Death by Tchaikovsky

The Metric Spell of a Metadiegetic Sorcerer


  • Táhirih Motazedian Vassar College



Tchaikovsky, Black Swan, Swan Lake, film music, ballet, music pathology


The 2010 film Black Swan embeds Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake ballet within a macabre meta-ballet, in which the “Black Swan” character subsumes the life of Nina, the prima ballerina tasked with playing the dual role of Odile/Odette. Nina fulfills the balletic role by succumbing to a nightmarish nineteenth-century “death and the maiden” narrative in which she attains “perfection” by disappearing into the ballet and ultimately dying. The weaving-together of threads of musical analysis, nineteenth-century music pathology, and twenty-first-century psychology reveals a darkly whimsical reading of the narrative in which Tchaikovsky himself is drawn into the filmic fray as the phantasmagorical force behind Nina’s psychological derailment.


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How to Cite

Motazedian, T. (2023). Death by Tchaikovsky: The Metric Spell of a Metadiegetic Sorcerer. Journal of Film Music.