Friday, September 16, 2005

Film Music

Next semester I will be offering a course on Film Music appreciation, a 200-level class for both music majors and non-majors. I expect that the proportions will swing to the non-major side, though I did set a prerequisite of having the ability to read music notation, which could discourage some non-majors. I haven't taught nor taken a course on film music before, but I have a friend from grad school who has lots of experience in the subject and has imparted some of his wisdom over the years. I also have an active Film Studies program on campus to consult, which has already resulted in a contact with a film composer from a local university.

I'm trying to decide how difficult to make the course. I have a textbook, The Soul of Cinema by Larry Timm, that is okay but rather basic. It deals with historical developments and a very rudimentary theory of aesthetic function, with little analysis and no real theories about the interaction of the music and the visual. I have checked out several other books to examine: Film Music - a neglected art; Film Music - Critical Approaches; Overtones and Undertones; The Invisible Art of Film Music; and Movie Music, the Film Reader. I may inject some readings from these books as reserve material, but I need to explore all of them, including the Timm book, more thoroughly before making decisions.

If any of you have taught or taken a course on film music, I'd love to hear from you. Likewise with any advice about the textbooks or film soundtracks that have to be included. I may have to make a limit in Jaquandar's case. (However, looking at his blog just now I see two things the university library absolutely must get. Unfortunately, one of them won't be available until after I teach this class, but it should be ready for that Winter Term course on Music of the Ring that I am planning to teach in January of 2007.)


Hucbald said...

I took some film scoring while at Berklee, and worked on a couple of little documentaries several years back. It's such a broad subject I'd suggest you limit the scope of the course by concentrating on a particular genera or era. My personal favorite is Classic Cartoon Music like the old Merrie Melodies stuff: Top flight jazz guys simply having a laugh-riot of a time. It really is amazing music. Then there are Westerns, Film Noir, or - if you want modern - sci-fi. Perhaps you could make the course a "sampler" and have the various generas and eras represented by some of their respective "classics"?

Scott Spiegelberg said...

I'm thinking of the latter, with a sampling from each genre and era. Any recommendations of classics for each of them?

Hucbald said...

Well, John Williams has been an overwhelming influence for the past 30 years, so a Star Wars or Indiana Jones episode would be on my list. Elmer Bernstein's score to "The Magnificent Seven" gave us the old Marlboro Man theme, so I'd look at that. Dennis McCarthy's theme music for "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" is magnificent, but I'm not sure if you want to touch on TV or not. Several famous "classical" composers written film scores, so take your pick there, but I'd at least mention that. I'm sure you have your own faves though.

Scott D. Strader said...

Just today, WNYC's Soundcheck had a show on cartoon music:

[ 09222005]

They say they podcast, but a cursory/lazy scan of the site didn't reveal a link for this show. I have my own recording here (although I haven't listened to it yet):

[ RWB382.mp3]

It'll be available for the next week or so.