Cinema and Media Studies Pop, Blues, and Jazz in Film
by
Michael Jarrett
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 April 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 January 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791286-0175

Introduction

Let “pop” equal vernacular music that followed in the wake of Elvis Presley. Let “jazz” equal a broad range of syncopated dance music (what jazz fans call “merely jazzy”). And let “blues” equal the blues. Also, “film” means movies, not cognate media (television and music video). Even given all this, the boundaries that structure this bibliography are not tidy and tight, because pop, jazz, and blues are best understood as shifting markers designating musical territories that cinema was reluctant to annex for half a century. Which is to say, pop, jazz, and blues have conventionally functioned as movie music’s “other,” despite inclusion in films virtually from the origin of cinema. This bibliography understands movie music’s “other” by repeating a distinction that might appear subtle to a fault. There is the “soundtrack,” the recorded music associated with films, and there is the “sound track,” or the audio mixes of films, comprising everything one hears while experiencing movies (music, noises, and voices). Popular music finds its initial expressions in cinema as embedded sound. It is music with origins—either seen or implied—inside a film’s world. Pop and jazz and blues—like songs in musicals (see the Oxford Bibliographies article on Musicals)—enter cinema as eruptions. Such music is performed in films (it’s part of the sound track) before it is incorporated into film scores (soundtracks). Until the mid-1950s, soundtracks were scores composed in the idiom of tonal classical music. Received truth held that this music communicated “naturally” and universally. All people everywhere automatically understood it. The musical devices of Hollywood derived from (rationalized or supported) this belief system. No one needed to learn what “scary,” “sad,” or “courageous” music sounded like. This assumption has everything to do with Hollywood’s long-held belief that good film scores are self-effacing: they supplement the images, without calling attention to their presence. Dimitri Tiomkin’s score for High Noon (1952) announced a significant variation of this formula. Over the film’s opening credits, Tex Ritter sang “Do Not Forsake Me, O My Darling,” a country-and-western song composed by Tiomkin. The film’s score worked permutations on the country tune. Hollywood’s orientation toward “the popular” had shifted, and the relationship between song and score had been reconceptualized. The notion that a soundtrack could be a collection of previously recorded pop tunes begins with High Noon. In short order, the film scores of Henry Mancini would retroactively install jazz in the collective imagination as the sound of film noir, and rock-derived scores and on-screen performances would soon feature stars of popular music.

General Overviews

One might ask, overviews of what? No book takes a comprehensive look at vernacular music in cinema. Limbacher 1974 pulls together a number of (early) short pieces, most originally appearing in the popular press, to portray the topic of composing scores for cinema. Taking a broader view, Burlingame 2000 examines soundtracks—scored and compiled—mainly by spotlighting cinema’s key composers. Atkins 1982 theorizes the use of diegetic music in motion pictures—that is, music that originates inside the dramatic world of the film. Generally, popular music found its way into film through this route. Prendergast 1992, however, conceptualizes film music—underscoring or nondiegetic music—by employing the analytical tools of musicology. Less concerned with aesthetics (great works) than Prendergast 1992, Larsen 2005 surveys roles assigned to the film score. Reay 2004, a handy, pocket-sized guide to film music, follows suit, but it locates test cases in the realm of pop music. Romney and Wootton 1995 surveys the use of rock-based music in cinema since the 1950s. Karlin 1994 directs the attention of readers to production aspects of the soundtrack.

  • Atkins, Irene Kahn. Source Music in Motion Pictures. Rutherford, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1982.

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    Source music is what film studies labels “diegetic music.” Atkins sets three goals for her introductory text: (1) to show how source music enhances narrative and drama, (2) to discuss the “intrinsic musical merits” of embedded compositions; and (3) to reveal problems encountered by industry personnel when choosing or composing musical material.

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

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    After a brief history of original soundtrack recordings, Burlingame presents a guide to soundtracks (meaning, biographies of iconic composers, plus descriptions of representative films), followed by a short guide to compilation soundtracks.

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  • Karlin, Fred. Listening to Movies: The Film Lover’s Guide to Film Music. New York: Schirmer, 1994.

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    Every conceivable aspect of film scoring—from conception (planning and composing) to production (working within the studio system, recording, and mixing) to consumption (how to evaluate a score)—is covered. Profiles of composers are inclusive, spanning the history of US cinema.

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  • Larsen, Peter. Film Music. London: Reaktion, 2005.

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    Cinema has assigned multiple tasks to film music, tasks that have changed, sometimes significantly, during its history. Blending musicology and film theory, Larsen investigates how film music has fulfilled its tasks. The Graduate (1967), American Graffiti (1973), Star Wars (1977), and Blade Runner (1982) serve as case studies for an analysis of contemporary cinema.

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

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    Indexes of movies and the men who scored them (during three-fourths of cinema’s history) make up the bulk of this book. Otherwise, the book’s first quarter, a patchwork of short articles that forms a history of film scoring, is a handy compendium of, predominantly, journalistic writing about movie scores.

