Classical Music Used in Films & Classics from the Silver Screen: Classical Music in Movies. (Digital Media Reviews: Film Music Web Sites)

By Wright, H. Stephen | Notes, September 2002 | Go to article overview

Classical Music Used in Films & Classics from the Silver Screen: Classical Music in Movies. (Digital Media Reviews: Film Music Web Sites)


Wright, H. Stephen, Notes


Classical Music Used in Films. Maintained by HNH International, Ltd. http://www.hnh.com/cmuif.htm

Classics from the Silver Screen: Classical Music in Movies. Maintained by Benjamin Chee. http://home2.pacific.net.sg/~bchee/movies.html

One of the most perplexing reference questions that music librarians receive is 'What's the classical piece I heard in that movie?" Hearing a classical work in the context of a particularly striking film seems to enhance a work's appeal and motivate viewers to seek out a recording. Yet such questions are not always easily resolved. Some examples are so well-known that the librarian can provide an answer immediately (who among us does not know that the "theme" from 2001: A Space Odyssey is actually the opening of Richard Strauss's Also Sprach Zarathustra?), but many are far more intractable. I received two such questions quite recently: (1) What is the cheerful xylophone music heard when Sean Connery is riding a bicycle in Finding Forrester (2000)? (2) What piano work does River Phoenix play for a Juilliard audition scene in Running on Empty (1988)?

There is no adequate print resource for dealing with such questions. If the film was produced in the last twenty or thirty years, it is worthwhile (though inconvenient) to check the film's closing credits; films of more recent vintage sometimes include lists of the classical and popular works used in them. This does not always solve the dilemma, however, and the perfunctory end credits of older films are no help at all. Stewart R. Craggs's Soundtracks: An International Dictionary of Composers for Film (Aldershot, Hants, England: Ashgate, 1998) includes an attempt to list films using classical works, but it is far too brief--a mere 13 pages--to be useful.

Fortunately, two Web sites have appeared which can help with such queries. Classical Music Used in Films originally appeared in the printed catalog of the Naxos record label, and later became part of the label's Web site. It is a simple, easily navigated alphabetical list of film titles, followed by the classical works used in each. Nevertheless, closer examination reveals a serious flaw: works are listed only if they are available on a Naxos recording. In fact, each citation contains a link to the appropriate entry in the company's online catalog. This is not a fatal deficiency, for the Naxos catalog is indeed enormous, but under such constraints omissions are inevitable. …

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