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

Introduction

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.

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    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.

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

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    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.

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

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    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.

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  • 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.

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    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.

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

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    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.

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

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    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.

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

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    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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Edited Collections

These collections feature a wide variety of essays, ranging from those on a single show to those in a single genre. Others are collections of generic essays on music in television and have been written using a number of different methodologies. Attinello, et al. 2010 and Leonard 2010 provide show-specific information, while Deaville 2011, Donnelly and Hayward 2013, and Giuffre 2017 are compendia on multiple series.

  • Attinello, Paul, Janet Halfyard, and Vanessa Knights, eds. Music, Sound, and Silence in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Farnham, UK: Ashgate, 2010.

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    This collection features thirteen essays, divided into three parts. The first part focuses on the construction of music, sound (specifically noise), and silence in Buffy and Angel. Part Two looks at popular music culture and fan works. Part Three is dedicated entirely to the role of music in the musical episode of Buffy, “Once More with Feeling.”

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

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    Part of the Routledge Music and Screen Media Series, this collection features ten chapters, divided into two parts. The first part, Practices and Theories of Television Music, introduces the reader to a background of television music featuring topics such as how to write about it, histories of television sound, and an examination of genre. The second part, Case Studies in Television Music, features case studies of specific shows, including Doctor Who and South Park.

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  • Donnelly, K. J., and Philip Hayward, eds. Music in Science Fiction Television: Tuned to the Future. London and New York: Routledge, 2013.

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    Also part of the Routledge Music and Screen Media Series, this collection features chapters than span from the music of individual series such as The Twilight Zone, Lost in Space, and The Jetsons to science fiction sound design.

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  • Giuffre, Liz, ed. Music in Comedy Television: Notes on Laughs. London and New York: Routledge, 2017.

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    Another book in the Routledge Music and Screen Media Series, it comprises twelve chapters chronicling the role of music in comedy television. Includes case studies of shows such as Saturday Night Live, Flight of the Conchords, and Sanford and Son.

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  • Leonard, Kendra Preston, ed. Buffy, Ballads, and Bad Guys Who Sing: Music in the Worlds of Joss Whedon. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2010.

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    Comprising twelve chapters, the book spans the role of music in Joss Whedon’s television works, such as Buffy, The Vampire Slayer; Firefly; Angel; and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. The chapters span from theory to analysis to cultural criticism of the role of both diegetic and nondiegetic music in these series.

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Book Chapters

The shows that have been discussed in book chapters typically date from the 1960s and the 1990s, though some have been written on television shows from the 1950s and the early 2000s. Bullins 2019, Kalinak 1995, Leonard 2010, Pelkey 2014, Pelkey 2019, Richardson 2004, and Wissner 2014 each discuss a single series, while Wissner 2019, Stilwell 2017, and Granade 2019 discuss multiple series.

  • Bullins, Jeffrey. “High-senberg Noon: Breaking Bad and the Sounds of the West.” In Re-locating the Sounds of the Western. Edited by Kendra Leonard and Mariana Whitmer, 43–56. London and New York: Routledge, 2019.

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    Bullins’s chapter unpacks the ways in which the use of western musical tropes in Breaking Bad illustrates the layers of meaning present in the show. The music of the show, Bullins argues, refers to the human condition, while at the same time showing an interest in the Western frontier.

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  • Granade, Andrew. “Sonic Markers of the Science Fiction Western.” In Re-locating the Sounds of the Western. Edited by Kendra Leonard and Mariana Whitmer, 74–89. London and New York: Routledge, 2019.

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    This chapter looks at the ways that music with tropes from the western have found their way into television. Focusing on shows such as Star Trek, Granade takes the reader through the use of these tropes from their context in the exploration of the western frontier to the final frontier known as space.

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  • Kalinak, Katherine. “‘Disturbing the Guests with This Racket’: Music and Twin Peaks.” In Full of Secrets: Critical Approaches to Twin Peaks. Edited by David Lavery, 82–92. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1995.

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    Kalinak’s essay explores the ways in which the music in the first two seasons of Twin Peaks plays with the diegesis. One of the series’ hallmarks is the use of the uncanny, and Kalinak explains how the use of music to defy audience expectations contributes to the series’ uncanniness.

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  • Leonard, Kendra Preston. “‘The Future Is Past’: Music and History in Firefly.” In Space and Time: Essays on Visions of History in Science Fiction and Fantasy. Edited by David C. Wright and Allen W. Austin, 174–188. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2010.

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    Leonard examines the intersection of East and West in the music of Firefly. She illustrates how this musical intersection contributes to an understanding of time in the series. She argues that there is a connection between Eastern music and futuristic music that orients the viewer.

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  • Pelkey, Stanley C., II. “Music, Maturity, and the Moral Geography in Leave It to Beaver (1957–1963).” In Anxiety Muted: American Film Music in a Suburban Age. Edited by Stanley C. Pelkey II and Anthony Bushard, 107–128. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2014.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199936151.003.0006Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This chapter considers the recurring music throughout the Leave It to Beaver series and analyzes how it contributes to the portrayal of morality. As a product of its time, the series presented a moral element, and one way that this was done was through the use of music. Pelkey also concentrates on two variations of the show’s theme and how this channels a sense of morality.

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  • Pelkey, Stanley C., II. “‘You Can’t Build an Empire without Getting a Mite Unscrupulous’: Music, Ethics, and Cold War Criticism in Doctor Who’s ‘The Gunfighters’ (1966).” In Re-locating the Sounds of the Western. Edited by Kendra Leonard and Mariana Whitmer, 90–110. London and New York: Routledge, 2019.