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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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    Prendergast devotes little space to jazz- and pop-based film scores. Instead, he concentrates on Western art music, which he, as a musicologist, finds more analytically and aesthetically rewarding. Nonetheless, his assessments of the limitations of jazz and pop scores are worth visiting.

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  • Reay, Pauline. Music in Film: Soundtracks and Synergy. London and New York: Wallflower, 2004.

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    Popular music is emphasized in this introductory text. For example, a case study investigating the functions of film music singles out Paul Thomas Anderson’s use of Aimee Mann’s music in Magnolia (1999). Attention is also paid to history and to industry economics.

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  • Romney, Jonathan, and Adrian Wootton, eds. Celluloid Jukebox: Popular Music and the Movies since the 50s. London: British Film Institute, 1995.

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    Members of the British music press walk the line between academic and popular writing in the essays found in this profusely illustrated book. There’s no other word for it, the essays are fun—targeting a very hip mass audience.

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Histories

Lack 1997 is exceptionally wide-ranging in its interests (and insights). It is best understood as a thorough discussion—a detailed narrative—of phonography (sound writing) in cinema, and of the dissemination of audio recording technologies within film. Wierzbicki 2009 directs its attention to the institutionalization of film music in Hollywood. Cooke 2008 casts a wider net, as it includes world cinema. By focusing on Hollywood’s composers, Thomas 1997 and MacDonald 1998 adopt an auteurist vision of film-music history. Mundy 1999 is more interested in popular music’s place in Hollywood: first, as popular song in musicals; later, as rock. It also investigates pop music in British cinema and pop’s migration to television. Marmorstein 1997 understands film music as an inclusive term, referring both to diegetic and nondiegetic music, and to all genres of popular music. Readers will find chapters on the [Arthur] Freed Unit at MGM, western (i.e., cowboy) music, jazz, and rock. Cowboy music is the topic of Green 2002; thus, the book chronicles an often neglected but vitally important type of film music.

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

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    A textbook suitable for undergraduates, Mervyn’s history provides an alternative entry point to the image-oriented route adopted by most introductions to world cinema.

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  • Green, Douglas B. Singing in the Saddle: The History of the Singing Cowboy. Nashville: Country Music Foundation Press, 2002.

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    Not a history of singing cowboys, or the stars of these films—Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, and others—but a history of the singing cowboy; which is to say, the institution built on a mythology.

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

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    Lack invigorates the story of world cinema with his concentration on music (in film and within culture). His discussion of the introduction and use of jazz and pop in film is especially insightful.

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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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    A year-by-year chronicle of eight decades of Hollywood soundtracks make this book a useful quick-reference guide. It employs nontechnical language for both musical and film descriptions.

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  • Marmorstein, Gary. Hollywood Rhapsody: Movie Music and Its Makers, 1900–1975. New York: Shirmer, 1997.

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    An alternative explanation of the “genius of the system” emerges from this comprehensive account of significant composers and song writers. Four chapters describe the incorporation of western (cowboy), jazz, rock ’n’ roll, and song-based music forms into soundtracks. There’s also a helpful chapter devoted to animation composers.

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

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    Mundy argues that the meanings of popular music, from the beginning of cinema to the 1990s, are “inextricably linked” to its representations by visual media. It makes sense, then, for a history of popular music to trace the complex interrelationship between the commercial music industry and Hollywood.

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  • Thomas, Tony. Music for the Movies. 2d ed. Los Angeles: Silman-James, 1997.

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    A history of film scoring in Hollywood told through profiles of key composers. The final two (of eight) chapters visit the pop-influenced, post-Mancini soundtrack.

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

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    The story of the development of American cinema but, this time, one attuned to the operations of the Hollywood style of film music, rather than the usual visual perspective.

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Theories

Academic writing about sound in cinema is, almost always, writing about theory. The following list of resources is, therefore, a means of directing readers to works that, while not about pop, blues, and jazz in film, are primarily concerned with theoretical matters. These resources are helpful—oftentimes crucial—to understanding sound and song in cinema. All studies of music and narrative cinema must confront the unheard-melodies thesis of Gorbman 1987. Corner 2002 suggests that music in documentary cinema has operated within a comparable regime of restraint. Altman 1992 represents sound theory coming of age. A summary work on audio-vision, Chion 2009 stands as a unified field theory of sound in cinema. Flinn 1992 solves a daunting problem: how to get a handle on the ideological roles assigned to music in film. Feuer 1995 also shows film music constructing ideology, and reinforcing cultural myths. Cubitt 1991 and Beebe and Middleton 2007 approach video in fresh ways. The former study imagines the culture currently collecting around video; the latter aims to renew interest in music video.

  • Altman, Rick, ed. Sound Theory, Sound Practice. New York: Routledge, 1992.

