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Beyond the Soundtrack

Beyond the Soundtrack: Representing Music in Cinema

Copyright Date: 2007
Edition: 1
Pages: 333
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  • Book Info
    Beyond the Soundtrack
    Book Description:

    This groundbreaking collection by the most distinguished musicologists and film scholars in their fields gives long overdue recognition to music as equal to the image in shaping the experience of film. Refuting the familiar idea that music serves as an unnoticed prop for narrative, these essays demonstrate that music is a fully imagined and active power in the worlds of film. Even where films do give it a supporting role-and many do much more-music makes an independent contribution. Drawing on recent advances in musicology and cinema studies,Beyond the Soundtrackinterprets the cinematic representation of music with unprecedented richness. The authors cover a broad range of narrative films, from the "silent" era (not so silent) to the present. Once we think beyond the soundtrack, this volume shows, there is no unheard music in cinema.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94055-0
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction. Phonoplay: Recasting Film Music
    (pp. 1-10)

    A student of film music looking for a touchstone, a test case for any and every theory, could do worse than settle on Fritz Lang’sM(1931). If film music appears anywhere in its bare essence, it appears here. The story concerns a child-murderer who wanders like a shadow through the streets of a modern city. The monster goes unrecognized because he looks like a harmless, pudgy nobody rather than like a hobgoblin. But he reveals his hobgoblin nature through music. The murderer, M, is a nervous whistler, and what he whistles—the only music we hear in the whole...


    • 1 The Boy on the Train, or Bad Symphonies and Good Movies: The Revealing Error of the “Symphonic Score”
      (pp. 13-26)

      The goal of this chapter will be an examination of the opening title and credits sequence ofGone with the Wind(1939), but my subject takes in three larger, interrelated topics, namely, nineteenth-century European symphonic music, its fate in the era of modernism, and film as a site where that fate was to some extent worked out. My angle is an unusual one in that I shall be deliberately turning around the assumption on which Claudia Gorbman’s valuable “unheard melodies” critical formula is based.¹ I shall not only be listening to cinematic melodies, but, flying in the face of all...

    • 2 Representing Beethoven: Romance and Sonata Form in Simon Cellan Jones’s Eroica
      (pp. 27-47)

      The success of Milos Forman’sAmadeus(1984) heralded a steady flow of films about canonical composers of the classical tradition: Simon Cellan Jones’sEroica(2003) might then be seen as following from Paul Morrissey’sBeethoven’s Nephew(1985) and Bernard Rose’sImmortal Beloved(1994). But in some waysEroicais so different as hardly to belong in this lineage at all. Quite apart from being made for television (it was commissioned by the British Broadcasting Corporation), it also focuses on the performance of a single work, combining the genre of music video with that of period costume export drama. Though there...

    • 3 Minima Romantica
      (pp. 48-65)

      About fifty minutes intoThe Hours,the luxuriant strains of Richard Strauss’sFour Last Songssuddenly intrude on what had established itself as a minimalist soundtrack. The scene begins as Louis (Jeff Daniels) rings a doorbell, and the cut that takes us into an apartment belonging to Clarissa (Meryl Streep) coincides with the full-volume sound of a soprano who has just reached the middle of the third song, “Beim Schlafengehn” (Going to Sleep).¹

      Clarissa is preparing a party for her dying friend, Richard (Ed Harris), and her choice of background music helps establish her cultivated tastes, even as it resonates...

    • 4 Melodic Trains: Music in Polanski’s The Pianist
      (pp. 66-85)

      Roman Polanski’sThe Pianist(2002) was much praised for refusing the consolations of tragedy. Its protagonist, a Polish musician who survives the Holocaust, is not a hero. His survival amid the deaths of countless others is just something that happens; his story has no higher significance. Unlike Steven Spielberg’sSchindler’s List(1993),The Pianistdoes not leaven atrocity with nobility. But unlike Claude Lanzmann’sShoah(1985), it does not regard cinematic narrative itself as false witness. Instead it allows atrocity to deform the narrative into a chronicle of random chances and small, infrequent acts of decency observed with the cinematic...