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    This chapter uses a single episode of the original Doctor Who as a case study for how tropes from the western are used in British science fiction television. Pelkey examines how this episode is unique in that it is a science fiction western and, for this reason, the music relocates the western into a British context while weaving in western musical tropes.

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  • Richardson, John. “Laura and Twin Peaks: Postmodern Parody and the Musical Reconstruction of the Absent Femme Fatale.” In The Cinema of David Lynch: American Dreams, Nightmare Visions. Edited by Erica Sheen and Annette Davison, 77–92. London and New York: Wallflower Press, 2004.

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    Richardson considers how the music in Twin Peaks contributes to the perception of the main character, Laura Palmer, as a parody of the filmic femme fatale. To do this, the author examines what he calls the series’ monothematic scoring to musically represent the characters’ sense of infatuation.

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  • Stilwell, Robynn. “Manifest Destiny, the Space Race, and 1960s Television.” In The Routledge Companion to Screen Music and Sound. Edited by Miguel Mera, Ronald Sadoff, and Ben Winters, 176–189. London and New York: Routledge, 2017.

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    Stillwell focuses her essay on the musical conveyance of time in science fiction television series of the Cold War, specifically during the Space Race. Her essay focuses on two series of the 1960s, Lost in Space and Star Trek, and one of the 1970s, Battlestar Galactica, and considers how the music reflects the principles of manifest destiny that was so prevalent during the Space Race.

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  • Wissner, Reba. “The Whole Truth: Music as Truth in The Twilight Zone.” In Anxiety Muted: American Film Music in a Suburban Age. Edited by Stanley C. Pelkey II and Anthony Bushard, 129–145. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2014.

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    Music can often show the audience what is truth and what is not truth before the visuals or dialogue do. This article is a case study of how this works in several episodes of The Twilight Zone, considering how certain musical styles reveal the truth of a situation on television better than others.

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  • Wissner, Reba. “From the Old West to the New Future: Stoney Burke, The Outer Limits, and the Daystar Stock Music Library.” In Re-locating the Sounds of the Western. Edited by Kendra Leonard and Mariana Whitmer, 111–130. London and New York: Routledge, 2019.

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    Because network and production companies maintained music libraries that would be reused in multiple shows, sometimes the reuse of music from one genre to another would occur. This article discusses the reuse of music from one production company’s western in that same production company’s science fiction show.

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Journal Articles

The articles that have been published on music in television tend to discuss a variety of types of music. Baltimore 2014 discusses the carnivalesque, Stilwell 2003 looks at the musical number in the sitcom, and Christiansen 2018 focuses on the comedic. Wissner 2015 discusses music in the future, while Wissner 2018 focuses on music and nostalgia. Wissner 2014 and Wissner 2017 illustrate compositional techniques, and Summers 2013 discusses otherness in science fiction.

  • Baltimore, Sam. “‘With My Freeze Ray, I Will Stop—:’ Carnival Incompleteness in Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog and ‘Once More, With Feeling.” Music and the Moving Image 7.1 (2014): 24–39.

    DOI: 10.5406/musimoviimag.7.1.0024Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Baltimore uses Mikhail Bakhtin’s theory of the carnivalesque to analyze the music in two of Joss Whedon’s television shows. He argues that it is the use of the inconclusiveness of the music that contributes to both series’ sense of the carnivalesque and provides the viewer with a sense of inconclusiveness.

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  • Christiansen, Paul. “‘And That’s Why You Always Leave a Note!’: Music as Comedic Element in the First Season of the Television Show Arrested Development.” Music and the Moving Image 11.1 (2018): 19–34.

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    This essay scrutinizes the role of music in the first season of Arrested Development and how it contributes to the series’ sense of comedy. Christiansen looks at the musical tropes used in the series and how they portray places, characters, and events. The discussion considers both newly composed and preexisting music.

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  • Stilwell, Robynn. “It May Look Like a Living Room . . .: The Musical Number and the Sitcom.” Echo 5.1 (2003)..

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    Stilwell’s essay focuses on the role of diegetic musical numbers in two television shows of the 1950s and 1960s: The Dick Van Dyke Show and I Love Lucy. Stilwell argues that the construction and use of the musical number in these early television shows have affected the ways in which they are used in modern television.

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  • Summers, Tim. “Star Trek and the Musical Depiction of the Alien Other.” Music, Sound, and the Moving Image 7.1 (2013): 19–52.

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    Summers discusses the musical representation of alien alterity in various series of the Star Trek franchise. He considers how the various representations of otherness carries across the franchise, including over multiple composers and iterations of the series.

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  • Wissner, Reba. “‘I Am Big, It’s the Pictures That Got Small’: Sound Technologies and Franz Waxman’s Scores for Sunset Boulevard (1950) and The Twilight Zone’s ‘The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine’ (1959).” Journal of Film Music 7.1 (2014): 79–95.

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    This article considers television and movie theater sound technology and how it affected the composition of a television show that was a condensed version of a film. By examining how television’s sound capabilities in the late 1950s were limited, the author shows that this was a consideration that the composer had to make in choosing how to score and orchestrate a television show, based on what sounds the average television set could audibly relay.

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  • Wissner, Reba. “For Want of a Better Estimate, Let’s Call It the Year 2000: The Twilight Zone, Brave New World, and the Aural Conception of a Dystopian Future.” Music and the Moving Image 8.3 (2015): 52–70.