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    In place of text-based theories of the sound track, Altman offers a model of film sound built on “cinema as event.” As a result, the groundbreaking essays in this collection attempt to fathom the sound-image relationship by respecting what Altman calls “the discursive complexity that is characteristic of all sound events.”

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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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    For some time, music video (not to be conflated with music television) has attracted nothing like the rush of scholarship that appeared in the late 1980s and early 1990s. This collection seeks to reconsider and to expand the theories of now canonical studies by E. Ann Kaplan, Andrew Goodwin, Lisa Lewis, Lawrence Grossberg, Simon Frith, and others.

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

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    To separate sound and image is, Chion argues, a falsification of both. This text is the latest installation and the fullest expression of audio-vision. The first half of the book is historically oriented; the second half turns toward aesthetics and poetics.

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  • Corner, Jeff. “Sounds Real: Music and Documentary.” Popular Music 21.3 (2002): 357–366.

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    Convention in documentary tends to restrict music to cueing mood and theme, despite the aesthetic possibilities of music-image relations. Listen to Britain, a wartime documentary made in 1942, suggests that music can play a more expansive role that it has traditionally been assigned.

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  • Cubitt, Sean. Timeshift: On Video Culture. London and New York: Routledge, 1991.

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    In nine essays that he calls “raids,” Cubitt looks at the “the myriad ways in which people relate to each other and themselves via video” (p. 2). And so he speculates, not on a medium, but on the formations—the relations, practices, and possibilities—that are becoming an emergent medium already called video.

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  • Feuer, Jane. “The Self-Reflexive Musical and the Myth of Entertainment.” In Film Genre Reader II. Edited by Barry Keith Grant, 441–455. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1995.

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    Investigates the mythic function of self-referential musicals, such as 42nd Street, which, in Feuer’s phrase, incorporated into its structure “the very type of popular entertainment represented by the musical film itself” (p. 441).

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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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    Music’s ideological functions are, as Hans Eisler observed, culturally assigned. Flinn notices a dominant feature of Hollywood film composition in the 1930s and 1940s: it strained toward “something better.” She considers the social forces that stabilized this “strain of utopia” during Hollywood’s classic years.

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

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    Within the realm of classic Hollywood, nondiegetic music functioned as a supplement to the story. Whatever other purposes it could have had, music was assigned the task of serving the narrative. On this position, Gorbman’s work is definitive.

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Reference Works—Pop, Jazz, and Blues Soundtracks

As an encyclopedia, Hischak and Robinson 2009 features highly informative entries on songs written for Disney products. Sackett 1995 is also notable for its thorough entries on Academy Award–nominated songs. Directed toward a mass audience of fans, the commentaries on rock movies found in Crenshaw 1994 are entertaining, evaluative, and fun to read. Donnelly 2001, McGee 1990, and Zmijewsky and Zmijewsky 1976 also document the use of rock in cinema. McGee 1990 provides much information on films with rock performances but limits coverage to films of the 1950s. Donnelly 2001 attends to pop music in British cinema (1950s–1990s). Zmijewsky and Zmijewsky 1976 guides readers to the cinematic vehicles of Elvis Presley. Meeker 1982 and Stratemann 1992 focus on jazz. Meeker 1982 lists every movie that features a jazz musician or jazz performance. Stratemann 1992 chronicles the life and work of Duke Ellington.

  • Crenshaw, Marshall. Hollywood Rock: A Guide to Rock ’n’ Roll in the Movies. Edited by Ted Mico. New York: Agincourt, 1994.

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    Three hundred films in which rock ’n’ roll (broadly construed) is an essential element are reviewed and rated. A three-section appendix lists “More Rock Films,” “Concert Films & Rockumentaries,” and a “Rock Actors Filmography.”

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

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    Decade by decade, Donnelly tells the story of pop music (i.e., rock ’n’ roll) in British cinema, pausing to provide an informative year-by-year filmography.

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  • Hischak, Thomas S., and Mark A. Robinson, eds. The Disney Song Encyclopedia. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow, 2009.

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    Songs, 940 of them, are given particularly informative individual entries and descriptions. Basic production data is supplied. Also listed are notable recordings of songs: Louis Armstrong’s album Disney Songs the Satchmo Way and Miles Davis’s “Someday My Prince Will Come” merit mentions, but, sadly, no sign of the Sun Ra Arkestra.

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  • McGee, Mark Thomas. The Rock and Roll Movie Encyclopedia of the 1950s. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1990.

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    Entries on thirty-five movies (a dozen with “rock” in their titles) provide generous descriptions of the films’ historical and social contexts; then follows lists of tunes, casts, and details of production. Reception information on every film is also given.

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  • Meeker, David. Jazz in the Movies. New York: Da Capo, 1982.

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    Almost four thousand alphabetically arranged movie titles are included. Entries on each movie indicate country and date of production, the director (and sometimes the producer), running time, genre, and the connection to jazz (songs, score, musicians). There are even brief plot summaries and critical evaluations.

