[Smt-talk] theory of film music

David Bashwiner david.bashwiner at gmail.com
Thu Jul 3 13:08:46 PDT 2014


I'm really glad you asked this question. It's one that I've been thinking
about for several years, and somehow I never thought to just ask the list.

I wrote about this issue recently in a chapter titled "Musical Analysis for
Multimedia: A Perspective from Music Theory," published in a book called *The
Psychology of Music in Multimedia
2013, edited by Siu-Lan Tan et al.). In that chapter, my aim was to
demonstrate that both psychological studies (focused on multimedia) and
film studies will benefit by looking at music structurally, not merely
emotionally/dramatically. In the first half of the chapter, I demonstrate
some of the pitfalls that can come from assuming that Barber's *Adagio for
Strings* is simply "sad" and leaving it at that. I do this by closely
analyzing the opening passage—which, though in a minor key, begins and ends
on a major chord and spends more time on the major chords of the key than
on the minor or diminished chords. Its affective resonances and
tendencies—its affordances—are thus multivalent, changing from moment to
moment. I show how understanding this at the musico-structural level is
valuable if not crucial to understanding how the piece functions in a film
like *Platoon*. In the second half of the chapter, I look at some of the
superficial statements made by bloggers and reviewers about the use of the
*Allegretto* of Beethoven's seventh symphony in the climactic scene of *The
King's Speech, *and again I show how a close structural analysis of the
music—especially as it interacts with camerawork and dialog overlay—is
crucial to getting a full and accurate sense of how the music is
functioning in this scene.

I'm sending you a pdf of this chapter off-list, and if anyone else wants
one please let me know.

You should also take a look at the work of Frank Lehman
<http://as.tufts.edu/music/faculty/bios/lehman.htm> if you don't already
know it. I'm looking forward to hearing if anyone else has any further


*David Bashwiner*
Assistant Professor of Music Theory
University of New Mexico
Center for the Arts, Rm 2103
MSC04 2570
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, NM  87131-0001
(505) 277-4449
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