    DOI: 10.5406/musimoviimag.8.3.0052Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This article concerns the use of the CBS television music library and the reuse of the “Brave New World” radio score by Bernard Hermann in The Twilight Zone episode “Number Twelve Looks Just Like You.” Through an analysis of the score, the author argues that the construction of the radio score and the topic of The Twilight Zone episode made it appropriate for depicting a futuristic utopia.

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  • Wissner, Reba. “Music for Murder, Machines, and Monsters: ‘Moat Farm Murder,’ The Twilight Zone and the CBS Stock Music Library.” Music, Sound, and the Moving Image 11.2 (2017): 157–186.

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    This article discusses the CBS music library and uses the radio score for “Moat Farm Murder” as a case study in how music reuse from radio to television works. By examining how Norman Corwin directed Bernard Herrmann to compose the music in the radio script, the author argues that this music makes it appropriate for use in science fiction, and shows how two cues can be used in a plethora of situations.

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  • Wissner, Reba. “No Time Like the Past: Hearing Nostalgia in The Twilight Zone.” Journal of Popular Television 6.1 (2018): 59–80.

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    This study focuses on the musical representation of nostalgia, specifically the nostalgia of both The Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling and the characters in his series. The crux of the article is that the music is a direct representative of the characters’ nostalgia and comes in three types: true nostalgia; nostalgia for a time before one’s own; and false, or misremembered, nostalgia.

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Dissertations

Dissertations on television music tend to fall into two categories: those that focus on a single television series or franchise, and those that consider multiple television series in the context of a framing device. Bochanty-Aguero 2009 considers the role of music in television and travel. Getman 2015 and Sommerfeld 2017 analyze the music of Star Trek. Harbert 2013 illustrates the use of music in American history television shows.

  • Bochanty-Aguero, Erica Jean. “Music that Moves: Television Music, Industrial Travel, and Consumer Agency in Contemporary Media Culture.” PhD diss., University of California at Los Angeles, 2009.

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    This film and television dissertation examines the role that music plays on television shows such as The O.C., American Dreams, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and The Simpsons in order to understand how music in these shows could help us to better understand the notion of what the author calls “musical travel.” It considers cultural meanings and politics and the role that music plays in television environments.

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  • Getman, Jessica Leah. “Music, Race, and Gender in the Original Series of Star Trek (1966–69).” PhD diss., University of Michigan, 2015.

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    Race and gender are an important part of the sound of Star Trek: The Original Series, which is the focus of this study. It considers how the series music represents the various levels of otherness depicted in the series.

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  • Harbert, Elisa. “Remembering the Revolution: Music in Stage and Screen Representations of Early America during the Bicentennial Years.” PhD diss., Northwestern University, 2013.

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    This dissertation contains chapters on the television series Roots and John Adams and examines the ways in which they represent early American life and music. These two television series are used as case studies for an examination of the Americana sound that is used on television.

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  • Sommerfeld, Paul Allen. “Scoring Star Trek’s Utopia: Musical Iconicity in the Star Trek Franchise, 1966–2016.” PhD diss., Duke University, 2017.

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    This dissertation analyzes the musical representation of utopia in Star Trek’s varying television and film franchises. It takes the reader through all of its incarnations to show how there is a specific sound of utopia present throughout the television and filmic franchise.

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Periodicals

Periodicals such as Variety and Billboard include a plethora of industry information, some of which pertains to music on television. Historical magazines such as Broadcasting, Sponsor, and Television-Radio Age illustrate television issues in their early period. Publications such as The Cue Sheet are meant for both professional and lay readers.

Blog Entries

Scholarly blog entries are emerging as one of the newest ways for one to obtain accessibly written information about a source. Lehman 2017, McCorkle 2017, Reed 2017, Wissner 2017a, and Wissner 2017b evaluate the music from Twin Peaks. Leonard 2014 examines the music of a single composer. Wissner 2016 considers the sound of science fiction and fear in several shows.

Early Studies

Some of the earliest secondary sources on television music date from the 1950s and 1960s. However, Heylbut 1945, Bowman 1949a, and Bowman 1949b are the earliest published sources about the role of music on television. Dolan 1967 and Tannenbaum 1956 are basic studies of how music functions in television, but they are also sources written about the techniques of television music composition.

  • Bowman, Roger. “Music for Films and Television.” Film Music Notes 8.5 (1949a): 20.

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    The author discusses the function of music in film and television as well as film in this short essay. It is geared more toward the understanding of the role of music in film and television rather than a compositional resource.

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  • Bowman, Roger. “New Regulations Proposed for Music in TV Films.” Film Music Notes 9.2 (1949b): 6.

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    The author tackles the changes in musical restrictions and necessities in television film music composition, relative to the music already being composed. This is targeted more toward the lay reader rather than composers.

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  • Dolan, Robert Emmett. Music in Modern Media: Techniques in Tape, Disc, and Film Recording, Motion Picture and Television Scoring and Electronic Music. New York: Schirmer, 1967.

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    Dolan’s book serves as a contemporary history of the innovation of television scoring during the 1950s and 1960s. It examines different techniques for television composition, including electronic and tape composition.

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  • Heylbut, Rose. “The Background of Background Music: How NBC’s Experts Fit Music to Dramatic Shows.” Etude 63 (1945): 493–494.

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    Heylbut discusses the process of background underscoring in television programs. She focuses on NBC and provides information about how underscoring is done, providing information for the interested reader, not necessarily the television music professional.