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  • Sackett, Susan. Hollywood Sings! An Inside Look at Sixty Years of Academy Award-Nominated Songs. New York: Billboard, 1995.

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    Addresses all of the nominated songs from 1934 to 1993. The songs are taken one by one; each gets a separate entry that tells the story of the song and the movie in which it was featured.

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  • Stratemann, Klaus. Ellington Day by Day and Film by Film. Copenhagen: JazzMedia, 1992.

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    If artistry were the sole determinant, Ellington studies would be a scholarly industry, and this chronology would be, as it is, an invaluable reference tool.

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  • Zmijewsky, Steven, and Boris Zmijewsky. Elvis: The Films and Career of Elvis Presley. Secaucus, NJ: Citadel, 1976.

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    Presley’s career was in a “state of stagnation” when the narrative portion of this guide was written. (Thus, the short biography is not inflected by Presley’s early death.) Each film is profiled, including credits, cast, synopsis, and songs.

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Textbooks

An entry in Wallflower Press’s Short Cuts series, Reay 2004 is immediately appealing for its conciseness. It is an introductory text. Wierzbicki 2009 is a musically oriented text that tell the story of Hollywood cinema, concentrating on its classic period; Cooke 2008 is a musically oriented text on world cinema, and it is appealing for its comprehensiveness. All three books are suitable for undergraduate readers.

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

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    Suitable for undergraduates, Cooke’s history of film music provides an alternative entry point to the visual route adopted by most introductions to world cinema.

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  • Reay, Pauline. Music in Film: Soundtracks and Synergy. London and New York: Wallflower, 2004.

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    Popular music is emphasized in this introductory text. For example, a case study investigating the functions of film music singles out Paul Thomas Anderson’s use of Aimee Mann’s music in Magnolia (1999). Attention is also paid to history and to industry economics.

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

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    Organizes the history of Hollywood film music into four periods: silent (1894–1927), early sound (1894–1933), classic (1933–1960), and postclassic (1958–2008). Wierzbicki tells the story of Hollywood’s music-making industry; the text is suitable for upper-level undergraduates.

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Anthologies

The most eclectic anthologies of essays on music and film are Wojcik and Knight 2001; Buhler, et al. 2000; and Conrich and Tincknell 2006. The first volume is oriented more toward popular music than the second and third, but all are international in their considerations. Taken collectively, they reveal film-music studies as a thicket of academic disciplines. Dickinson 2003 is notable for including a sizable number of seminal, institution-shaping essays on movie music. Goldmark, et al. 2007 is similarly packed with important contributions to the field. It is organized by three headings: “Musical Meaning,” “Musical Agency,” and “Musical Identity.” Donnelly 2001 assembles essays around the topic of methodology. It opens with a three-chapter history of scholarly writing about music in cinema. The essays in Mera and Burnand 2006 examine alternatives to Hollywood’s uses of music. Inglis 2003 features essays devoted to popular (meaning rock-based) music. Contributors take a variety of approaches to their topics.

  • Buhler, James, Caryl Flinn, and David Neumeyer, eds. Music and Cinema. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 2000.

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    The stated goal of this volume is to “show the range of current film-music scholarship based within musicology and within cinema studies” (p. 4). The book’s scope is predictably daunting. Its “Introduction” is one of the most trenchant accounts of film-music studies available, providing an essential orientation for scholars.

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

    DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748623440.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Several essays take up musicals other than Hollywood’s: in Germany and in Bollywood, ABBA-related movies, and the Big Band musical. Every essay considers moments in film when melodies are anything but unheard.

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

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    Because the reader includes a good number of seminal essays (no specially commissioned pieces), it represents the historical sweep and the current state of film-music studies, and it provides an ideal starting point and orientation for would-be students.

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

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    A field and not a discipline, film-music studies draws from several available critical approaches. An account of those approaches occupies the authors of this volume’s first three essays. Subsequent essays illustrate film music’s critical approaches by putting them into practice. A few essays attend to pop matters.

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

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    Instead of asking, “How is music used in film?” (music as supplement), this anthology asks, “How, in what ways, does film conceptualize music?” (music as representation). Essays address film music as “an agent, a force, and an object engaged in ongoing negotiations with image, narrative, and context” (p. 3).

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

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    What James Buhler, Caryl Flinn, and David Neumeyer have called the “irreducible interdisciplinarity” of film music studies is on full display in this collection of essays that draws on film production, sociology, history, film studies, musicology, and media studies. Turf is being staked out, as are conceivable approaches to pop music and film.

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

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    In its focus on European film music, this anthology functions as a vital corrective (or challenge) to Hollywood hegemony. It signals an attempt to question (to interrogate) certain “assumptions and functional models” that inform film music studies. Films from Germany, Italy, Spain, England, France, Ireland, Greece, and Poland are studied.

