[Smt-talk] theory of film music

Daniel Wolf djwolf at snafu.de
Tue Jul 8 07:11:16 PDT 2014

Just one note about the scope of film music and its implications for  
analysis and theory.  Most scholarship about film music has focused on the  
composed score, the artifact in film that most resembles the music with  
which theorists have been most traditionally engaged: there are pitches  
and rhythms and tonal practices and orchestration styles that connect  
immediately to other music that engages theorists and the historical  
connections between concert and theatrical musics (opera, operetta of all  
types perhaps even more, musical accompaniment to spoken theatre and  
variety, melodrama, pantomime and ballet.) (Need I point out the  
reiterated complaint about how hard it is get copies of musical notation  
for these scores?)

But conventional musical analysis of film music tends to run to results  
that are thin if not disappointing in terms of tonal theory. In part, this  
is simply because the tonal content of film music, both digetic and not,  
is often (not always, but often) rather modest or unremarkable when taken  
on its own. (The reasons for this deserve a longer discussion elsewhere,  
but largely have to do with the limited expectations of the producers of  
work intended for mass audiences, the collaborative aspects of film  
making, and perhaps some perceptual issues regarding film as a complex  
media.) And yet, film music is obviously more than that.  Incorporating  
its analysis into larger, narrative or audio+visual analyses is one way of  
assessing that added value. Considering film music within the larger  
scheme of film sound is another way, and one that parallels the historical  
accession to noise and sound, in general, that music composition has taken.

(It is no wonder (to me at least) that the sound designer of a film like  
The Social Network, Ren Klyce, was a student of electronic music  
composition under Gordon Mumma: his sound score, often running into  
hundreds of overlaid tracks, encompassed not only the speech and sounds  
heard onscreen or implied off, but provided a kind of supercomposition  
within which the conventional musical score was articulated, creating a  
unique sound design for each physical space shown in the film, and often  
using cuts in sound from one of these spaces to another to lead,  
anticipating rather than following, the visual cuts.)

The Journal Music, Sound and the Moving Image is a good example of a  
scholarly forum that has pursued both of those paths. However, a cursory  
survey of the articles there reveals something that appears, analytically,  
much closer to work in general critical and cultural studies than to music  
analysis with its particular technical concerns and insights.  I am not,  
however, pessimistic that such work could be done and indeed, it strikes  
me as a very rich area for music analysis and theory, particularly with  
regard to questions of large-scale form. And yes, I can well imagine an  
important role for notation here, but a notation drawn by the analyst that  
includes but is not limited to the score prepared for the studio recording.

Daniel Wolf

Dr. Daniel James Wolf

djwolf at snafu.de

Diese E-Mail ist frei von Viren und Malware, denn der avast! Antivirus Schutz ist aktiv.

More information about the Smt-talk mailing list