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  • Tannenbaum, Percy H. “Music Background in the Judgment of Stage and Television Drama.” Audiovisual Communication Review 4.2 (1956): 92–101.

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    One of the earliest studies on the role of music underscoring in television drama, Tannenbaum’s essay examines how background music in dramas can affect the audience and how they determine the effectiveness of the show. The article presents the results of his research study on this subject by using a single television play in a focus group.

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Composer-Focused Studies

For all of the television composers, few composer-focused studies have been published, and these are on composers who have also worked in film. Audissino 2018 assesses the life and work of John Williams, while Levinson 2005 considers the works of Nelson Riddle.

  • Audissino, Emilio. John Williams: Music for Film, Television, and the Concert Stage. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 2018.

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    While this book is an examination of Williams’s music for the screen, it mainly focuses on his music for film. However, it does spend some time looking at and analyzing Williams’s music for television series such as Lost in Space.

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  • Levinson, Peter J. September in the Rain: The Life of Nelson Riddle. New York: Taylor Trade Publishing, 2005.

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    More of a biography than an examination of his works, this book chronicles Riddle’s life on and off the scoring stage. Levinson’s work does consider his work on shows such as Route 66, but does not spend any time analyzing or considering the compositions in detail.

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General Television Music Studies

The books that have been written on music in television mainly concentrate on single shows rather than being genre- or topic-based works. Bond 1999, Norelli 2017, Wissner 2013, and Wissner 2016 provide information on a single show, while Donnelly 2005, Halfyard 2016, Lehman 2018, Leonard 2009, Rodman 2009, and Tagg and Clarida 2003 are general overviews of various shows.

  • Bond, Jeff. The Music of Star Trek. Los Angeles: Lone Eagle Press, 1999.

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    This book considers the music of the Star Trek franchise in its various television series and movies. It features chapters about the music from each franchise as well as interviews with several of the series composers.

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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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    This study is evenly split between film and television. Donnelly argues that music is a powerful emotive tool for audiences, one that can control viewers and their emotions while watching the onscreen action. His book not only focuses on traditional film music, but also the use of popular music in film to achieve these reactions.

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  • Halfyard, Janet. Sounds of Fear and WonderMusic in Cult TV. London and New York: I. B. Taurus, 2016.

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    Halfyard’s study examines the role that music plays in cult television shows. Her book is a series of case studies on shows such as Buffy, The Vampire Slayer; Dexter; and Hannibal. She provides a history of television scoring for cult shows and then dives into the nature of scoring for these types of shows, differentiating them both from film scoring and from the television scoring of the Golden Age and non-cult shows.

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  • Lehman, Frank. Hollywood Harmony. New York: Oxford University Press, 2018.

    DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190606398.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Although the title of this monograph refers to film music, Lehman includes studies of television shows. Through the lens of musico-theoretical subjects such as Neo-Riemannian theory, Lehman covers shows such as Twin Peaks: The Return and The X-Files.

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  • Leonard, Kendra Preston. Shakespeare, Madness, and Music: Scoring Insanity in Cinematic Adaptations. Lanham., MD: Scarecrow Press, 2009.

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    Leonard’s monograph mainly focuses on the role of music and madness in filmic representation of Shakespeare. However, she does examine some television adaptations and the function of music to represent mental illness.

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  • Norelli, Clare Nina. Angelo Badalamenti’s Soundtrack from Twin Peaks. New York: Bloomsbury, 2017.

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    Norelli’s monograph, part of Bloomsbury’s 33 1/3 Series, is the first complete book on the music of Twin Peaks. Her guide is to the soundtrack release, but she talks about the compositional process and information gleaned from interviews with people such as composer Angelo Badalamenti. While the focus is on the soundtrack, she writes about the music in the context of its use in the series’ first two seasons.

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

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195340242.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    One of the most comprehensive books on the subject, Rodman’s study takes a topic-based, musico-theoretical approach to television music, focusing on genres such as westerns, science fiction, and police procedurals, and uses several different shows and episodes in each genre as case studies.

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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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    Although this book spends most of its space focused on film music, Tagg and Clarida examine, in part, the role that music plays in television shows such as The Virginian and Miami Vice. The book is written using the frame of musical semiotics.

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  • Wissner, Reba. A Dimension of Sound: Music in The Twilight Zone. Hillsdale, NY: Pendragon Press, 2013.

    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctv1qv307Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This book focuses on the 1959–1964 iteration of The Twilight Zone, examining the music of each newly scored episode and the composers who wrote them, as well as library scoring practices. The study is grounded in archival and primary source study.

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  • Wissner, Reba. We Will Control All That You Hear: The Outer Limits and the Aural Imagination. Hillsdale, NY: Pendragon Press, 2016.

    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctv1qv1wwSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Focusing on the 1963–1965 version of The Outer Limits, this study is broken into three parts. First, the library music and its origins; second, the music from season one, composed by Dominic Frontiere and Robert Van Eps; and third, the music from season two, composed by Harry Lubin. The book’s material is very archival and primary-source heavy.

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Sound Effects and Sound Design

Though not about television music per say, sound effects and sound design are crucial for understanding television music studies, as they provide another layer of sound making. Gopinath 2013, Whittington 2007, Marshall and Loydell 2019, and Donaldson 2017 address sound effects and sound design, focusing on how they are made, some of which overlaps with the process of dubbing music into television. Turnbull 1951, VanCour 2017, and Mott 1990 discuss the sonic profiles of early television, which was a product of its live format, which also affected the ways in which the music was broadcast for those shows.