    • 5 Mute Music: Polanski’s The Pianist and Campion’s The Piano
      (pp. 86-96)

      At the age of fifteen I read a German novel that had a profound influence on me. This novel, which I found in the library of my boarding school dormitory, was Thomas Mann’sDoctor Faustus,written in the United States and published in 1947. I was fascinated by Mann’s description of pieces of music that could not be heard since their “composer” was the fictional hero Adrian Leverkühn, and they did not exist. This did not prevent the narrator from describing the music in great detail. When I started composing music several years later, I got the urge to bring...


    • 6 Opera, Aesthetic Violence, and the Imposition of Modernity: Fitzcarraldo
      (pp. 99-119)
      Richard Leppert

      Werner Herzog’sFitzcarraldo(1982), set in the Peruvian Amazon sometime near the turn of the last century, tells the story of an Irishman of uncertain class standing, a passionate lover of opera who wants to build an opera house in the frontier town of Iquitos—a theater to rival the opera house in Manaus, the product of European rubber-baron largesse.¹ Fitzcarraldo intends for Caruso to inaugurate his theater. First, however, he’s got to make some money. In the remote jungle, far from Iquitos, there lies a vast and heretofore inaccessible tract of land rich in rubber trees. One impediment stands...

    • 7 Sight, Sound, and the Temporality of Myth Making in Koyaanisqatsi
      (pp. 120-135)

      Since its premiere in 1983,Koyaanisqatsi,made by director Godfrey Reggio in collaboration especially with cinematographer Ron Fricke and composer Philip Glass, has acquired a distinctive cult status. A number of early reviews lauded the avant-garde film as overwhelmingly visionary, and it continues to be treasured for its aesthetic dazzle. Moreover,Koyaanisqatsihas taken on an additional form of existence as a “live” performance; Philip Glass has frequently performed the score in concert alongside the film, creating a fascinating twist on the practices of silent film accompaniment. What does it mean to suppress a “soundtrack” within the specific apparatus of...

    • 8 How Sound Floats on Land: The Suppression and Release of Folk and Indigenous Musics in the Cinematic Terrain
      (pp. 136-148)

      You sit in a cinema, facing one way. Suspended above your sightline is a large rectangle of light, formed by a screen onto which are projected moving images.Your peripheral vision— integral to your everyday act of focusing in a three-dimensional reality—has been dislocated. The screen psychooptically suggests not only a window onto the world but also—and more pertinently—the feeling of being trapped in a black box. You are deprived of even the base power of sight you have when you choose to look idly out a window; your view is controlled, changed, designed beyond your will. All...

    • 9 Auteur Music
      (pp. 149-162)

      Auteurism in film studies has led a double life since the 1970s. On one hand, successive waves of theory lapping at the edifice built by the critics atCahiers du cinémaandMoviehave pronounced the auteur as a locus of value an unacceptably Romantic construct, a fetishized commodity, dead, or irrelevant. On the other hand, auteurist discourses remain remarkably, vigorously resistant. The very film studies departments that teach the death of the film author continue to offer popular courses on directors old and new; and in academic publishing, monographs on directors maintain as strong a presence as ever.


    • 10 Transport and Transportation in Audiovisual Memory
      (pp. 163-183)

      Try to picture this television commercial for United Airlines, which was produced by the advertising agency Leo Burnett in the mid-1990s. The ad was presented in two parts.

      Part one opens with a shot of the Art Institute of Chicago, a cadential flourish from Gershwin’sRhapsody in Blue,and a voice-over: “Not many things are more Chicago than United.” An amusing montage follows with still shots of paintings from the Art Institute depicting musical performances, for example, Renoir’sWoman at the Pianoand Picasso’sThe Old Guitarist.The instruments depicted (including a trombone, two recorders, and a trumpet) appear to...

