- A Research Guide to Film and Television Music in the United States, and: Film and Television Music: a guide to books, articles, and composer interviews
Readers of this journal are well aware that research on music in film (and related moving-image media) has been a growth industry in recent years. Consider just one statistic: under the category of ‘film and television music’ in the American Musicological Society’s database of Doctoral Dissertations in Musicology, 43 out of 102 entries are currently in progress to completion (‘Doctoral Dissertations in Musicology’). In other words, we can expect the pile of dissertations in the field to nearly double in the near future – and that is taking only the musicology slice of the interdisciplinary pie into account. Given the interest among young scholars (as well as those embracing the field mid career), thorough bibliographies and research manuals ought to be on our collective wish-list. Scarecrow Press has attempted to satisfy this need with a matched pair of volumes: A Research Guide to Film and Television Music in the United States, with chapters split between musicologist and Paramount Pictures music archivist Jeannie Gayle Pool and Northern Illinois University librarian H. Stephen Wright; and Film and Television Music: a guide to books, articles, and composer interviews, compiled and edited by Warren M. Sherk of the Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. All three authors have done a service to researchers that should not be underestimated, even if Sherk’s contribution, the product of decades’ worth of bibliographic compilation, stands out as the weightiest. But when I send my students to these resources, it will be with caveats, and when I return to them myself, I anticipate that my initial frustrations will linger.
Sherk’s book runs to 586 large, densely packed pages of bibliographic entries followed by another 80 pages of index. Faced with such a mass of information, it may seem churlish to ask for more, but this sort of resource needs to meet high standards of thoroughness and usability in order to be successful. Despite the strengths of Sherk’s data collection, the book is compromised to some degree in both of these areas. [End Page 253]
In his introduction, Sherk calls the volume ‘a comprehensive listing of books and articles on the subject of film and television music’ (xi). Yet within a page he has identified a restriction that will disappoint serious researchers: this is a listing of English-language publications only. In this respect, this book’s most significant precursor, Steven D. Wescott’s Comprehensive Bibliography of Music for Film and Television (1985), did a better job of earning its title, even as early as its first page – where the first four entries are in Spanish, Japanese, Italian, and Russian. So, to take an example, a researcher seeking period sources on silent-era musical accompaniment will be led by Sherk to periodicals from the Edison Kinetogram to the Musical Courier, but a browse through Wescott will be required to find articles from Der Kinematograph and Lichtbildbühne as well. Sherk has twenty additional years’ worth of citations, among other advantages, but with this limitation he fails to supersede Wescott. Of lesser consequence, but perhaps more puzzling, is Sherk’s decision to omit articles from electronic journals. Surveying the relatively small number of peer-reviewed, online-only journals that were active as of 2005 – this book’s cut-off date, about which more below – would not have been an onerous task. Neglecting to undertake it means that valuable articles from venues such as ECHO or Scope are not to be found here.1
Of course, what is found here is often remarkable, both in the quantity of citations and in Sherk’s informative annotations to many of them: he has read this literature, not just documented it. Best of all is the coverage of periodicals...