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Film Music: A Very Short Introduction

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Film music is as old as cinema itself. Years before synchronized sound became the norm, projected moving images were shown to musical accompaniment, whether performed by a lone piano player or a hundred-piece orchestra. Today film music has become its own industry, indispensable to the marketability of movies around the world. Film Music: A Very Short Introduction is a comp Film music is as old as cinema itself. Years before synchronized sound became the norm, projected moving images were shown to musical accompaniment, whether performed by a lone piano player or a hundred-piece orchestra. Today film music has become its own industry, indispensable to the marketability of movies around the world. Film Music: A Very Short Introduction is a compact, lucid, and thoroughly engaging overview written by one of the leading authorities on the subject. After opening with a fascinating analysis of the music from a key sequence in Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs, Kathryn Kalinak introduces readers not only to important composers and musical styles but also to modern theoretical concepts about how and why film music works. Throughout the book she embraces a global perspective, examining film music in Asia and the Middle East as well as in Europe and the United States. Key collaborations between directors and composers--Alfred Hitchcock and Bernard Herrmann, Akira Kurosawa and Fumio Hayasaka, Federico Fellini and Nino Rota, to name only a few--come under scrutiny, as do the oft-neglected practices of the silent film era. She also explores differences between original film scores and compilation soundtracks that cull music from pre-existing sources.


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Film music is as old as cinema itself. Years before synchronized sound became the norm, projected moving images were shown to musical accompaniment, whether performed by a lone piano player or a hundred-piece orchestra. Today film music has become its own industry, indispensable to the marketability of movies around the world. Film Music: A Very Short Introduction is a comp Film music is as old as cinema itself. Years before synchronized sound became the norm, projected moving images were shown to musical accompaniment, whether performed by a lone piano player or a hundred-piece orchestra. Today film music has become its own industry, indispensable to the marketability of movies around the world. Film Music: A Very Short Introduction is a compact, lucid, and thoroughly engaging overview written by one of the leading authorities on the subject. After opening with a fascinating analysis of the music from a key sequence in Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs, Kathryn Kalinak introduces readers not only to important composers and musical styles but also to modern theoretical concepts about how and why film music works. Throughout the book she embraces a global perspective, examining film music in Asia and the Middle East as well as in Europe and the United States. Key collaborations between directors and composers--Alfred Hitchcock and Bernard Herrmann, Akira Kurosawa and Fumio Hayasaka, Federico Fellini and Nino Rota, to name only a few--come under scrutiny, as do the oft-neglected practices of the silent film era. She also explores differences between original film scores and compilation soundtracks that cull music from pre-existing sources.

30 review for Film Music: A Very Short Introduction

  1. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

    Decent intro to film music.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kris

    A great little introduction that delivers exactly what it promises. It’s marketed as international and broad reaching, but luckily it doesn’t get too caught up in obscure foreign films — it gives Western filmmaking its due. Packed with good names and contains useful lists at the end.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    A very short yet quite extensive introduction to film music, spanning globally across some of the biggest film industries and interweaving history and politics.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Cephalopodophil.

    A very good introduction to film music with lots of transnational contexts.

  5. 5 out of 5

    David Roberts

    The book I read to research this post was Film Music A Very Short Introduction by Kathryn Kalinak which is a very good book which I bought from kindle. Film music developed independently in Western Europe & the United States. Nobody is sure what the first film to have a soundtrack was or the first silent to be shown in a cinema accompanied by music. It caught on quickly though. One of the earliest films to have its own soundtrack was the 1915 Birth Of A Nation and it was co-composed by the direc The book I read to research this post was Film Music A Very Short Introduction by Kathryn Kalinak which is a very good book which I bought from kindle. Film music developed independently in Western Europe & the United States. Nobody is sure what the first film to have a soundtrack was or the first silent to be shown in a cinema accompanied by music. It caught on quickly though. One of the earliest films to have its own soundtrack was the 1915 Birth Of A Nation and it was co-composed by the director DW Griffith. A more recent development has been showing gratuitious acts of violence accompanied by light music. This happened in Tarantino's Reservoir Dog's where a police man was tortured and it helped drive home the horror of that. Another film which did this was A Clockwork Orange. Film music is generally the modern day equivalent of classical music. I know I used to listen to Classic FM and they frequently played music from films. Having said that there are soundtracks that are completely different. Take Bernard Herrman's score for Psycho where most of the impact that film has is due to the score which is wonderful. Some directors have a score written before they even have a script. They might have a rough outline and in the case of Peter Weir's Mosquito Coast composed by Jarre they could play the music as the actors were performing although in the case of that film, major changes were made to the final music score. In different countries you see different types of music score according to what is popular in that country. In the case of Slumdog Millionaire which won oscars for best song and best music score they used an established Indian film music composer even though the film was predominantly for the western market. I thoroughly enjoyed this book which although it's relatively short does contain a lot of information.

