Max Steiner's Now, Voyager: A Film Score Guide

Max Steiner's Now, Voyager: A Film Score Guide

Max Steiner's Now, Voyager: A Film Score Guide

Max Steiner's Now, Voyager: A Film Score Guide

Synopsis

Max Steiner's contribution to the formulation of early Hollywood scoring techniques is significant, particularly through his music for King Kong (1933) and The Informer (1935). The Academy Award winning score for Now, Voyager reflects the maturation of the composer's understanding of the dramatic function of music in film. The primary resources incorporated in the analysis include, from the Max Steiner collection at Brigham Young University, Steiner's letters and scrapbooks and his unpublished autobiography Notes to You. In addition to contributing to the composer's own perspective on the music for this film and on scoring practice in general, these papers contribute to a broader debate about how films are interpreted and the part music plays in these schemes of criticism. This study of the film score occurs within the broader theoretical and historical debates currently characterizing film musicology and explores, from varied perspectives, how the score is meaningful and important to the film.

Excerpt

Now, Voyager (1942) is a film of striking significance: the escapism of early 1940s' cinema finds a feminist agenda, brought to the forefront of public awareness by one of Hollywood's biggest stars, against a wash of gloriously rich and expressive music. Max Steiner won an Academy Award for his score for the film; yet, unlike the films for which he received his other two Awards -- The Informer (1935) and Since You Went Away (1944) -- Now, Voyager had not been heavily commended in other categories in the selection process. Steiner's was one of only three nominations for the film, the other two going to Bette Davis for Best Actress, and Gladys Cooper for Best Supporting Actress, neither of whom won their category, despite giving among the most distinctive performances of their careers and the era. The score is, however, one of Steiner's greatest, and it stands out in a career spanning over thirty years and over three hundred films: it combines his understanding of drama with a fluency of melodic statement and development, drawing the whole score together in a way which he would never surpass.

Steiner's approach, in the majority of scores, was to capture the elements of the film's story in a number of musical themes, with a broad vocabulary of melody and instrumentation which matched the range of story genres for which he composed. Most often, he used themes to delineate the characters in a story, but above all he designed and conceived his music as adding something to the film, not just underscoring it or merging into the background. This might appear to be at odds with his frequently stated contention that a score should never be disruptive to the audience's concentration, yet he viewed the very existence of music in a film as an opportunity for it to be as influential as the other narrative components. The origins of this ideology of film composition have been chronicled as much for their part in the formative years of sound film scoring techniques as for their place in the development of Steiner's own idiom. The former, however, often takes precedence over the latter, with Steiner's early scores being seen as more influential over the stylistic developments of his . . .

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