  • Donaldson, Lucy Fife. “‘You Have to Feel a Sound for It to Be Effective’: Sonic Surfaces in Film and Television.” In The Routledge Companion to Screen Music and Sound. Edited by Miguel Mera, Ronald Sadoff, and Ben Winters, 85–96. London and New York: Routledge, 2017.

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    This essay examines the show Mad Men through the lens of the creation of sound apparatuses in television by considering the role that sound effects and mixing plays in the final version of various episodes. Fife also examines how one can feel sound in a television show, considering how sound is an experience.

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  • Gopinath, Sumanth. The Ringtone Dialectic: Economy and Cultural Form. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2013.

    DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262019156.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Gopinath treats the ringtone from a musico-theoretical perspective. Chapter 8 of the book examines the extensive presence of ringtones in television serials, making the case that in English-language television, the most interesting and meaningful use of ringtones appeared in The Sopranos.

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  • Marshall, Kingsley, and Rupert Loydell. “‘Listen to the Sounds’: Sound and Storytelling in Twin Peaks: The Return.” In Critical Essays on Twin Peaks: The Return. Edited by Antonio Sanna, 269–280. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-04798-6_17Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Kingsley and Marshall illustrate the way that contemporary sound design is used on television to convey information. They focus on the most recent iteration of the Twin Peaks series, Twin Peaks: The Return, to show how sound design can be both informational and innovative.

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  • Mott, Robert L. Sound Effects: Radio, TV, and Film. Waltham, MA: Focal Press, 1990.

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    Written by a sound effects artist from radio and television, Mott’s book takes the reader through the industry practices of creating sound effects. The book primarily focuses mainly on radio, film, and television from the 1930s to the 1960s.

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  • Turnbull, Robert B. Radio and Television Sound Effects: With Drawings by the Author. New York: Rinehart, 1951.

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    Turnbull’s guide to radio and television sound effects was the first of its kind to be published. It examines how radio and television sound was made before the increased use of Foley techniques and during television’s earliest years.

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  • VanCour, Shawn. “From Radio to Television: Sound Style and Audio Technique in Early TV Anthology Dramas.” In The Routledge Companion to Screen Music and Sound. Edited by Miguel Mera, Ronald Sadoff, and Ben Winters, 163–175. London and New York: Routledge, 2017.

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    This chapter outlines the sonic style of early television anthologies from the 1950s and 1960s. Because these shows were most often broadcast live, the audio technique was very specific and led to future practices in the television industry. VanCour considers the role of the sound style in the aesthetics of the early television anthologies.

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  • Whittington, William. Sound Design and Science Fiction. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2007.

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    While most of the focus in Whittington’s book is on the role and use of sound design in science fiction film, he does spend some time throughout the book also discussing its role in television. His book delves into industry practices, as he worked as a sound designer for science fiction film and television.

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Television Sound

Television sound, or the particular sonic qualities of television music and sound, has become a topic of interest for both music and media historians. Altman 1986 covers the theory of television sound, while Enns 2018 and Høier 2018 consider the positioning and placement of television’s sonic qualities.

Cartoon and Animated Music

The study of music in animation is relatively new. As a result, there are few scholarly sources, and those that are available typically date from within the past fourteen years. The methodologies of these sources are also wide ranging, from archival to analytical, musicological to ethnomusicological. Goldmark 2005 focuses on the music of children’s cartoons, while Bridges 2017 discusses music in animation aimed at adults. Scoggin 2016 addresses music in a cartoon that is geared toward both children and adults.

  • Bridges, Rose. Yōko Kanno’s Cowboy Bebop Soundtrack. New York: Bloomsbury, 2017.

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    The first release in Bloomsbury’s 33 1/3 Japan series, Bridges takes the reader on a narrative tour of the soundtrack for the Japanese anime Cowboy Bebop. Bridges considers the background of the score as well as the contributions that it makes toward understanding the series.

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

    DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520236172.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Although some of the focus of this book is on filmic cartoons and MGM cartoons, Goldmark does discuss the role of music in Looney Tunes cartoons in his first, fourth, and fifth chapters. Goldmark examines the role of classical music, as well as swing and jazz, in television cartoons of the 1940s to 1960s.

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  • Scoggin, Lisa. The Music of Animaniacs: Postmodern Nostalgia in a Cartoon World. Hillsdale, NY: Pendragon Press, 2016.

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    Scoggin’s study concentrates on the Warner Brothers cartoon Animaniacs, from the 1990s. Scoggin examines how the music of the animated series contributes to a sense of postmodern nostalgia for the viewers who were most likely adults who grew up with the cartoons of Carl Stalling and their music.

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Industry Practices

In order to understand television music, one must understand the industry practices that are employed in the composition, recording, use, and reuse of television music. The sources on industry practice discuss union parameters (Burlingame 1997), performing rights organizations (Sanjek and Sanjek 1991 and Sanjek 1988), composition techniques and performance experiences (Christlieb 1996), and library and production music (Hollander and Romero 2018 and Mandell 2002), including the ways in which networks decide to use music that was composed for television shows.

  • Burlingame, Jon. For the Record: The Struggle and Ultimate Political Rise of American Recording Musicians within Their Labor Movement. Los Angeles: Recording Musicians Association, 1997.

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    This book chronicles the beginnings of the music labor union and the union’s struggles regarding the advent of recording in the film and television industry. It is, however, a thin book with a limited scope, and not well cited.

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  • Christlieb, Don. Recollections of a First Chair Bassoonist: 52 Years in the Hollywood Studio Orchestras. Los Angeles: Christlieb Products, 1996.

