- Music in Television: Channels of Listening
During much of the twentieth century, television music was largely ignored by scholars. Television itself has often been considered a redheaded stepchild of film studies, and those who did study television often ignored any musical aspects. Likewise, the study of film music was not considered proper by most American musicologists until at least the 1970s, and many of those scholars had no interest in television. Recently, however, this has begun to change, as evidenced in the growing number of texts available on the subject (such as Ron Rodman's Tuning In: American Narrative Television Music [Oxford: Oxford [End Page 71] University Press, 2010]) as well as articles from Popular Music, Music and the Moving Image, and Music, Sound, and the Moving Image, and other similar journals. It is in this context that Music in Television: Channels of Listening came into existence. Touted by editor James Deaville as "the first collaborative book devoted to the general topic of television music in English" (p. 2), this text is worth acquiring by those who have an interest in television music or in popular music in general both for its value as a resource and for several of its compelling articles.
As Deaville notes, the collection as a whole is not designed to be comprehensive, but rather to provide a sampling of what is available and to act as a stepping stone for further research (p. 2). Music in Television is divided into two sections—"Practices and Theories of Television Music" and "Case Studies in Television Music"—each of which contains five articles. The selections in "Practices and Theories" are generally designed to be broader than those in the "Case Studies," though Colin Roust's article on NBC news documentaries could easily fit in the second section. As is typical for a collection of this type, the text covers a variety of topics, including documentaries, cartoons, science fiction, cop shows, and concerts on television. Approaches vary, too, from primarily sociological studies (Norma Coates' "It's What's Happening, Baby! Television Music and the Politics of the War on Poverty") and cultural studies (Kip Pegley's " 'The Rock Man's Burden': Consuming Canada at Live 8") to visual studies of musicians (Julie Brown's "Channeling Glenn Gould: Masculinities in Television and New Hollywood") to more technical analyses of the music itself (Ron Rodman's " 'Coperettas,' 'Detecterns,' and Space Operas: Music and Genre Hybridization in American Television") The articles are not particularly theoretical, though; college students who can read music should be comfortable reading any article in the collection. Indeed, given its broad range of topics and approaches, this text would be ideal as a supplement for an introductory film music or television music course.
Perhaps most useful for those endeavoring to further their knowledge of the field is the opening chapter, "A Discipline Emerges: Reading Writing about Listening to Television." In it, Deaville compiles a chronological historiography of television that is both readable and extremely useful for those who have a strong background in music and are interested in getting into the field of television music. The author concentrates on academic sources (primarily but not exclusively in English), but does touch upon other, more popular sources as well. The information is well researched, and the footnotes are extensive, providing for a good overall summary; however, given the nature of the article, an actual bibliography would have made the use of such information easier. (Indeed, given the nature of the book, an overall bibliography for the text as a whole would be particularly helpful for the classroom.) Nevertheless, this chapter is a particularly welcome addition to television music studies.
Other parts of the book are considerably less bibliographic in nature, but are still quite informative and make for interesting reading. Robynn Stilwell's article " 'Bad Wolf': Leitmotif in Doctor Who (2005)," for example, provides a convincing argument on the connections between the visual and musical leitmotifs of the...