  6. 5 out of 5

    K

    This book is good for anyone wishing to rapidly catch up on existing scholarly trends in film music studies. The chapter on theory, for example, is very useful as an overview of differing approaches to film music scholarship. However, it will not work as a textbook for any sort of class.

  7. 4 out of 5

    David

    I found this book nicely complemented the BBC documentary series "Sound of Cinema: The Music That Made The Movies". It covers a lot of bases in a short amount of chapters. I found this book nicely complemented the BBC documentary series "Sound of Cinema: The Music That Made The Movies". It covers a lot of bases in a short amount of chapters.

  8. 4 out of 5

    peppersocks

    Reflections and lessons learned: “...an audible definition of the emotion represented in the film...” Familiar songs, new songs, songs written specifically for the storyline, score, underscore, click tracks... Randy Newman has done them all, and I’ve enjoyed and sought out further listening with all types, including excitement from indiekid icons such as Mansell, Greenwood, Albarn, Mothersbaugh, Air, Trent Reznor, Karen O and Underworld. I could list so many soundtracks and scores that I’ve enjoye Reflections and lessons learned: “...an audible definition of the emotion represented in the film...” Familiar songs, new songs, songs written specifically for the storyline, score, underscore, click tracks... Randy Newman has done them all, and I’ve enjoyed and sought out further listening with all types, including excitement from indiekid icons such as Mansell, Greenwood, Albarn, Mothersbaugh, Air, Trent Reznor, Karen O and Underworld. I could list so many soundtracks and scores that I’ve enjoyed, songs discovered and played repeatedly often creating the imagery as a tie in. A love from music to the art of film to try and communicate and emote something in a different way. Contribution to the narrative and tonality, that back in the day we could take away as a memento from the cinema to continue a link to the film. Ooo, just lovely stuff! This felt much more of a broad educational approach to the topic, but I think that’s what a book like this, clearly labelled as an introduction, needed - worldwide examples to reflect the range of the art “...anchoring to a signifier... as if the music throws a net around the floating visual...”

  9. 5 out of 5

    iane

    This covers a surprising amount of ground in such a condensed space. I appreciate Kalinak's decision to foreground cinema across the globe, rather than focusing on Europe or America by default, and I particularly enjoyed the discussions of Hindi and Bengali film. Kalinak also spends some time on the inner workings of the contemporary film music business, and even if those parts have probably dated in the years since this book came out, I still learned a lot from them. This covers a surprising amount of ground in such a condensed space. I appreciate Kalinak's decision to foreground cinema across the globe, rather than focusing on Europe or America by default, and I particularly enjoyed the discussions of Hindi and Bengali film. Kalinak also spends some time on the inner workings of the contemporary film music business, and even if those parts have probably dated in the years since this book came out, I still learned a lot from them.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Audrey Kalman

    a good introduction

  11. 4 out of 5

    Lovely Fortune

    For Listening to Movies Great class and great supplemental textbook. Taking this course really helped me understand and view the use of sound in movies differently.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Cristina Aguilar

    Me ha dado buenas ideas y tiene partes brillantes pero tiende demasiado a la enumeración (como muchos otros libros de cine). Al final se hace un poco pesado

  13. 4 out of 5

    李沛璟

    Interesting......but can't really understand some contexts without the knowledge of the films and the people mentioned in it. Can't wait to watch its recommended films !!! Interesting......but can't really understand some contexts without the knowledge of the films and the people mentioned in it. Can't wait to watch its recommended films !!!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Theophilo Pinto

