubling or merging of the composer and the lead character Isabel Archer. Reprinted in Kramer, Critical Musicology and the Responsibility of Response (Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2006), pp. 209–236.

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  • Kramer, Lawrence. “Score and Performance, Performance and Film: Classical Music as Liberating Energy,” In Why Classical Music Still Matters. By Lawrence Kramer, 71–109. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007.

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    Several essays by this distinguished interpretive critic focus on, or otherwise involve, cinematic representations of traditional European concert musics. The one in this volume is the most general of them, in that music performances in film are a case study (p. 88) for a broad argument about musical texts and their performances as social acts.

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  • Long, Michael. Beautiful Monsters: Imagining the Classic in Musical Media. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008.

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    A rich text ranging over all the past century in respect to the classic (which means neither classical Hollywood nor classical music but the idea of the historical or traditional). Frequently exasperating in its shifts of rhetorical pitch, the book nevertheless offers a highly imaginative attempt at a postclassical historical narrative of a kind that comfortably enfolds film music.

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  • Stilwell, Robynn. “‘I just put a drone under him . . .’: Collage and Subversion in the Score of ‘Die Hard.’” Music & Letters 78.4 (1997): 551–580.

    DOI: 10.1093/ml/78.4.551Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The film is outside the era of classical Hollywood—though in many respects classically constructed—but this now classic essay is a model of a deeply informed film narrative reading that interprets traditional concert music successfully while avoiding overreading.

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Composers

Information by and about composers of underscore for classical Hollywood films may be found in a variety of source: consult Sherk 2011 (cited under Bibliographies and Research Guides). McCarty 2000 (cited under Music Titles and Credits) has detailed and reliable lists of composer credits. Surveys organized by chapters on individual composers are among the staples of the literature: see Darby and Du Bois 1990, Palmer 1990, and Thomas 1991. A few historical narratives were written by composers themselves: Bazelon 1975 and Burt 1994. Biographies such as Smith 1991 are still few and far between, though Danly 1999 provides something analogous by collecting documentary sources. Skinner 1960 is a special case: a book-length account of the details of music composition and production.

  • Bazelon, Irwin. Knowing the Score: Notes on Film Music. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1975.

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    Tries to cover ample ground with a historical perspective, which leads to a chapter on contemporary film composition, followed by chapters on aesthetics and analysis. The history and aesthetics are dated; the analyses and comments remain useful as they focus on Bazelon’s contemporaries (mainly work from the 1960s).

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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 presented as a theory of film-music functions, it is better understood as a collection of historical observations and analyses. The subtitle points to its distinctive feature: substantial discussion of work by “second-generation” composers, including Burt himself. Musical examples, some for entire scenes, are among the book’s strongest points.

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  • Danly, Linda, ed. Hugo Friedhofer: The Best Years of His Life, a Hollywood Master of Music for the Movies. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow, 1999.

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    A gathering of documents on the composer who worked as an orchestrator in the 1930s and 1940s (notably for Max Steiner), before becoming known as a composer himself. The editor contributes a biographical chapter, but the heart of the book is a long interview conducted as part of an oral history project in the 1970s.

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  • Darby, William, and Jack Du Bois. American Film Music: Major Composers, Techniques, Trends, 1915–1990. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1990.

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    Arranged chronologically. Fourteen chapters on individual composers, ranging from Max Steiner to John Williams. Consists mainly of descriptions of music in their films. Six additional chapters provide some additional historical context. Many brief musical examples.

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  • Palmer, Christopher. The Composer in Hollywood. London and New York: Marion Boyars, 1990.

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    Arranged chronologically in the form of chapters on individual composers. Cast as a critical history of film music in classical Hollywood, the book offers more historical context than Darby and Du Bois 1990, but its narrative is marred by bias toward Miklos Rozsa and Bernard Herrmann, both of whom Palmer had worked for.

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  • Skinner, Frank. Underscore. Rev. ed. New York: Criterion Music, 1960.

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    An insider’s unique blow-by-blow account of music composition and production in the studio era. Skinner worked in the music department at Universal. The book follows work on a single film called The Irishman (it was actually released as The Fighting O’Flynn [1949]). Many musical examples in score or short-score format. Original publication, Los Angeles: Skinner Music Company, 1950.

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  • Smith, Steven C. Heart at Fire’s Center: The Life and Music of Bernard Herrmann. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991.

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    A standard biography of the composer who was active in concert music and radio in New York in the 1930s, worked with Orson Welles (Citizen Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons) in the early 1940s, and collaborated with Alfred Hitchcock (Vertigo, Psycho, and others) in the 1950s and 1960s.

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  • Thomas, Tony. Film Score: The Art & Craft of Movie Music. Burbank, CA: Riverwood, 1991.