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    This book is a memoir of a studio bassoonist who worked in film and television projects. He chronicles some of the studio recording practices in television, as well as industry norms in television music.

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  • Hollander, David, and George Romero. Unusual Sounds: The Hidden History of Library Music. Laverne, TN: Anthology Editions, 2018.

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    This book not only considers the role of library music in the television industry, but also examines the different music libraries used for television. It does not, however, discuss the network music libraries of companies such as CBS and ABC, nor does it provide an overview of the entire system.

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  • Mandell, Paul. “Production Music in Television’s Golden Age: An Overview.” In Performing Arts Broadcasting. Edited by Iris Newsom, 148–169. Washington, DC: Library of Congress, 2002.

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    Written for a general audience, Mandell chronicles the use of television music libraries in the medium’s infancy. He examines the role and practice of production music libraries and outlines the major ones that were in use through the 1960s.

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  • Sanjek, Russell. American Popular Music and Its Business: The First Four Hundred Years. Vol. 3, From 1900–1984. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.

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    The third volume in a three-volume set, this book covers the most recent popular music business information as of its publication date. It covers the role of performance rights organizations on popular music on television and the role that television played in the reception and broadcasting of popular music.

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  • Sanjek, Russell, and David Sanjek. American Popular Music Business in the 20th Century. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991.

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    The authors’ volume, while it focuses on American popular music, does contain some information pertaining to the rights use of popular music on television. One chapter concerns the merchandising of music on television and the role of BMI in television music broadcasting.

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Composition Practices

Some television composers have written articles and guidebooks for television music composition originally meant as pedagogical tools for the emerging composer. They also offer examples from that composer’s television music and provide insight into practices used in television music composition. Schifrin 2011 and Skiles 1976 give information about general compositional practices for television scores, while Steiner 1985 specifically addresses the compositional practices necessary for composing scores for one television series.

  • Schifrin, Lalo. Music Composition for Film and Television. Boston: Berklee Press, 2011.

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    Schifrin’s book is a guide to how to compose music for film and television. While it is a pedagogical tool and was written relatively recently, it provides the researcher with a sense as to how Schifrin and his contemporaries approached television composition during the medium’s so-called Golden Age.

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  • Skiles, Marlin. Music Scoring for TV and Motion Pictures. Blue Ridge Summit, PA: Tab Books, 1976.

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    This book was written by a television and film composer about the industry practices of film and television composition. Although it provides an insight into compositional practices and styles from the 1950s to the 1970, it gives the researcher an idea of music industry workings.

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  • Steiner, Frederick. “Music for Star Trek: Scoring a Television Show in the Sixties.” In Wonderful Inventions: Motion Pictures, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound at the Library of Congress. Edited by Iris Newsome, 287–309. Washington, DC: Library of Congress, 1985.

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    In this article, Steiner recounts his experience composing and compiling scores for Star Trek: The Original Series. He discusses both the compositional processes and industry practices regarding network music libraries during the 1960s.

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Interviews

Within the study of television music, interviews with composers are both crucial and sparse. However, there are some sources that contain these interviews, although they are not very up-to-date. Hoover 2010 provides written interviews with recent composers, while the website of the Television Academy Foundation contains an archive of video interviews with television composers of the Golden Age.

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

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    This volume contains interviews with television composers who were active over the previous decade, accessing information about their work and compositional processes. Interviews include Bear McCreary, James Dooley, Murray Gold, Christopher Lennertz, Michael, Levine, Stu Phillips, and Nathan Barr.

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  • Television Academy Foundation. The Interviews.

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    This video archive contains several hundred interviews with actors, directors, producers, and composers. Some of the composers included are Fred Steiner, Jerry Goldsmith, Earle Hagen, and Gerald Fried. In these interviews, the composers recount specific information about their compositional process in writing for specific television series and episodes.

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Television Themes

Some of the earliest and most wide-ranging work on television music was written about television themes. Burlingame 1996 is concerned with a variety of television themes, while Getman 2015, Kutnowski 2008, and Tagg 1979 are concerned with a single television show theme.

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

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    Written from a journalism and popular media angle, this study contains the stories of the genesis of the most popular television theme songs from the 1960s to the 1990s. It includes interviews with the composers about the composition and compositional process of writing these themes. A new edition is forthcoming.

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  • Getman, Jessica L. “A Series on the Edge: Social Tension in Star Trek’s Title Cue.” Journal of the Society for American Music 9.3 (2015): 293–320.

    DOI: 10.1017/S1752196315000188Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    In this article about Alexander Courage’s title theme for Star Trek: The Original Series, Getman takes the reader through the evolution of the theme, providing primary source information. Getman argues that the theme was a product of its time and a direct result of the aesthetic that creator Gene Roddenberry had envisioned for the series.

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  • Kutnowski, Martin. “Trope and Irony in The Simpsons’ Overture.” Popular Music and Society 5 (2008): 599–616.

    DOI: 10.1080/03007760802188363Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Kutnowski’s study considers how the theme song of The Simpsons can influence the perception that the audience has on the show as a whole. The article examines how the music in this theme conveys a sense of irony and portrays the comedic contradictions often present in the series as a whole.

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  • Tagg, Philip. Kojak: 50 Seconds of Television Music. New York and Montreal: Mass Media Music Scholars’ Press, 1979.

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    Tagg’s monograph, which was originally his doctoral dissertation, focuses on the title cue for Kojak. Tagg argues that we cannot use traditional musicological methods to understand or analyze the title music for the series. This study examines the title cue with a musico-theoretical lens and discusses it using semiotic theory.