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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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    Copious—full and eclectic—this volume meets its stated purpose to enlarge readers’ “sense of the variety of functions pop music performs in film” (p. 8). It does not celebrate the canon of overeulogized film composers. Instead, it roadmaps any number of routes into film-music studies.

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Emphasizing the Score

The analytical vocabulary of musicology is particularly suited to comprehend film scores (the soundtrack, notated or recorded), less adequate to conceptualize music-film interactions (the audio-visual compact). Brown 1994 is, therefore, noteworthy for the integrated discourse that it brings to studies of classic film scores. It draws equally from cinema studies and musicology. Popular music enters the text, most prominently, in the form of interviews with several contemporary composers. In addition to several close readings of film scores, Larsen 2005 discusses film music after Hollywood’s classic era. Less concerned with aesthetic matters, both Donnelly 2005 and Smith 1998 turn to popular music scores. Smith 1998 investigates musical effects of the reciprocal arrangement between the film and music industries. Donnelly 2005 is interested in the soundtrack as a “system of control” that colludes with the image track, as demonstrated by horror film music. Hayward 2009 focuses exclusively on “terror tracks,” while Larson 1985 includes music from science fiction and fantasy in its historically oriented study of “fantastic cinema.” Goldmark 2005 brings analytical (i.e., musicologically informed) readings of film scores to works by Carl Stalling, Scott Bradley, and other composers of Hollywood cartoon music.

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

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    Dogma-challenging close readings of score and image interactions in a number of films, including The Sea Hawk (1940); Double Indemnity (1944); Ivan the Terrible, Parts One (1944) and Two (1958); Shadow of a Doubt (1943); Vivre sa vie (1962); and Nashville (1975). Brown also includes a set of interviews with major composers of film music.

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  • Donnelly, K. J. The Spectre of Sound: Music in Film and Television. London: British Film Institute, 2005.

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    Music participates in systems of control (think Foucault), disciplining and controlling audiences and validating emotions. Tutor texts for this thesis include David Lynch’s Lost Highway (1997) and Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980). Valuable attention is paid to “pop music’s colonization of television” and to the reciprocal relationship between the realms of pop music and film.

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

    DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520236172.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Two case studies—of Carl Stalling (Warner Bros.) and Scott Bradley (MGM)—inform the dialectic that structures this musicological study of the Hollywood cartoon. They set up chapters that offer thorough analyses of cartoons driven by jazz scores and those driven by classical and opera-based scores.

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

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    The majority of essays in this collection single out the operation of pop-music film scores (e.g., progressive rock, metal, folk, and electronic) inside the horror genre. Two essays examine music in Japanese cinema (J-Horror and Takemitsu’s score for Kwaidan [1964]).

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  • Larsen, Peter. Film Music. London: Reaktion, 2005.

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    Employing a hybrid analytical vocabulary taken from musicology and film studies, Larsen introduces the “problematics of film music,” or the basic issues occupying studies of film scores. He examines the roles played by the scores of Metropolis (1927), The Big Sleep (1946), North by Northwest (1959), and a number of other films.

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  • Larson, Randall D. Musique Fantastique: A Survey of Film Music in the Fantastic Cinema. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow, 1985.

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    “Fantastic” in the book’s title refers to science fiction, fantasy, and horror films. The book is a production history. It details who composed what, when, and for whom. (One chapter, “Japanese Invasions,” moves beyond Hollywood and European cinema.)

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

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    The pop-influenced film score commands Smith’s attention. It motivates close critical analysis—of compositions by Henry Mancini, John Barry, and Ennio Morricone—and a historical reading in terms of the forms, commercial functions, and textual operations of the commissioned soundtrack.

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Emphasizing the Sound Track

Again, that’s “sound track,” the sum total of all sounds in a movie: music, voice, noise, and silence. Indeed, film has been instrumental in helping to erode a number of sonic boundaries, such as those between source (diegetic) and scored (nondiegetic) material, between music and noise, between highbrow and lowbrow, between art and vernacular, and between autonomous and supplemental. In its sustained attention to sound, Beck and Grajeda 2008 cuts across these received categories. Miklitsch 2011 immerses readers in the story space, or diegesis, of 1940s film noir, while Slobin 2008 proceeds by noticing that “every film is ethnographic, and every film acts like an ethnomusicologist” (pp. 3–4). Dickinson 2008 theorizes the sound track that is not integrated: the ideological consequences of movies in which music and image refuse to articulate. Kassabian 2001 establishes film as an indivisible compact between sound and image, a compact crucial to viewer identification. Sider 2003 looks at industry practice and sees the need to make filmmakers more aware of the possibilities of sound design. Long 2008 explains the “classical” as the convergence of media fragments, as a matter of territorialization, in Gilles Deleuze’s sense of the word. Herzog 2010 is equally abstract (and Deleuzian) in its conceptualization of musical moments, though its theories are grounded in cinematic case studies. All of these texts are written for specialists. They reward careful, thoughtful readers.