    Eis um livro sobre a música do filme interessante: ele pretende ser uma breve introdução, como diz o título. E, de fato, consegue grande parte do seu intento. Obviamente, não é de se esperar que um livro desse tamanho (pouco mais de 100 páginas) venha a contemplar muita coisa sobre muitos aspectos. Não, a autora não faz isso. O que ela me surpreendeu foi não deixar o livro tão centrado na produção de Hollywood. De fato, ela consegue, em tão poucas páginas, dar a entender que a música do filme am Eis um livro sobre a música do filme interessante: ele pretende ser uma breve introdução, como diz o título. E, de fato, consegue grande parte do seu intento. Obviamente, não é de se esperar que um livro desse tamanho (pouco mais de 100 páginas) venha a contemplar muita coisa sobre muitos aspectos. Não, a autora não faz isso. O que ela me surpreendeu foi não deixar o livro tão centrado na produção de Hollywood. De fato, ela consegue, em tão poucas páginas, dar a entender que a música do filme americana é uma, digamos assim, possibilidade entre outras, ainda que seja uma possibilidade numericamente imponente! Kalinak faz dois capítulos mostrarem o ‘como’ e o ‘porque’ a música faz o que faz em um filme. Foi uma novidade para mim saber, por exemplo, que os metais, acompanhamento tão ao gosto de herois e batalhas, em outros países podem dar a entender que o personagem se trata de um vilão. Já os motivos de a música fazer o que faz a autora deixa para uma série de autores, que ela vai citando, mostrando sua argumentação. Estão lá Claudia Gorbman, Jacques Attali, Theodor Adorno e outros. Um capítulo que faz um bom, digamos, ‘posicionamento’ de cada autor frente às suas ideias. Mais da metade do livro é gasto com a história do cinema, desde os primórdios até o presente. São três capítulos onde a autora tenta mostrar algo da história do cinema (e olhe que ela também fala do cinema não anglófono!). Para terminar, ela comenta algumas características do ofício do compositor: parcerias, o relacionamento com os estúdios (isto é, com os patrões) e algumas diferenças entre Hollywood e Bollywood, por exemplo. Para mim, o melhor do livro é mostrar a música como um elemento que existe senão em todos os tipos de cinema do mundo, pelo menos na imensa maioria deles. Porém, esse significado musical não é universal e nem os procedimentos de composição, arranjo e mesmo de escuta. Esta é uma ótima introdução para quem quiser ver a música de Hollywood inserida num mundo maior do que ela própria.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Neil R. Coulter

    I've been a fan of film music all my life. I grew up in the heyday of the collaborations between John Williams, Steven Spielberg, and George Lucas. As a kid, I thought film music must've begun with John Williams, and for most of my growing-up years he was my gold standard. In high school, I branched out to Danny Elfman, and from there the branching-out has never stopped. I've always wanted to delve into film score as an area of study and research, and I've used Kalinak's short introduction as a I've been a fan of film music all my life. I grew up in the heyday of the collaborations between John Williams, Steven Spielberg, and George Lucas. As a kid, I thought film music must've begun with John Williams, and for most of my growing-up years he was my gold standard. In high school, I branched out to Danny Elfman, and from there the branching-out has never stopped. I've always wanted to delve into film score as an area of study and research, and I've used Kalinak's short introduction as a doorway into more sources and scores.Her book is indeed a "very short introduction," but she paces herself well and includes a lot of information that I'm eager to continue pursuing. In particular, I really enjoyed how much attention Kalinak gives to non-Hollywood film music. Of course there's not space in this small book to cover any of the world's cinema traditions in any depth, but her inclusion of more than just Hollywood affirms that there is more to the world than just America. I found her surveying sensitive and intriguing. As an ethnomusicologist, I prepare myself to cringe when I read something about music that I know ought to be international but probably won't be; but Kalinak receives the ethnomusicologist's seal of approval, as far as I'm concerned.One odd detail in the book is Kalinak's introductory section which focuses on the use of "Stuck in the Middle With You" in the torture sequence from Reservoir Dogs. Though the example illustrates her points and provides a decent entry into her book, I wouldn't assume that every "general reader" has seen that film, nor would I recommend it to just anyone.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Grandeurs

    Kalinak gives an admirably concise overview of film music as a practice and a field of research. I admire her persistance in providing a global perspective on the history and practice of film sound, though it does come with the trade off of many chapters structured around her list-like attempts to include as many countries as possible, rather than around a cohesive narrative or argument. Unlike other VSI books I have read, Kalinak doesn't put forth a position of her own relative to the field, bu Kalinak gives an admirably concise overview of film music as a practice and a field of research. I admire her persistance in providing a global perspective on the history and practice of film sound, though it does come with the trade off of many chapters structured around her list-like attempts to include as many countries as possible, rather than around a cohesive narrative or argument. Unlike other VSI books I have read, Kalinak doesn't put forth a position of her own relative to the field, but rather (quite clearly) works to summarize the work of others into a few lines each. As such the book doesn't feel very substantial on its own. And it feels short, even for a VSI. But perhaps for just this reason the book, more than most titles in this series, lives up to its title quite well.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Obile

    I read this book in order to gain insight on how to compose film music for the English drama filming project my class is doing at school. As a amateurish composer, I want to master the craft so I can gain recognition. This book is lovely, and the histories are readable and well-defined. I absolutely love the section on how to compose film music—identifying issues faced by composers, recording, coöperation with the director etc. This book is a compact, entertaining gem.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Benjamin