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Popular Music

Not to be confused with studies on popular music performance on television, such as in performance reality shows, there is a body of literature on popular music in television as part of the show’s diegesis. Anderson 2010, Donnelly 2002, London 2014, Woods 2013, and Coates 2007 critique the role of popular music in television dramas. Lury 2002 considers the role of music in children’s television on their development. Fairchild 2019, Frith 2002, and Forman 2012 cover the history of popular music on television.

  • Anderson, Tim J. “Uneasy Listening: Music, Sound, and Criticizing Camelot in Mad Men.” In Mad Men: Dream Come True TV. Edited by Gary Edgerton, 72–85. London and New York: I. B. Tauris, 2010.

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    Anderson considers the cultural contribution that the music used in Mad Men has made to establishing the show’s musical heritage. The author hones in on specific popular songs and how they create the construction of a world that confronts the onscreen events and allows the viewer to better understand those events though music.

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  • Coates, Norma. “Filling in Holes: Television Music as a Recuperation of Popular Music on Television.” Music, Sound, and the Moving Image 1.1 (2007): 21–25.

    DOI: 10.3828/msmi.1.1.5Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This short article covers various aspects of television music, both as television underscore and as popular music performance. Coates examines shows such as Grey’s Anatomy in the context of the use of indie music and how it may help to draw in a particular type of audience,

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  • Donnelly, K. J. “Tracking British Television: Pop Music as Stock Soundtrack to the Small Screen.” Popular Music 21.3 (2002): 331–343.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0261143002002210Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Donnelly’s study considers how popular music began to be used a stock music for television shows in the 1990s, following the trajectory of film in the 1980s. This article examines the shift of the use of popular music in British television as both diegetic and nondiegetic music.

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  • Fairchild, Charles. Sounds, Screens, Speakers: An Introduction to Music and Media. New York and London: Bloomsbury, 2019.

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    Fairchild’s volume contains a broad history of music and media, but it also contains a chapter on popular music on television during the 1960s and 1970s, and one on music reality television shows such as American Idol. The book serves as an introduction to music and media, and these chapters provide history and analysis of these topics.

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  • Forman, Murray. One Night on TV is Worth Weeks at the Paramount: Popular Music on Early Television. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2012.

    DOI: 10.1215/9780822394181Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Forman covers the important role that television played in the dissemination and marketing of popular music. He covers television mainly in the late 1940s and 1950s and discusses how the new medium was used to help artists gain broad audiences and create performing styles that we know today.

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  • Frith, Simon. “Look! Hear! The Uneasy Relationship of Music and Television.” Popular Music 21.3 (2002): 277–290.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0261143002002180Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Discussing the role of television in the creation of popular music aesthetics, Frith offers how rock ‘n’ roll worked in tandem with television to have an impact on musical culture. He notes that while television tends to not be a part of musical culture, without it the popular music today might be different.

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  • London, Samantha. “Late-Adolescence in the American Sixties: ‘The Twist’ and the Twentysomethings in AMC’s Mad Men (2007–).” In Anxiety Muted: American Film Music in a Suburban Age. Edited by Stanley C. Pelkey II and Anthony Bushard, 224–238. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2014.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199936151.003.0012Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This chapter scrutinizes the role of music in the portrayals of issues of race, gender, adolescence, and sexuality in Mad Men. London uses Chubby Checker’s “The Twist” as a case study for illustrating the portrayal of these issues in the series, especially concerning adolescence and gender.

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  • Lury, Karen. “Chewing Gum for the Ears: Children’s Television and Popular Music.” Popular Music 21.3 (2002): 291–305.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0261143002002192Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Focusing on the role of what Lury calls “bubblegum music,” this essay considers how the use of popular music in children’s television shows can contribute to the development of children’s taste. Lury writes that popular music or music written in a popular style for children’s television shows can enhance the way children learn to watch television.

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  • Woods, Faye. “Storytelling in Song: Television Music, Narrative and Allusion in The O.C.” In Television Aesthetics and Style. Edited by J. Jacobs and S. Peacock, 199–208. London: Bloomsbury, 2013.

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    Woods’s essay considers how music in The O.C. works as both a storytelling tool and a way to illustrate character identity. This is done through an examination of musical moments that use popular music as part of the narrative.

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Classical Music

Classical music and opera were an important part of early television, and several studies tackle this history. Barnes 1994, Barnes 2003, and Ward-Griffin 2019 consider the history of television opera. Burke 1965 and Ward-Griffin 2018 consider the NBC Opera Theater. VanCour 2016 discusses classical music on television.

  • Barnes, Jennifer. “Television Opera: A Non History.” In A Night in at the Opera: Media Representations of Opera. Edited by Jeremy Tambling, 25–51. London: John Libbey & Company, 1994.

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    Barnes gives an abridged history of opera broadcasting on television. This is a shortened article that would later be a part of her Television Opera book. It considers the way television opera functions on television.

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  • Barnes, Jennifer. Television Opera: The Fall of Opera Commissioned for Television. Woodbridge, UK: Boydell Press, 2003.

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    In this book, Barnes considers the role of opera on television and how television broadcasting has influenced the staging and reception of opera on television. Her focus here is on operas that were specifically commissioned to be broadcast on network television in the United States and United Kingdom between 1951 and 2002.

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  • Burke, Richard C. “The NBC Opera Theater.” Journal of Broadcasting 10.1 (1965): 13–23.