  • Beck, Jay, and Tony Grajeda, eds. Lowering the Boom: Critical Studies in Film Sound. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2008.

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    One way to engage popular music in cinema is to shift the object of study from music (typically, based on assumptions of autonomy) to sound or sound design. Beck and Grajeda’s collection represents a major statement on sound studies and a major redirection of film studies.

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

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

    Mismatches catch Dickinson’s attention, including Elvis Presley’s Harum Scarum (1965), Ken Russell’s biopics, “video nasties” (spawn of Cannibal Holocaust [1980]), and pop stars who can’t act. In these cases film and music fail to articulate; mythic resolutions are not enacted. Instead, real conditions of labor and production are displayed.

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  • Herzog, Amy. Dreams of Difference, Songs of the Same: The Musical Moment in Film. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010.

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    The theories of Gilles Deleuze and Henri Bergson inform Herzog’s conceptualizations of moments when popular music ruptures film narratives, inverting the conventional image-sound hierarchy. Four case studies—on Scopitones, versions of Carmen, musicals by Jacques Demy, and “water-based musicals” (Esther Williams and Tsai Ming-liang’s The Hole [1998])—keep the theorizing specific.

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  • Kassabian, Anahid. Hearing Film: Tracking Identifications in Contemporary Hollywood Film Music. New York and London: Routledge, 2001.

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    To Kassabian, the locution “hearing music in film” makes no more sense than “viewing images in film.” “Diegetic music” is, therefore, a misnomer. Music conspires with other film elements to construct story spaces. Kassabian treats film music as a signifying system in order to understand processes of viewer identification.

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

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    Long’s notion of “classic” derives from deconstructing the classical-popular binary, or, rather, from understanding how commercial media and artistic production operate. What remains are traces of (chapters on) “beautiful monsters”: media fragments that ceaselessly reconfigure. Which is why Long discovers a relationship, for example, between Tarkovsky and Procol Harum.

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  • Miklitsch, Robert. Siren City: Sound and Source Music in Classic American Noir. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2011.

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    Instead of defining the sound of film noir (an impossible task), Miklitsch takes general readers on a sonic tour of the genre, denoting its tendencies. He illustrates noir’s sound track and image track mutually illuminating each other.

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  • Sider, Larry. “If You Wish to See, Listen: The Role of Sound Design.” Journal of Media Practice 4.1 (2003): 5–16.

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    An industry practitioner, Sider describes the institutional constraints placed on sound design (it remains “a technical exercise tacked on to the end of post-production”). He then makes suggestions about changes necessary to imbue emerging filmmakers with a fuller understanding of the sound track.

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

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    Slobin establishes the collection’s critical orientation before contributors produce case studies. He notices that “every film is ethnographic” (pp. 3–4). To construct a mise-en-scène, the implied author (e.g., of the film’s music) invents an “imaginary community,” reworks a generic setting, or revisits a commonplace. He functions exactly as an ethnomusicologist.

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African American Music in Cinema

Close to half of the essays in Gabbard 1995 remark on cinematic representations of jazz in cinema. This collection (and a sister volume devoted to jazz and literature) announced the arrival of jazz studies as an outpost of cultural studies. Both Gabbard 1995 and Gabbard 2004 examine very different sorts of films, but they both concentrate on the ideological uses of African American musical artistry. Gabbard 1995 is a pioneering look at jazz as imagined by Hollywood. Gabbard 2004 listens to (and for) those moments in film where the lives of white actors are infused with emotional capital borrowed from black music. Stanfield 2005 shows Hollywood using popular music but, especially, jazz and blues to construct American identity. Butler 2002 begins by unpacking a problem: jazz is remembered as the sound of film noir, though it was seldom featured in actual films. What to make, then, of the gap between cultural association and practice? How was jazz used in noir? Knight 2002 draws the attention of readers to a number of moments when that most loved of all black cinematic figures, the musical performer, took center stage. It analyzes an “unprecedented and unparalleled cycle of eight all or predominantly black-cast Hollywood musicals,” (p. 2) as well as several less conspicuous vehicles that feature African American musicians. This study extends—and complicates—Rogin 1996, a magisterial examination of the ideological uses of blackface minstrelsy in cinema. Though Cripps 1977 is most concerned with the representation of African Americans in cinema (1900–1942)—that is, with image—it does devote two chapters to black music.

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

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    The link between jazz and criminality is not derived from the music. Butler, therefore, traces connotations affixed to jazz, and he analyzes different styles of music actually used in films associated with jazz. Particular attention is paid to film noir, Young Man with a Horn (1950), and I Want to Live! (1958).

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  • Cripps, Thomas. Slow Fade to Black: The Negro in American Film, 1900–1942. New York: Oxford University Press, 1977.

