Composing for the Screen in Germany and the USSR: Cultural Politics and Propaganda

Composing for the Screen in Germany and the USSR: Cultural Politics and Propaganda

Composing for the Screen in Germany and the USSR: Cultural Politics and Propaganda

Composing for the Screen in Germany and the USSR: Cultural Politics and Propaganda

Synopsis

Despite the long history of music in film, its serious academic study is still a relatively recent development and therefore comprises a limited body of work. The contributors to this book, drawn from both film studies and musicology, attempt to rectify this oversight by investigating film music from the vibrant, productive, politically charged period before World War II. They apply a variety of methodologies--including archival work, close readings, political histories, and style comparison--to this under explored field.

Excerpt

As a medium, cinema is now over a century old; the musical genre of “film music” is at least that old, arguably older than the medium itself, extending back through magic lantern shows and Victorian melodrama into the entire history of theatrical presentation. Music provides shock absorbers for the suspension of disbelief and an underlining, highlighting, underscoring of visual and verbal signals from the abstract and structural to the narrative and emotional. the vocabulary and syntax of musical gesture has changed less than those of the visual medium to which it has been allied, and much of its specificity (and even its generality) has been taken as given.

Despite the long history of film music, serious academic study is still fairly new, really only coming into its own as a discipline in the past two decades. That is not to say that there has not been a substantial amount written on the relationship between music and the screen, but for much of the past century, it has been mostly prescriptive, occasionally descriptive, and only recently analytical. Because of the relative volume of the writing, there is a tendency to think we know what the history and technique of film music is, or at least that the ground has been fairly well mapped.

The problem with this conception is that it breaks down so quickly. For one thing, there is not so much a “body” of literature as a wealth of materials scattered among trade papers, fan magazines, philosophical treatises, and only occasionally music journals. Much of the writing, particularly during the decade of the 1920s, is of a practical nature, as music directors from studios and theaters, from the centers and the front lines alike, discussed the technique of accompanying silent movies. At the same time, film theorists were struggling to . . .

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