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Film Music: Historical and Aesthetic Perspectives

This course explores the aesthetics and history of music in cinema. Through examination of scenes from seminal films, assigned readings of historical texts, lectures, and class discussion, the course examines the history of cinema from the viewpoint of its music and provides students with the tools to cogently analyze music for cinema. During the class, students learn to apply historical, cultural, and semiotic analytical methods to unfold the cultural and artistic significance of a movie and its music. No prior training in music is required.

Course #
Music and Performing Arts Professions


We will be using flipped learning for this class. This means that you will learn the concepts by following recorded lectures and materials. Then, we will spend the synchronous time working on exercises and doing activities with the concepts you learned.

Learning Outcomes

  1. Identify the main concepts in the assigned readings and movies, and be able to describe them 2) Define and explain fundamental concepts and terminology instrumental to perform screen music analysis:
    1. Types of shots and Point of View
    2. Diegesis
    3. Narration, Narrative, Plot, and Story
    4. Codes and Genre
    5. Viewer’s perception of music in film
  2. Employ the previous concepts in discussions and written papers
  3. Debate cogently the assigned topics for weekly discussion, integrating concepts from the assigned readings and movies.
  4. Identify the most relevant film periods, movie composers, production practices, and genres throughout the history of movie making
  5. Analyze, utilizing the tools provided in class, the role and functions of music in movies by examining specific scenes
  6. Integrate the scene analyses into broader discussions that relate to the analysis of a whole film, a music or filmic style, a movie genre, or a time period
  7. Evaluate music in movies and provide a personal opinion based on the results of the analytical process, and the student’s individual aesthetic values. 

Course Content Overview

  • Historical and cultural context of a movie
  • Elements of film form and style
  • The role of music in film
  • Film music perception
  • Wagnerian total artwork and the cinema
  • Golden Era, Studio System
  • Postwar, the Post Studio Era and new musical ideas
  • The new Symphonism of the 80s
  • The Contemporary Scene: Blockbusters and Remote Control
  • The Contemporary Scene: the “independent” that became mainstream
  • The Contemporary Scene: Challenging films
  • Two Auteurs: Kubrick and Tarantino
  • Music and Film Genre
  • Exploring Genres: The Western / Biblical Films