    • 11 The Fantastical Gap between Diegetic and Nondiegetic
      (pp. 184-202)

      It is one of the most basic distinctions in film music: diegetic or nondiegetic? It is a simple, technical matter—is the music part of the film’s story world or an element of the cinematic apparatus that represents that world? It is one of the easiest things to teach students about film music—to comprehend, if not to spell (it’s getting to the point where I see “diagetic” so often, it’s starting to seem right to me). Even on the first night of a film music course, college students can recognize moments that challenge their sense of that boundary even...


    • 12 Early Film Themes: Roxy, Adorno, and the Problem of Cultural Capital
      (pp. 205-224)

      For decades, analyses of the musical accompaniment for sound films—and especially Hollywood films—have been heavily driven by attention to themes and leitmotifs. By and large, thematic analysis has been treated as a convenient analytical tool, whose history has appropriately been considered beside the point. The rare paragraphs that film music specialists have devoted to the history of themes and leitmotifs typically share two strategies, nicely summarized by Roy Prendergast. “The Wagnerian device of the leitmotiv,” affirms Prendergast, “fell naturally into use in the composition of scores for Hollywood films.”¹ Hollywood music thus not only borrows Wagnerian technique, but...

    • 13 Before Willie: Reconsidering Music and the Animated Cartoon of the 1920s
      (pp. 225-245)

      Some months before the “Beyond the Soundtrack” conference I took a long look at the conference rationale (described in the Introduction to this volume). What stood out to me, especially as I considered the role music plays in animated cartoons of all stripes, were the phrases “the ways in which film conceptualizes music” and “how films position music and musicality as parts of . . . a fictional world.” I’ve argued elsewhere that dichotomizing cartoon music into diegetic and nondiegetic or source and underscore perpetuates a fundamental misunderstanding of how music functions in cartoons.¹ I therefore saw in this chapter...

    • 14 Side by Side: Nino Rota, Music, and Film
      (pp. 246-259)

      Music is everywhere in film, in documentary and the avant-gardes just as much as in feature fiction films, and this has been true ever since there has been film, not just since the so-called coming of sound. Yet as Luigi Pellizzoni (1996) puts it, in the title of the lead article to a collection entitledCinema’s Music (La music del cinema),music and cinema constitute “a ‘difficult’ relationship.”¹ In what follows I want to examine some of the familiar reasons for saying this and to glance at a couple of the standard ways the difficulty has been resolved, before looking...

    • 15 White Face, Black Noise: Miles Davis and the Soundtrack
      (pp. 260-276)

      Although Miles Davis died at the age of sixty-five in 1991, he is more prominent then ever in American culture. Like Oprah Winfrey, James Earl Jones, and very few other black Americans, Davis no longer raises associations with African American culture in the minds of most white Americans.Kind of Blue,his album from 1959, is the best-selling jazz record in history and is itself the subject of two books. Numerous movies have put Davis’s music on the soundtrack, both before and after his death and with and without his cooperation. At least two novels, a fiction film, and several...

    • 16 Men at the Keyboard: Liminal Spaces and the Heterotopian Function of Music
      (pp. 277-292)

      Multimedia spectacle, as Richard Wagner presciently theorized, would be the mass theater of the future. Films especially, whether projected on public screens or on home computers (and one should include here the entire spectrum of post-celluloid media technology) remain one of the few and dwindling sites of public pedagogy. People read less and less—we stand, in any case, at the end of the era of the book—and few engage in public debate, attend lectures, visit avant-garde film houses, or participate in the uncommodified music scenes. And despite its productive pleasures, most perform very little in the way of...

  8. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 293-296)
  9. Works Cited
    (pp. 297-310)
  10. Index of Films Cited
    (pp. 311-316)
  11. Index of Names
    (pp. 317-324)