New Surprises for Haydn’s Surprise Symphony

Max Steiner’s Score for We Are Not Alone (1939)


  • Jeff Lyon Brigham Young University
  • Brent Yorgason Brigham Young University



Max Steiner, film music, Joseph Haydn, Surprise Symphony, leitmotif


In his score to the 1939 film We Are Not Alone, Max Steiner uses the melody from the second movement of Joseph Haydn’s Surprise Symphony forty-one times to represent different situations, places, emotions, and character development for Dr. David Newcome, played by Paul Muni. In each variation, Steiner adds an extra “surprise” to the theme. These variations include the use of dark textures, mode changes, reharmonization, chromaticism, meter changes, melodic variation, and the orchestration of diegetic music.


The Max Steiner Collection: MSS 1547, volume 169. Film Music Archives, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University.

Smith, Stephen C. 2020. Music by Max Steiner: The Epic life of Hollywood’s most influential composer. Oxford: Oxford University Press.



How to Cite

Lyon, J., & Yorgason, B. (2022). New Surprises for Haydn’s Surprise Symphony: Max Steiner’s Score for We Are Not Alone (1939). Journal of Film Music, 10(2), 113–141.