[Smt-talk] theory of film music

Burton, Deborah burtond at bu.edu
Fri Jul 4 11:53:05 PDT 2014

Just a quick observation that film music developed from opera (especially Wagnerian and post-Wagnerian types) and that any in-depth analysis of it should recognize this aspect.  (Vertigo is so Tristan-esque it is practically plagiarism.)

Although music in an opera occupies the "first place" (in that all the other elements are heard/seen though its filter), while film music functions as a secondary layer added to the visual/dramatic, the musical techniques and the complexities of narrativity, are very similar and should not be ignored.

Deborah Burton
Boston University
burtond at bu.edu
From: Smt-talk [smt-talk-bounces at lists.societymusictheory.org] on behalf of Nicolas Meeùs [nicolas.meeus at scarlet.be]
Sent: Thursday, July 03, 2014 5:26 PM
To: kos at panix.com; smt-talk at societymusictheory.org
Subject: Re: [Smt-talk] theory of film music

In addition to all the answers concerning film music in particular, I'd like to raise the question of music analysis in general, and its relation to narrative analysis (or other forms of analyses pointing outside the music itself) in particular. This, I think, may become one of the topics discussed in EuroMAC 8, the European Conference on Music Analysis to be held in Leuven next September and to which many of you will participate.

The point, I think, concerns the definition of music analysis itself, either as a general approach overarching any discourse about music not exclusively historical, or as a specific discipline dealing with music considered from the inside.

I am among the ones, as is Bob apparently, who believe that "the internal evidence of the music offers more insight into understanding it" – "as music", I'd add. Music analysis (call it music theory, if you prefer), to me, is about the internal evidence of the music. That is to say that, say, acoustic analysis, or performance analysis, or narrative analysis, or music criticism, or anything of the like, as interesting as they may be, are not part of music analysis properly speaking.

This is not a value judgment about disciplines, merely a matter of definition. I don't think we need music analysis as an overarching discipline, in which everything would be included – this was the disastrous fate of semiotics, some time ago. I do believe that we would gain keeping all these cousin disciplines separate, strictly defined, and as complementary to each other as possible.

This being said, I do believe that narrative analysis is particularly needed, in the case of film music, to help music analysis properly speaking; it cannot replace music analysis, however, and I see no reason why narratologists should claim performing music analysis properly speaking, nor why music analysts properly speaking should feel in any way dependent on narratology.

Nicolas Meeùs
Professeur émérite
Université Paris-Sorbonne

Le 3/07/2014 06:06, kos at panix.com<mailto:kos at panix.com> a écrit :
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
--- My opinions do not necessarily represent those of my institutions ---

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