In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Reviewed by:
  • Best Songs of the Movies: Academy Award Nominees and Winners, 1934-1958, and: The Soundtracks of Woody Allen: A Complete Guide to the Songs and Music in Every Film, 1969-2005
  • Steve Lannin (bio)
John Funnell , Best Songs of the Movies: Academy Award Nominees and Winners, 1934–1958 (MacFarland and Company, 2005), 320pp.
Adam Harvey , The Soundtracks of Woody Allen: A Complete Guide to the Songs and Music in Every Film, 1969–2005 (MacFarland and Company, 2007), 228 pp.

In reviewing these books, I must admit to reading neither from cover to cover. Although this may appear remiss, my reasoning was to review them as they would be utilised, as reference materials. Also, given that in combination they discuss almost 200 films and more than 500 songs (not including classical selections), many of which I had neither seen nor heard previously, you may understand why my overview has reluctantly become selective. Readers should bear this in mind when debating my conclusions.

Both texts are, fundamentally, lists. John Funnell's Best Songs of the Movies: Academy Award Nominees and Winners, 1934–1958, is founded upon an historic list of nominations created by the Songwriters' Guild for the Academy of the Arts; Adam Harvey's The Soundtracks of Woody Allen: A Complete Guide to the Songs and Music in Every Film, 1969–2005 catalogues all the music, scored or compiled, for every Allen film up to 2005. Lists are the format that both volumes have adopted, with films as separate chapters in Harvey's book, while years of collective nomination are episodes in Funnell's.

These tomes take a mountain of information and attempt to give it meaningful and useful structure. Both succeed and fail in a number of sometimes mirrored or contrapuntal ways. In the preface to The Soundtracks of Woody Allen, Harvey states that his book emerged from the need to provide a 'comprehensive survey of all of the music…' from Allen's films: it declares itself to be a 'complete guide'. The films are arranged alphabetically, which is helpful from one academic perspective – it is likely to be used as a reference book rather than a read-through text – but is unhelpful from another. Film and music are often categorised into 'time periods' (e.g. the Sixties), making chronological similarities and sub-genres easier to spot; here they are not (Harvey even mentions 'periodic trends' in Allen's work, early in the book). Harvey's introduction liberally and directly endorses each point with a collection [End Page 97] of quotes which, were they from filmed and recorded extracts, would make an excellent documentary about Allen's scoring process. His introduction also demonstrates the variety of ways the appropriations are utilised, including for scene setting, temporal framing, as subtexts, comic devices, and for rhythmic energising.

This guide can be very insightful and instructive. For example, Harvey's discussion of Manhattan includes the moment when the opening Allegro of Mozart's Symphony No. 40 is used during the concert sequence: '…Allen deliberately uses the development section here – which is by nature more unsettling owing to the rapid key changes – because it better reflects the characters' uneasiness.' However, from the same film, there are omissions regarding the metaphoric aspect of song choice in relation to image. When discussing 'Someone to Watch Over Me', for instance, Harvey states that the couple 'sit on a bench by 59th Street Bridge until dawn', but he does not then explain how this connotes guardianship (the bridge watching over the couple, Allen watching over Mary/Tracy), nor does he consider how the lyric, although unheard in this instrumental version, defines the visual power of this scene. It is not the book's stated intention to probe the metaphors, so such criticisms are probably unfair given the enormity of the task at hand (an essay on lyrical subtext in Allen's work is referenced in the notes, although this particular sequence is not included).

On other occasions the book is abstruse, for example, in the passage where Harvey claims that 'Allen correlates the film's opening and closing scenes not only in content, but also provides a subtle musical parallel as well.' Parallel of what? Does...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1753-0776
Print ISSN
1753-0768
Pages
pp. 97-100
Launched on MUSE
2009-07-24
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.