Monday, October 20, 2014

Quick trip through the classical studio era

With time limited because I was out sick one day, I decided to offer the students a quick trip through the classical sound era. I chose a film from the early 1930s, one from the mid-1940s, and one from the end of the 1950s. These were The Black Cat (1934), Mildred Pierce (1945), and North by Northwest (1959). Three decades and three studios (Universal, Warner Bros., and MGM). For The Black Cat I used the opening, which offers silent-film-era actor cameos in the establishing sequence, generic sound and effects added to an opening scene shot silent, and limited staging for dialogue due to microphone placement. Mildred Pierce -- I used DVD chapters 18-20 -- shows prestige-level production values at their best and a remarkably nuanced sound track still consisting almost entirely of dialogue and music (both diegetic and non-diegetic). North by Northwest, despite its widescreen color format, surprises because the sound track has changed very little -- only the addition of a few more understated effects (except for airplane engine noise!) and the underscore composer's emphasis on winds and brasses rather than the more traditional strings. I used the end of the auction scene through the arrival in South Dakota.

Friday, October 17, 2014

schedule adjustments, fall 2014

I am teaching MUS 337: Music and Film Sound this semester and have experimented with adjusting the syllabus to create a design that is closer to the forthcoming second edition of Hearing the Movies. Instead of moving chapter by chapter through Part 1, we read Chapter 1's basic narrative and sound-track introduction, then went to early film and the transition years (chapters 10-11). Then we returned to work our way through the rest of Part 1 (chapters 2-4) before studying the classical studio era (ch. 12). After the film form introduction (ch. 5), the music-in-scenes chapters (6, 7, 9) dovetail nicely with the post-classical and contemporary history chapters (13-15).

Here is the schedule (fall 2014):

UNIT 1: Listening to the Soundtrack; Music and Sound in Early Film
28 Aug Course Organization; Music and the Sound Track: a Brief Overview
Reading: HtM, Preface and general Introduction
2-4 Sept Narrative and the Sound Track
Reading: HtM, Ch. 1
9-11 Sept Music and Sound in Silent Film
Reading: HtM, Ch. 10
16-18 Sept The Transition to Sound Film
Reading: HtM, Ch. 11
23-25 Sept Musicality of the Sound Track
Reading: HtM, Ch. 2 

UNIT 2: Music and Film Form and Style
30 Sept -2 Oct Music, Sound, and the Space of Narrative
Reading: HtM, Ch. 3
7-9 Oct Music, Sound, and Time
Reading: HtM, Ch. 4
14-16 Oct Music and the Sound Track in the Classical Studio Era
Reading: HtM, Ch. 12
21-23 Oct Music in Film Form
Reading: HtM, Ch. 5
Music in Main Title and End-Credit Sequences
Reading: HtM, Ch. 6
28-30 Oct Music in Performance and Montage Scenes
Reading: HtM, Ch. 7

UNIT 3: Music, Sound, and Film History
4 Nov The Stereo Sound Track and the Post-Classical Era    
Reading: HtM, Ch. 13
6 Nov No class meeting
11-13 Nov Film Style and the Sound Track
Reading: HtM, Ch. 8
18-20 Nov Music in Character and Action Scenes
Reading: HtM, Chs. 9
25 Nov continued
2-4 Dec The New Hollywood, Dolby Stereo, and the Emergence of Sound Design
Reading: HtM, Ch. 14
Music and Film Sound Today (and Tomorrow)
Reading: HtM, Ch. 15 and Afterword

Second edition TOC

The second edition of Hearing the Movies is now in production. We sent text and new graphics to the Press in June.

Here is the new table of contents. Part 1 is a condensed version of HtM1, Part 1. Parts 2 & 3 split chronology from early film to the present. The writing exercises ("interludes") in HtM1 have been augmented and promoted to chapters, which are placed at appropriate points in Parts 2 & 3 (chapters 6, 8, and 15).


