Music to Climb By

Rising Chromaticism in Max Steiner’s Score for King Kong


  • Jonathan L Friedmann Academy for Jewish Religion California



King Kong, Max Steiner, chromaticism, mickey mousing, leitmotif


This paper examines the influence of the “climbing motif” that scores the ascent of the Empire State Building in King Kong (1933). Similar rising chromatic lines occur in numerous later film and television sequences involving suspenseful climbs. The various iterations can be traced to Max Steiner’s landmark score, which has inspired generations of screen composers.


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How to Cite

Friedmann, J. L. (2022). Music to Climb By: Rising Chromaticism in Max Steiner’s Score for King Kong. Journal of Film Music, 10(2), 153–161.