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    Revised and expanded version of Film Score: The View from the Podium (New York: A. S. Barnes, 1979). Brief introduction and twenty-five chapters on individual composers, including some not given ample attention in Darby and Du Bois 1990 or Palmer 1990 such as Ernest Gold, Hans Salter, and Bronislau Kaper. Comments on film music from the composers themselves.

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Directors and Producers

Composer-director collaborations similar to that of John Williams and Steven Spielberg in recent decades were rare in the studio production environment of classical Hollywood. The studies listed here take a different tack: Kalinak 2007 and Sullivan 2006, for example, survey music in films by a single director. Platte 2010 looks at film music from the producer’s side. Lerner 2010 offers a case study of a film’s sound and music as conceived and executed under a director.

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

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    A thorough and engaging account of the music in John Ford’s films that demonstrates the extent to which the director controlled the music and the meanings it generates. In addition to production history and analysis of the music’s narrative functions, the book provides much documentary evidence presented for the first time, its attention to song titles being particularly of note.

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  • Lerner, Neil. “The Strange Case of Rouben Mamoulian’s Sound Stew: The Uncanny Soundtrack in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931).” In Music in the Horror Film: Listening to Fear. Edited by Neil Lerner, 55–79. New York: Routledge, 2010.

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    Music as an element of sound design, though a routine part of practice since the introduction of Dolby, was sporadically (but sometimes memorably) a feature of films even in the transition decade, when certain directors experimented with sound aesthetic. This is an excellent contextually situated case study of a film by a director known for his imaginative treatment of sound.

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  • Platte, Nathan. “Musical Collaboration in the Films of David O. Selznick, 1932–1957.” PhD diss., University of Michigan, 2010.

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    Building on exceptionally thorough documentary evidence, the author provides an interpretative study of the producer’s complex interactions with composers (and his own music directors) in shaping the music for his films, which include a number of canonic works such as King Kong, Gone with the Wind, Rebecca, and Spellbound.

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

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    Historical-critical account covers all of the director’s feature films starting with Blackmail (1929), most in individual chapters that combine stories of production and personalities with close reading of scenes for their music. The necessary focus on Hitchcock sometimes exaggerates his influence and slights the composer.

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Film Score Guides

The Film Score Guide series was initiated by series editor Kate Daubney as a venue for monographs that create biographical, professional, and production contexts for the music of a single feature film as the preliminaries for a detailed analysis and interpretation. An important feature is the numerous musical examples that illustrate the readings. Nearly half the titles to date are on films from classical Hollywood; all are listed below (Cooper 2002 and Cooper 2005, Daubney 2001, Davison 2009, Wierzbicki 2005, and Winters 2007). The series continues to be active, generating one to three new volumes each year.

  • Cooper, David. Bernard Herrmann’s Vertigo. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2002.

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    See also Cooper 2005, which has a more useful account of the composer’s early career. Here the most valuable chapter, apart from the highly detailed functional analysis of a very well-known film, is the excellent description of Herrmann’s musical style and film-scoring priorities (see chapter 2).

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  • Cooper, David. Bernard Herrmann’s The Ghost and Mrs. Muir: A Film Score Guide. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow, 2005.

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    A “prequel” to Cooper 2002 in that it deals with an earlier film scored by Herrmann. Valuable for its compact account of the composer’s career up to the mid-1940s (see chapter 1). The summary of Herrmann’s compositional practice is hampered by some inadequate and mostly unnecessary theorizing in chapter 2. The very detailed score analysis (chapter 5) takes up half the book.

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  • Daubney, Kate. Max Steiner’s Now, Voyager. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2001.

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    Daubney focuses on the expressiveness of Steiner’s scoring techniques, including his facility with melody. Steiner traverses the narrative boundaries of the film to respond to the film’s dramatic needs (Steiner was famous for his hyperexplicit approach to scoring action) while simultaneously sweeping the audience up into the characters’ emotional experiences.

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  • Davison, Annette. Alex North’s A Streetcar Named Desire: A Film Score Guide. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow, 2009.

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    A particular strength here is not only the meticulous documentation and comparison of Tennessee Williams’s stage play and Elia Kazan’s film version but also how that work extends into and informs the reading of the music. The author demonstrates that Alex North was obliged to maneuver around a variety of narrative ambiguities in writing the music.

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  • Wierzbicki, James. Louis and Bebe Barron’s Forbidden Planet: A Film Score Guide. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow, 2005.

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    Excellent historical documentation of the work of the obscure couple who created the all-electronic musical background for this famous science fiction film. The author developed a special analytic graphing method to represent the score’s sounds in order to illustrate and augment his reading of the film.

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  • Winters, Ben. Erich Korngold’s The Adventures of Robin Hood. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow, 2007.

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    Winters is not led astray by a common perception of Korngold as the paradigm of classical Hollywood. For all his fame, he was an atypical film composer. Winters carefully delineates the resulting complexities and necessary compromises with production practices in two especially insightful chapters on Korngold’s scoring methods (chapter 2) and the composition of this particular film (chapter 4).

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