- Beyond the Soundtrack: Representing Music in Cinema
In his seminal work, La mémoire collective ([Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 1950]; English edition, The Collective Memory, translated by Francis J. Ditter, Jr., and Vida Yazdi Ditter [New York: Harper & Row, 1980]), noted French sociologist Maurice Halbwachs described the overwhelming power of music upon collective and internal memory:
The sound makes one think about the object because the object is recognized through the sound; but only rarely might the object . . . itself evoke the sound. On hearing the clinking of chains, one might think of a prison gang; or the jingling of bridles, the cracking of a whip, and the galloping of horses might remind one of a chariot race. Were such scenes to appear on a movie screen without a hidden orchestra accompanying and imitating these sounds, we would not evoke them on our own and the figures moving in silence would present a much less effective illusion.(The Collective Memory, pp. 158–59)
The editors and contributors of Beyond the Soundtrack: Representing Music in Cinema wish to advance this very notion in recognizing that both the musical score and sonic landscape of a film are as vital to the diegesis as the images they accompany (and, in some cases, as Halbwachs might have argued, even more dominant). This diverse collection of essays—showcasing films, directors, and composers from around the world—offers a distinctive cross-disciplinary perspective on the relationship between sound and the moving image, relying largely on a reflexive approach.
The work is divided into three relatively equal segments, with chapters grouped under the categories of musical meaning, agency, and identity in an attempt to construct "a managed heterogeneity" (p. 7). The monograph stems from papers presented at the 2004 conference "Beyond the Sound track," hosted by the University of Minnesota, which sought to pair scholars from musicology and film studies. In the introduction to the volume, the editors candidly argue that a greater dialogue should already exist between representatives of the two fields, a need they aim to satisfy. Further more, the authors of the forward assert that despite the valuable distinction between diegetic (source music) and nondiegetic music (underscore), this differentiation is by no means unambiguous. Scholars should be mindful that a considerable amount of music exists beyond these categories; I would further argue that the boundaries are often purposefully blurred by the composer or director to intriguing ends.
The first essay in the volume, written by Peter Franklin, explores nineteenth-century European symphonic music, focusing his argument on the music accompanying the opening title and credits sequence of Gone with the Wind (1939). Max Steiner penned the film's lush score, and was later regarded for his appropriation of romantic symphonic film scoring practices. Nicholas Cook continues this discourse with his chapter "Representing Beethoven: Romance and Sonata Form in Simon Cellan Jones's Eroica," examining the obscure 2003 madefor television movie broadcast by the BBC. Cook argues that the producer expands the concept of the time-constrained music video as a narrative tool, the film essentially unfolding inside the temporal space of the symphony. In the tradition of similar theatrical endeavors, the filmmakers reveal the masterwork's history and dramatize the life of its creator at a critical juncture in both his output and Western musical development. In contrast, Susan McClary examines three films—Angels and Insects (1995) , The Piano (1993), and The Hours (2002)—that utilize the modern compositional device of minimalism as a counterpoint to their respective dramas, each set in the [End Page 759] nineteenth or early twentieth century. McClary is convincing in her argument that such a procedural shift, albeit unexpected, is nonetheless dramatically satisfying.
The next essay, authored by coeditor Lawrence Kramer, explores Roman Polanski's The Pianist (2002), based on the harrowing memoir of Polish Holocaust survivor and professional musician Wladyslaw Szpilman. Kramer affords specific attention to what has previously been referred to as extra-opus intertextuality...