    Well, I enjoyed what I could from this book, but I didn't finish it because there were way too many references to films I haven't seen, meaning that to really enjoy the book I would have to sink in more hours than I really want to just to read an introductory book. For what it's worth, it seemed quite useful as a handbook to important films showcasing the audio/visual symbiosis, and especially for the different cultural approaches to it. Well, I enjoyed what I could from this book, but I didn't finish it because there were way too many references to films I haven't seen, meaning that to really enjoy the book I would have to sink in more hours than I really want to just to read an introductory book. For what it's worth, it seemed quite useful as a handbook to important films showcasing the audio/visual symbiosis, and especially for the different cultural approaches to it.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Katrina

    This was assigned for a class I took. I feel like without the class to elaborate the concepts, I wouldn't have gotten through the book. Still, it has some very interesting stories and facts about a few of the world's most famous composers. This was assigned for a class I took. I feel like without the class to elaborate the concepts, I wouldn't have gotten through the book. Still, it has some very interesting stories and facts about a few of the world's most famous composers.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

    This book is a very good first step, dealing with a little bit of theory, a brief history and some of the most important names. If you are interested in the world of movie soundtracks, but have no knowledge of it at all, it is a useful introduction.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Greg

    Not "very short" enough. Laden with uneventful academic repetition and international cinema sections that read like lip service to multiculturalism instead of genuine interest. Not "very short" enough. Laden with uneventful academic repetition and international cinema sections that read like lip service to multiculturalism instead of genuine interest.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Very interesting to see how politics and history effect film music! Definitely an interesting read for those who are interested in learning more about film and film music

  23. 5 out of 5

    Nicholas Pavkovic

  24. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Wong

    Review of Film Music (2010, OUP). I first grabbed this small book almost a year ago now to accompany me during jury duty summons while idling in court to be called up for selection. All criminal and civil cases that day ended up in plea bargain or settlement out of court and thus did not require any juries to be empanelled. We were then dismissed. A few volunteered to come back the following day for inquest duty. I have only in the last few weeks split Film Music's pages anew. It was a voluntary Review of Film Music (2010, OUP). I first grabbed this small book almost a year ago now to accompany me during jury duty summons while idling in court to be called up for selection. All criminal and civil cases that day ended up in plea bargain or settlement out of court and thus did not require any juries to be empanelled. We were then dismissed. A few volunteered to come back the following day for inquest duty. I have only in the last few weeks split Film Music's pages anew. It was a voluntary act and the pleading was, shall we say, not nearly as Faustian a bargain as the music composer Сергей Сергеевич Прокофьев's falling back in favour with Иосиф Сталин with the film score to Сергей Михайлович Эйзенштейн's Alexander Nevsky (1938). The naive reader will learn a great deal from this very short introduction to film music. The first chapters deal with its theoretical aspects, its function, its sense, its isms; the later chapters then give a synopsis of film music history in its worldwide development while recognizing the caprice of dividing historical timelines so. That this development also circles back to film music's origins while simultaneously gaining a global cultural flavour (A. R. Rahman's Slumdog Millionaire (2008)) is something to be taken for granted today although not it seems if the composer-auteur themself is not at liberty to ignore the demands of the moving image medium as well as the socio-political milieu which could oppress with a tyrannical indifference to the music, whether that indifference is from the film director or indeed from the despot who holds Prokofiev's family hostage. Use the book as a reference to film music listening-watching, to Indian film in particular, but also to Japanese film. In doing so, also give room to that empty space in the historical record for the music that had never been composed or had never made it through the cutting because the composer was sent to toil in labour camp or had not responded to a higher power's tastes. All that said, the meta-cognition should twig to that other authoritarianism, in Marshall McLuhan's take on sensus communis, of the visual takeover of the aural/oral. The image and the moving image is reinforced in its power, often relegating the music in the picture to its subordinate functional purpose. Film music practice, however, can nearly equalize this sense hierarchy—and aesthetic efforts, such as by installation artist and filmmaker Isaac Julien (1960-)—who I had occasion to hear lecture last night at OCADU about one of his works called TEN THOUSAND WAVES (2010)—to break down the cinema viewing habit but also the listening aspects into a 9-channel "parallel montage" (Julien's term, which I might myself call an "apanopticon" or a "dyspanopticon"), do protest the oppression of and our somnambulism to the image. But we shall consider that such late idolatry of visual storytelling is and has always been given the impulse of early music making, and the choice of music for a film does indeed play a large part in whether or not we snooze at the dernière séance.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kerry Wallace

  26. 5 out of 5

    Moatasem Samir

  27. 4 out of 5

    Mrs G

  28. 4 out of 5

    Sheree-Marie

  29. 4 out of 5

    Roo

  30. 5 out of 5

    Maladie

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