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).

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Oxford Handbook of Film Music Studies

The Oxford Handbook of Film Music Studies was published in November 2013. Two dozen experts in the field survey everything from opera and film to the early history of music in video games. The book is also available on Oxford Research Online (by subscription). Many of the chapters will certainly be difficult for typical undergraduates, especially those without musical background, but I would recommend the following as quite accessible and potentially useful in connection with Hearing the Movies:

Marcia Citron, “Opera and Film”
Daniel Goldmark, “Drawing a New Narrative for Cartoon Music”
Cari McDonnell, “Genre Theory and the Film Musical"
Neil Lerner, “The Origins of Musical Style in Video Games, 1977-1983"

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Second edition of Hearing the Movies

 David here: I am currently working on the second edition of our textbook. The main goals are two: (1) to integrate the material on types of film scenes and on style topics into the historical section; and (2) to update and to expand the repertorial range of some of the films discussed. In connection with (1) the number of parts will be reduced from 3 to 2, though the volume will still be laid out in 15 chapters. In connection with (2) we will expand the sections on writing—which we labeled "interludes"in the first edition—and integrate them also into the historical section as separate chapters. If all goes as planned, the second edition may (that's *may* of course) be available for spring 2015 adoption.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Frank Skinner at Universal, part 2

In a previous post I wrote: "Skinner worked to formula in a musical style that was the lingua franca for Hollywood in the 1930s but had begun to sound a bit old-fashioned when paired with high-quality widescreen image tracks in the 1950s. His music for action scenes (sword fights, battles, etc.), in particular, sounds dated, as if it were stock music taken from 1930s B-films."

Although the generalization stands -- one need only compare Skinner's scores with contemporaries such as Alex North (examples: Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? or The Misfits) or late-career masters like Franz Waxman (Spirit of St. Louis) to get the point -- the specific statement about music for action scenes needs qualification. Under Joseph Gershenson, who had been a producer but became music department head in 1949, Universal maintained the practice of collaborative scoring much longer than did other studios. This was by no means always the case, especially later in the 1950s (except for the title song, for example, Skinner wrote all the underscore for Written on the Wind), but even when one composer wrote most of the music, action scenes were often scored by someone else -- or drawn from Universal's large music library, whose holdings stretched back to the mid-1930s.

Action scenes were particularly prone to being shunted off to someone other than the principal composer because they were almost always generic -- that is, they rarely involved thematic material from the film; they were there to increase excitement and tension. Furthermore, unless there was some reason for close synchronization, most any "hurry" would do -- then, pulling something out of the library often made sense and also saved time (hurries are note-heavy) and money (especially if a recording could be re-used).

You can get information about a film's music from Clifford McCarty's Film Composers in America: A Filmography, 1911-1970 (2d ed., 1999) -- he made a thorough study of studio cue sheets, conductor scores, and other archival sources. His results, however, don't always match those given on IMDb, whose information about music seems to be taken mostly from the databases of rights organizations like ASCAP and BMI.

A simple example: McCarty credits Skinner and Hans Salter for the music to The Rawhide Years (they do both receive screen credit), but IMDb adds Eric Zeisl as composer of "stock music, uncredited." Zeisl's name appears in the ASCAP records for the film.

An example of collaborative work and re-use: Herman Stein received screen credit for The Unguarded Moment. McCarty lists Henry Mancini under "additional composition." ASCAP has an entry for Mancini but also one for Skinner. Stein's theme for the film was re-used in Imitation of Life (Skinner) and two of Mancini's cues were re-used in The Tattered Dress (also Skinner). In both cases, I took the information from the studio cue sheets.