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    Primarily, a detailed history of the roles that cinema assigned to African Americans. Two chapters focus on music.

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  • Gabbard, Krin. Black Magic: White Hollywood and African American Culture. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2004.

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    Gabbard notices African American musical artistry serving a (largely) white audience’s cinematic fantasies about blackness. Once recruited, black music lends authenticity and emotional authority to any number of contemporary films, even as black bodies are marginalized or excluded from the screen. The repressed always returns—this time as music.

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  • Gabbard, Krin, ed. Representing Jazz. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1995.

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    In this wide-ranging collection of essays, critical theory meets representations of jazz in film, literature, photography, and dance. Jazz studies starts here and in the companion volume, Jazz among the Discourses (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1995), which focuses on aesthetics and jazz history.

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  • Knight, Arthur. Disintegrating the Musical: Black Performance and American Musical Film. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2002.

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    The cinematic performances of black musicians (1927–1959)—“fugitive moments” in (white) musicals and, then, a “cycle of eight all or predominantly black-cast Hollywood musicals” (p. 2)—evoke scrutiny in this definitive study. First, Knight looks at the “improbabilities of blacks in blackface,” then at the ways that “black musicality [was] made generic.”

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  • Rogin, Michael. Blackface, White Noise: Jewish Immigrants in the Hollywood Melting Pot. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996.

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    Rogin advances a compelling argument about race in America: motion-picture blackface assumed the ideological function of 19th-century blackface minstrelsy—namely, to construct whiteness, to enable white social mobility by enforcing black stasis.

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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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    “How did Hollywood use the culture of America’s marginalized people, and what image of American national identity did it produce out of this heterogeneous material?” (p. 6). Answers to this question lead Stanfield to a topos—“the gutter.” There, he finds a particular type of popular song—“Frankie and Johnny,” for example—that Hollywood strategically employs to shape American cultural identity.

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Pop Tunes in Cinema

The essays in Romney and Wootton 1995 speak to wide audience of readers interested in popular music’s colonization of cinema (or rather cinema’s colonization of pop); scholars will also find much of interest here. Miklitsch 2006 is a work of critical theory that locates its object of study in multimedia; it is daring and provocative, even audacious, in its approach. Cook 1998 argues that the tools of musicological analysis are highly transferrable, adequate to theorize a variety of multimedia. Inglis 2003 and Lannin and Caley 2005 compile a number of essays on pop and film. Inglis 2003 emphasizes variety; the essays examine documentaries, rock-star vehicles, scores and songs in feature films, and pop in an international context. Lannin and Caley 2005 takes a close look at the operations of the pop song in cinema. Stanfield 2010 examines the music actually used in 1950s teenpix. Half of the essays in Powrie and Stilwell 2006 consider films that use “preexisting” popular music. Laderman 2010 analyzes a group of punk movies, zeroing in on a recurring trope that finds image and music tracks slipping out of sync.

  • Cook, Nicholas. Analysing Musical Multimedia. Oxford, UK: Clarendon, 1998.

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    Cook employs the tools of musicology as a methodology sufficient to extend to the analysis of all aspects of multimedia: to words/voice and gesture and to moving images. As his pop-oriented application of giving the lead role to music theory, he analyzes Madonna’s video of the song “Material Girl.”

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

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    What James Buhler, Caryl Flinn, and David Neumeyer have called the “irreducible interdisciplinarity” of film music studies is on full display in this collection. A cross-section of contemporary approaches to pop music and film in a dozen essays draws on film production, sociology, history, film studies, musicology, cultural studies, critical theory, and media studies.

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  • Laderman, David. Punk Slash! Musicals: Tracking Slip-Sync on Film. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010.

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    Under scrutiny is the social critique enacted by a group of punk (anti)musicals that includes Derek Jarman’s Jubilee (1978), Julien Temple’s The Great Rock ’n’ Roll Swindle (1980), Allan Moyle’s Times Square (1980), and Lou Adler’s Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains (1982). This critique relied upon an “ironic embrace of popular culture.”

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

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    Each of the dozen essays in this collection focuses on a preexisting song employed in a film. Hence, the book’s topic is intertextuality. Essays are informed by a variety of critical approaches.

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  • Miklitsch, Robert. Roll over Adorno: Critical Theory, Popular Culture, Audiovisual Media. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2006.

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    A series of “essayistic encounters”—most centrally between Theodor Adorno and Chuck Berry—realize Miklitsch’s desire “to attend to the intricacies of the esthetic register” (p. xvii). The ear of critical theory is, first, tuned to popular music, then to film (“Screen Theory and Audiovisuality”), and finally to television.

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

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    Half of the essays in this volume analyze the use of pop music in film (the other half is devoted to classical music and opera). The theorizing done here can be understood as what the editors call an “archaeology of the undertone.”

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  • Romney, Jonathan, and Adrian Wootton, eds. Celluloid Jukebox: Popular Music and the Movies since the 50s. London: British Film Institute, 1995.

