In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Television Music

  • Introduction
  • Reference Works
  • Edited Collections
  • Book Chapters
  • Journal Articles
  • Dissertations
  • Periodicals
  • Blog Entries
  • Early Studies
  • Composer-Focused Studies
  • General Television Music Studies
  • Sound Effects and Sound Design
  • Television Sound
  • Cartoon and Animated Music
  • Industry Practices
  • Composition Practices
  • Interviews
  • Television Themes
  • Popular Music
  • Classical Music
  • News
  • Advertising and Commercials
  • Television Music and Philosophy

Cinema and Media Studies Television Music
Reba Wissner
  • LAST REVIEWED: 13 September 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 15 January 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791286-0324


The literature on television music has been gradually expanding since the earliest studies dating from the 1950s. Because of the medium’s infancy at this time, the literature was limited and only began to really blossom in the 1970s and 1980s. Studies on television music can be divided into four types: music in television shows; music on television, such as live music shows like American Idol and The Voice and opera on and for television; music for advertising, such as commercials; and music videos. The items in this bibliography will focus on only the first of the four types—music written for television series. Despite the growth in television music research, few sources are dedicated to only television music, but rather are joined with sources about film music, which has, in general, been more wide-ranging than television music studies. All of the sources on television music in this article were written in English, though there are other sources in languages such as French, German, Italian, and Spanish. More work on television music has been conducted in the second decade of the 21st century than ever before, with the demand for it in published research continually increasing. This bibliography contains the most influential sources concerning television music, from reference works to material on specialized areas. It will also consider blogs, which, now more than ever, form an increasingly useful platform for the publication of television music scholarship.

Reference Works

Reference works for music in television range from general histories in the form of articles in book and encyclopedias to research guides. Donnelly 2005 concentrates on British television, and Schmidt 2013 provides a composer-specific catalogue, while Pool and Wright 2011 and Sherk 2010 focus on the location of archival sources. Rodman 2013, Rodman 2014, and Salter, et al. 2001 provide information about television music history and terms.

  • Donnelly, K. J. “Music on Television.” In The BFI Television Handbook: The Essential Guide to UK TV. Edited by Alistair D. McGown, 146–147. London: British Film Institute, 2005.

    This short chapter outlines the role of music and its state in British television. It does not go into great detail, but it does provide a context for understanding the role of music in British television during the years prior to its publication.

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

    This guide serves to provide basic information as to where certain composers’ scores and papers may be found. Its focus is on American television music, and the volume discusses not only American composers, but also American archives where television music material can be located.

  • Rodman, Ronald. “Television Music.” In Grove Music Online. Edited by Deane Root, 2013.

    This is one of two entries in the Grove Dictionary on television. It outlines the role of music in television, as well as introducing terms that are commonly used in the field. It also serves as an introduction to the field of television studies in music, and surveys some of the existing literature. This source is good for those who are just venturing into television music studies. Available by subscription.

  • Rodman, Ron. “Auteurship and Agency in Television Music.” In The Oxford Handbook of Film Music Studies. Edited by David Neumeyer, 526–557. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2014.

    This essay focuses on the ways in which scholars can examine the role of television music. Rodman begins with an examination of the role of the composer as auteur. He also examines some of the earliest literature on television music and some of the approaches that authors have taken when writing about it.

  • Salter, Lionel, Humphrey Burton, Jennifer Barnes, and David Burnand. “Television.” Grove Music Online. Edited by Deane Root, 2001.

    The second of the entries on television music in the Grove Dictionary, this one outlines the role of music on television. It specifically focuses on three types of television music: pure, applied, and incidental. It should be noted that in the case of television music studies, these terms are relatively dated. Available by subscription.

  • Schmidt, Carl B. The Music of Georges Auric: A Documented Catalogue. Vol. 4. Lewiston, NY: Edward Mellen Press, 2013.

    The fourth volume of a collected catalogue, a portion of this volume considers Auric’s scores for both television news documentaries for CBS News and scores for six television series.

  • Sherk, Warren M. Film and Television Music: A Guide to Books, Articles, and Composer Interviews. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2010.

    This guide provides information as to the location where certain composers’ scores and papers may be found; it is the most important bibliography to date on television research. Unlike Pool and Wright 2011, this volume does not hone in on American composers only, but also discusses the locations of items of European composers.

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