Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Brief accounts of film music from MacDonald, Invisible Art

Lawrence MacDonald's The Invisible Art of Film Music is a Hollywood-centered historical narrative that puts the focus squarely on composers; the tale that emerges, therefore, is one of stylistic development in underscoring practices. Although by no means the only book to take this point of view, The Invisible Art is well written and thorough, and it could provide supplementary readings to offer students for whom this kind of narrative may be appealing.

The book also has many brief descriptions of music in a wide range of Hollywood films. These might offer ideas to an instructor looking for different content or starting points for student projects. Here is a sample (edited slightly for length):

One of MGM's top composers, Bronislau Kaper, won an Oscar for his charming score of Lili [1953], the fanciful tale of a young orphaned girl . . . who joins a carnival and becomes in­volved with two men: a bitter, physically impaired puppeteer . . . and a dashing magician. . . . Kaper composed a beguiling tune for the film, "Hi-Lili, Hi-Lo," which is sung as part of the puppet-theater act. This deceptively simple little waltz tune is later incorporated into an innovative dream sequence that takes the form of a ballet in which Lili's feelings for the two men are worked out in a complex psychological pantomime. The dream sequence provides a remarkable musical finale for this enchanting film. (p. 136)