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    The essays are models of popular scholarship: informed, insightful, and entertaining. They examine, for example, rock documentaries, blaxploitation (and rapsploitation), biopics, underground cinema, and pop stars cast in movies.

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  • Stanfield, Peter. “Crossover: Sam Katzman’s Switchblade Calypso Bop Reefer Madness Swamp Girl or ‘Bad Jazz,’ Calypso, Beatniks and Rock ’n’ Roll in 1950s Teenpix.” Popular Music 29.3 (2010): 437–455.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0261143010000255Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Stanfield debunks the notion that rock ’n’ roll was the soundtrack to 1950s teenpix. Instead, the film industry sought to co-opt teenage hormones with a variety of musics.

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Case Studies

Because this heading would permit the inclusion of any number of titles appearing elsewhere in this bibliography, it is, perhaps, insufficiently restrictive. But the goal here is not coverage. Rather, the group of texts organized under this heading demonstrates the types of case studies that characterize investigations of pop, blues, and jazz in film. Clover 1995 prompts readers to hear Singin’ in the Rain as the trace of ghostly voices haunting American cinema. Stanfield 2002 corrects an oversight: the scholarly neglect of Hollywood’s singing cowboys. Coyle 2005 turns to Australian cinema as an entry point for understanding the construction of national identity. Anderson 2006 looks to configurations of the music industry (following strikes by the American Federation of Musicians) in order to account for multiple versions of the soundtrack to My Fair Lady. Lehman 2003 presents the music of Roy Orbison and the films of David Lynch as benefiting from a reciprocal relationship. Neaverson 1997 brings a film-studies mindset to the movies of the Beatles, while Stahl 2008 employs social theory as he lays bare the labor relations (mythic versus real) in the 2004 rockumentary Dig! Brophy 2004 details the experience of listening to one hundred movies.

  • Anderson, Tim J. Making Easy Listening: Material Culture and Postwar American Recording. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2006.

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    At its center, this study of the paradigm shift that reoriented the American music industry toward the production and sale of records features a study of My Fair Lady. Multiple soundtrack recordings of the Broadway musical and the 1964 film are used to illustrate “versioning” and “comparative listening” and to explore problems associated with the creation of simultaneously ubiquitous and distinct commodities.

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

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    Case studies in phonography: the essays are “flow charts of effects,” responses to films as “spatio-temporal” events. They are one hundred gemlike reflections that reward rereading.

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  • Clover, Carol J. “Dancin’ in the Rain.” Critical Inquiry 21.4 (Summer 1995): 722–747.

    DOI: 10.1086/448772Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Beginning as an exploration of the dizzying disjuncture between rhetoric and practice in Singin’ in the Rain (1952), this essay becomes a sustained account of cultural theft. Ripped-off African American artists return to haunt classic Hollywood cinema.

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  • Coyle, Rebecca, ed. Reel Tracks: Australian Feature Film Music and Cultural Identities. Eastleigh, UK: John Libbey, 2005.

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    Every essay in this collection is a case study, working with an Australian feature film from the 1990s and early 2000s. Each essay approaches the formation of national identity through the entry point of sound (whether soundtracks or sound tracks).

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  • Lehman, Peter. “In David Lynch’s Dreams: Roy Orbison at the Movies.” In Roy Orbison: The Invention of an Alternative Rock Masculinity. By Peter Lehman, 108–134. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2003.

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    Plenty of movies give the songs of Roy Orbison the musical equivalent of a walk-on part, but in Lynch’s Blue Velvet (1986) and Mulholland Drive (2001) they play starring (and startling) roles. “In Dreams” is the key to understanding Blue Velvet, argues Lehman, and the film is crucial to understanding the “discourse of darkness” that came to inform Orbison’s music.

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  • Neaverson, Bob. The Beatles Movies. London and New York: Cassell, 1997.

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    Film studies meets the Beatles’ five theatrical releases. Neaverson describes the films as part of their social context: how they were produced, marketed, and received. The films are critically evaluated and their impact assessed.

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  • Stahl, Matt. “Sex and Drugs and Bait and Switch: Rockumentary and the New Model Worker.” In The Media and Social Theory. Edited by David Hesmondhalgh and Jason Toynbee, 231–247. New York: Routledge, 2008.

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    The case study is the 2004 film Dig!—a compare-and-contrast exercise in documentary filmmaking, featuring the Brian Jonestown Massacre versus the Dandy Warhols. Stahl concentrates on the disconnect between the utopian labor relations of creative workers as pictured by the film and the actual roles played by creative workers within capitalism.

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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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    Before explaining how the singing western articulated with the machine that was Hollywood’s studio system, Stanfield accounts for the antecedents of the singing cowboy in literature, silent film, and popular music. He then presents a cultural history of cinema’s singing cowboy during the 1930s, situating this figure in time.

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