[Smt-talk] FW: theory of film music

Phillip Dineen murraydineen at uottawa.ca
Thu Jul 3 11:15:00 PDT 2014

Bob. There was a time in Film Theory when something like the equivalent of what Charles calls "the score itself" was the object from which an important body of narrative conclusions were drawn. Precisely how this relates to your preference for empiricism is unclear, however, I must confess. I'm thinking primarily of Christian Metz's work, long out of date in films studies circles now. Metz wrote three books on cinematic language. Like Barthes's early work, the debt to Saussurian structuralism is palpable. Again, let me suggest that the problem lies in empiricism. Given the "linguistic turn," any pretensions the structuralist project had for empiricism were qualified by the evolving theory of critical mind in Continental circles. Using Metz to analyze film would be as fascinating and difficult a project as using the Structuralist poetics people -- Jakobson and other members of the Prague school -- to analyze Schubert. But it needs to be done.

Murray Dineen
University of Ottawa
murraydineen at uottawa.ca 
From: Smt-talk [smt-talk-bounces at lists.societymusictheory.org] on behalf of Leinberger, Charles F. [charlesl at utep.edu]
Sent: 03 July 2014 11:45
To: 'kos at panix.com'; smt-talk at societymusictheory.org
Subject: Re: [Smt-talk] theory of film music


Excellent observation.  Film musicology has much more in common with history and literature than it does with music theory.  We spend a great deal of time discussing events (technological, cultural, economic, political) leading up to the creation of a film score, and the subsequent influence of that score on other film composers, but little time if any on the score itself.  Rarely does this involve an analytical approach like what we do in theory.  As you accurately suggest, this has much to do with the lack of published or even archived film scores.  Also, every composer's music presents a different set of logistics.  Some are in archives, like the Warner Bros. Archive at USC.  Mary are not.


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-----Original Message-----
From: Smt-talk [mailto:smt-talk-bounces at lists.societymusictheory.org] On Behalf Of kos at panix.com
Sent: Wednesday, July 02, 2014 10:06 PM
To: smt-talk at societymusictheory.org
Subject: [Smt-talk] theory of film music

Hey folks,

I know lots of you are interested in "film music" although it almost never is written about on SMT-TALK.

My recent perusal of the book "Music and Levels of Narration in Film: Steps Across the Border" by Guido Heldt (Chicago: Intellect, 2013) reminded me of one of my ongoing questions concerning film music studies, in that a noticeably large group of writers take their cue from film studies and use narrativity as the basis for understanding film music.

While understanding narrative is essential to understanding how music operates in a film, I'm often disappointed in that I see no further dissection of the music.  My own bias is empiricism:  I feel that--in general--the internal evidence of the music can offer more insight into understanding music.  I see this *rarely* discussed in film music - and when it is written about, it's usually in the context of how to write music for films.  (I often imagine that, because it's so difficult to get a film score, people have derived analytical modes that consider the written score irrelevant.)

I see the above is purely musicological.  Beyond the narrativity movement, can anyone point to writings that attempt to deal with film music as part of music theory?

Bob Kosovsky, Ph.D. -- Curator, Rare Books and Manuscripts, Music Division, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts
blog:  http://www.nypl.org/blog/author/44   Twitter: @kos2
   Listowner: OPERA-L ; SMT-TALK ; SMT-ANNOUNCE ; SoundForge-users
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