    DOI: 10.1080/08838156509386175Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This article outlines the role of television in the creation of opera lovers. Burke credits the NBC Opera Theater and its productions with making opera in demand on television. He chronicles this history and the role that NBC played in televised opera programming.

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  • VanCour, Shawn. “Spectacular Sound: Classical Music Programming and the Problem of ‘Visual Interest’ in Early US Television.” In Music and the Broadcast Experience: Performance, Production, and Audiences. Edited by Christina L. Baade and James Deaville, 91–107. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199314706.003.0004Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    In this study, VanCour considers production and broadcasting practices and the role that they played in televised classical music programming. He considers how the classical music program was considered an acceptable type in the medium’s early period.

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  • Ward-Griffin, Danielle. “As Seen on TV: Putting the NBC Opera on Stage.” Journal of the American Musicological Society 71.3 (2018): 595–654.

    DOI: 10.1525/jams.2018.71.3.595Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Drawing on archival research, Ward-Griffin delineates televised opera from staged opera, and shows how television requires fundamental staging practices. Her article uses the NBC Opera Theater as a case study for this, examining several live performances and providing an understanding of what she calls “multimedial transfer” in opera.

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  • Ward-Griffin, Danielle. “Up Close and Personal: Opera and Television Broadcasting in the 1950s.” Journal of the Society of American Music 13.2 (2019): 216–231.

    DOI: 10.1017/S1752196319000087Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This article explicitly focuses on televised opera during the 1950s and the ways in which these broadcasts attempted to draw in new viewers. Ward-Griffin uses two NBC Opera Company productions that functioned as operatic pedagogy to teach potential viewers about opera.

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News

Only one publication as of this printing covers the role of music in television news. Deaville 2018 offers a profile of music and sound on television news.

Advertising and Commercials

Music plays a large role in television advertising, and several scholars focus on how music functions as a persuasive medium. Graakjae 2015, Huron 1989, Cook 1994, Pekkilä 1997, and Rodman 1997 discuss the persuasive power of music in television advertising. Karmen 1989 and Scott 1990 examine the composition and role of advertising jingles. Love 2019 does a little of both in an evaluation of music in television advertising for Pepsi-Cola.

  • Cook, Nicholas. “Music and Meaning in the Commercials.” Popular Music 13.1 (1994): 27–40.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0261143000006826Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This article considers the role of music in television commercials and the ways in which commercials acquire their meaning through music. Cook takes on the role of music as communication device in order to make his determination.

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  • Graakjae, Nicolai Jørgensgaard. Analyzing Music in Advertising: Television Commercials and Consumer Choice. New York and London: Routledge, 2015.

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    This book offers a discussion about the ways that music is used in television advertising. Graakjae considers the role that music plays in the marketing of products; how and where it is placed (whether on television or on the Internet); and the musical signification, structures, and functions common to successful advertising music.

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  • Huron, David. “Music in Advertising: An Analytic Paradigm.” Musical Quarterly 73.4 (1989): 557–574.

    DOI: 10.1093/mq/73.4.557Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Huron outlines the structural functions of music and how they are employed in advertising. While the article is not solely dedicated to television, it discusses the implications of music use on television and radio broadcast advertising.

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  • Karmen, Steve. Through the Jingle Jungle: The Art and Business of Making Music for Commercials. New York: Billboard Books, 1989.

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    Karmen’s study functions as an instructional guide to writing successful television jingles. It presents a brief history of the medium, followed by concrete tips for composing jingles that will work. He also covers some pertinent business, financial, and production aspects.

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  • Love, Joanna K. Soda Goes Pop: Pepsi-Cola Advertising and Popular Music. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2019.

    DOI: 10.3998/mpub.9536286Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Love’s study considers the role that television and popular music played in the advertising success of Pepsi-Cola. Drawing on archival documents, she presents the business of advertising with the musical and televisual strategies for making a successful musical ad campaign.

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  • Pekkilä, Erkki. “Connotative Meaning and Advertising Music.” Applied Semiotics 2.4 (1997): 119–131.

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    Pekkilä confronts musical semiotics head-on by discussing how music in advertising works with the consumer’s music in everyday life. The article focuses on how music achieves its meaning through the borrowing of devices such as cultural meanings.

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  • Rodman, Ronald. “And Now an Ideology from Our Sponsor.” College Music Symposium 37 (1997): 29–48.


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    Rodman covers the use of musical semiotics in creating successful advertising music on television. Drawing on a knowledge of musical style topics combined with analysis, he provides a framework for analyzing television advertising music.

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  • Scott, Linda. “Understanding Jingles and Needledrop: A Rhetorical Approach.” Journal of Consumer Research 17.2 (1990): 223–236.

    DOI: 10.1086/208552Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This article serves to illustrate the importance of the audience’s ability to decipher musical meaning in television advertising. Scott presents an argument that supports the ability to analyze advertising music according to rhetorical structures that will allow us to better understand the construction of successful advertising music.

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Television Music and Philosophy

The study of television music and philosophy is relatively new. To date, there is only one article on the subject. Wissner 2018 illustrates that the principles of philosophy can be applied to television music analysis.

  • Wissner, Reba A. “What Are You Hearing?” In The Twilight Zone and Philosophy. Edited by Alexander E. Hooke and Heather River, 77–86. Chicago: Open Court Press, 2018.

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    This article is written from the perspective of music and philosophy regarding the music of several episodes of The Twilight Zone. Covering several scores from the series, it examines the notion of whether or not the music of an episode can accurately convey the states of dreams and imagination that are depicted.

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