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Hearing the Movies: Music and Sound in Film History, 2nd Edition
Hearing the Movies, Second Edition, combines a historical and chronological approach to the study of film music and sound with an emphasis on building listening skills. Through engaging, accessible analyses and exercises, the book covers all aspects of the subject, including how a soundtrack is assembled to accompany the visual content, how music enhances the form and style of key film genres, and how technology has influenced the changing landscape of film music.
This book is about music in cinema, with music in the context of the film sound track, and with the sound track in the context of a history of film technology. We proceed from the view that “hearing the movies” involves skills that are different from listening to music for its own sake. Film is a technology-dependent medium
that relies on reproduced sound, and the aesthetics of film sound have changed
over time with changes in technology.
Our goal is to facilitate critical viewing and listening within the framework of an appreciation of the history of film and sound technology over the past 120 years.
The bool< is designed to teach a general method for analyzing and interpreting the sound tracl< and its music and to take advantage of those skills to position individual films and practices within a technological history. Hearing the Movies, in other words, is not intended primarily as a film music or sound tracl< “masterworks” history, although we have worl<ed at achieving a reasonably open level of
coverage of repertoires, in addition to making ample use of films that are commonly taught. One can find simple chronological narratives for film music in many sources, from trade bool<s and textbooks to online sites. We regard it as more important for students to understand the history of sound in the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries and to situate their film-viewing experiences within that context.
Hearing the Movies is laid out in three parts and fifteen chapters, a design intended to facilitate use on its own as the textbook for a semester course on film music and film sound. The book may also serve effectively as a substantial supplementary or reference text in introductory film courses, courses on sound design and aesthetics, courses on film music composition, courses on twentieth-century and contemporary music, courses on music and media, or even seminar courses on specific repertoires for example, science fiction films after 1970, composers (such as Bernard Herrmann or John Williams), or periods (Hollywood in the 1930s, film and rocl< and roll in the 1950s and 1960s, etc.). We have mapped out basic syllabi for many of these options in files on this text’s companion website, where we have also made suggestions for adapting the book to 10-week term formats.
Part I is an introduction whose three chapters encourage development of basic listening and viewing skills. The overall goal is to position music within the soundtrack as one of its elements, as a peer (and partner) of speech and effects, and to introduce terms that are essential to the analysis of spatial and temporal aspects of sound and music. Chapter 1 introduces the sound tracl< elements and the concept of an integrated soundtrack, Riel< Altman’s notion of mise-en-bande, the aesthetic standard for sound film since the 1930s. The emphasis here is on general relations of sound and image, in particular, the narrative functions of sound. In Chapter 2, we stress the musicality of the soundtrack by introducing musical terms (such as tempo and timbre) that can also be used to describe speech or sound effects or the soundtrack as a whole. Chapter 3 turns to sound and music in relation to narrative space and time, with special attention to commonly used oppositions, including diegetic/nondiegetic, synchronization/
counterpoint, and empathetic/an empathetic.
Parts II and III, then, lay out a history of music and film sound organized around technological innovations and their role in film production and exhibition. The stages of that history discussed in Part II include the remarkably varied practices of the early cinema (Chapter 4), the rapid series of technological and aesthetic changes in the first few years of sound film (Chapter 5), the settling in and standardization of practices for sound film in the studio era (Chapter 7), and the shifts in aesthetics (especially with respect to musical styles) but relative conservatism in sound technology in the two subsequent decades ( Chapters 9 and 10). Each chapter includes sections on film style and film form that continue to mal<e direct use of the concepts from Part I and to develop the associated listening skills.
Part III considers the revolution in sound technology (and birth of modern sound design) that took place with the introduction of Dolby stereo and the consequences of that change for the New Hollywood generation (Chapters 11 and 12), and the characteristics of digital sound production and postproduction (including music) in the most recent decade, including the current and prospective situation for music and sound in film production and in other venues, particularly those that are Internet-based (Chapters 13 and 14). The chapters not yet listed (Chapters 6, 8, and 15) combine the historical and the analytical, and in that sense also contribute to the work of Part I, but now with respect to methods and motivations for writing about films in terms of their soundtracks, particularly their music’s. Chapter 6 presents basic terminology for film form and then provides step-by-step instructions for the analysis of a scene from The Broadway Melody (1929), a major film of the transition era that was already discussed in some detail in Chapter 5. Chapter 8 maps out the construction of an analysis report or response paper based on a cue list for an entire film, using Mildred Pierce (1945) as the example. The closing sections of Chapters 10 and 12 give information about writing compare/contrast papers, but all of Chapter 15 continues and expands the work to essays of analytic appreciation and interpretation, including essays of critical and ideological analysis.
• The book’s design integrates a chronological historical narrative with the development of critical listening and analysis skills.
• Copious examples and screen stills help bring film music into the context of sound, and sound into the context of the whole film.
• Detailed sample analyses, many with timings and shot descriptions, tie the image track to the soundtrack.
• Students can get full benefit from the bool< without the ability to read music notation (the authors have taught courses based on this material to general undergraduate audiences successfully for more than
10 years), but some musical examples have been included to enhance understanding for those who can read them.
• We have made every effort to bring together the broadest range of scholarship on film music currently available, spanning both music scholarship and film/media studies.
• Sidebars and text boxes augment the historical narrative with summaries and quotes from source material l<eyed to Mervyn Cooke’s The Hollywood Film Music Reader (also published by Oxford University Press).
• Other sidebars and text boxes offer additional behind-the-scenes commentary from historical and contemporary industry professionals.
• Key terms are included in a glossary at the bacl< for easy reference.
• Three chapters embedded in the historical sections provide guidelines and templates for writing about films in terms of their sound and music.
• A companion website
offers basic syllabi for 10 and 15 weel< courses in which Hearing the Movies is the principal textbook, along with suggestions for using the book in other courses. The site also contains electronic copies of
many of the screen stills (but not other graphics) from the bool<, a list of the DVD editions we used, additional timings for scenes with music in the films discussed here, annotated film music bibliographies, commentary on articles we particularly recommend for class readings, links to relevant film and film music websites, supplementary scene analyses, and suggestions for assignments and projects.