PREFACE
INTRODUCTION
 
PART I: The Sound Track and Film Narrative: Basic Terms and Concepts
 
Introduction to Part I

Chapter 1: The Sound Track and Narrative
Chapter 2: The Musicality of the Sound Track: Concepts and Terminology
Chapter 3: Music, Sound, Space, and Time: Concepts and Terminology
 
PART II: Music and the Sound Track: From the Beginning to 1970
Introduction to Part II
Chapter 4: From 1895 to 1929: Music and Sound in Early Film
Chapter 5: From 1926 to 1932: The Transition to Sound Film
Chapter 6: The Broadway Melody (1929) and 42nd Street (1933): Analyzing Sound and Image in a Film Scene
Chapter 7: From 1932 to 1950: Music and the Sound Track in the Classical Studio Era
Chapter 8: Mildred Pierce (1945): Writing About Film Sound and Music
Chapter 9: From 1950 to 1975, Part 1: The Stereo Sound Track and the Post-Classical Era
Chapter 10: From 1950 to 1975, Part 2: The Sound Track and Film Form in the Post-Classical Era

PART III: Music and the Sound Track Since 1975
Introduction to Part III
Chapter 11: From 1975 to 2000, Part 1: The New Hollywood, Dolby Stereo and the Emergence of Sound Design
Chapter 12: From 1975 to 2000, Part 2: The Sound Track and Film Form in The New Hollywood
Chapter 13: Music and Film Sound Since 2000, Part 1: Digital Film, Digital Sound
Chapter 14: Music and Film Sound Since 2000, Part 2: The Sound Track and Film Form
Chapter 15: Writing about Music and Film Sound: Interpretation

GLOSSARY
CREDITS
NOTES
INDEX

Sunday, May 25, 2014

second edition nearly ready

We're on schedule to finish work on the second edition and send to the Press by middle of next week. Jim has added rich new materials on music and sound in battle and action scenes from films over the past 50 years. A new chapter adds substantially to our account of the post-classical generation (roughly 1950-1975). We have added graphics and screen stills throughout the book.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Blog and website

As soon as the main text is finished, and while we work on assembling graphics, we will start updating the HtM website to correspond to the second edition. At that time, we also plan to start posting to this blog on a regular basis again. David will be doing the majority of the blog posts but you can expect to hear from both authors as time goes on. One of David's projects is to do a "census" of music in films from a single year, the goal being to develop a more comprehensive view -- and therefore a better narrative -- of how music is used than can be achieved by repeated focus on a handful of prestige or cult films. Another project is to create notated transcriptions of the sound track for some additional scenes from films that we discuss in the book. Check back for new posts as this work develops.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Progress report on the second edition

We are nearing the end of work on the main text for the second edition. With luck we'll have it ready by mid-May--or at latest beginning of June. The design as outlined in the previous post has held throughout the editing process, and as things take concrete shape we are more and more confident that the pedagogical foundation is solid.

The only thing I would add to the previous posts is that we have been able to keep more of the scene and film readings from the first edition than we thought we could, many of them placed in "readings and analyses" chapters that follow several of the history narrative chapters in the main section of the book. The chapters on analysis and writing -- developed from the current "interludes" -- have worked out even better than we expected, and we are excited about the possibilities they offer for learning and by their tight integration with the history narrative chapters.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

More notes on the second edition

The second edition integrates the two halves of Hearing the Movies more closely while maintaining a design that permits flexibility in emphasis.

Part 1 has been updated and streamlined a bit but its focus on careful listening/viewing and analysis of the soundtrack is intact. The scene analyses and style generalizations about music usage in Part 2 have been moved into the current Part 3 (history), which has been divided into two Parts, the first covering early cinema through the end of the studio era, the second covering the period since. Another way to put it is that Part 2 is "pre-Star Wars" and Part 3 is "Star Wars and later." Still another way is "pre-Dolby" and "Dolby to digital."

Not all the material of Part 2 has gone into the second edition, but everything we've removed will either be posted to this blog or placed on the HtM website and thus will remain available for instructors' use.

Among new features, we've added time lines for reference at the head of all the historical chapters, but I am particularly excited about our revamped and expanded writing "interludes," each of which is now a full-fledged chapter embedded in Part 2 or 3, and about a set of close readings that continue to develop the strong audioviewing skills from Part 1 but in the context of the historical chapters. These "essays" within the chapters of Parts 2 & 3 are augmented by a new series of sidebars that augment the historical narrative with historical source material, in part keyed to Mervyn Cooke's The Hollywood Film Music Reader (Oxford).