Music in Films

A Critical Review of Literature, 1980-1996


  • Robynn J. Stilwell Georgetown University



literature on film music, film music historiography


The purpose here is not to trace the history of music in film, but to survey the literature about music in film written between 1980 and 1996. Film music literature is a strange hybrid, much like its subject, existing in a limbo cut off from the main body of both its progenitors: neither film studies nor musicology have paid much attention to film music in the past, and like a squalling brat, film music studies have continued to protest loudly the neglect. While it is true that film studies and musicology have been largely uninterested in film music—or, to be fair, ill-equipped theoretically to approach the synthetic form—the vociferous plaints of complete neglect are gradually being exposed as hyperbole.

Author Biography

  • Robynn J. Stilwell, Georgetown University

    Robynn Stilwell is Assistant Professor of Music at Georgetown University. Her research falls into two broad, overlapping categories: music and movement (music and dance, film, theatre, video, and figure skating); and music and identity, including popular music and particularly music at the margins of identity and technological and political change.


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———. 1988. Music for silent films, 1894-1929: A guide. Washington DC: Library of Congress.

———. 1993. ‘Perfuming the air with music’: The need for film music bibliography. Music Reference Service Quarterly 2, no. 1-2: 59-103.

———. 1993. Supplement to Steven D. Wescott’s A comprehensive bibliography of music for film and television. Music Reference Service Quarterly 2, no. 1-2: 105-44.

Arnell, Richard. 1984. Composing for animated films. Royal College of Music Newsletter 80, no. 1: 19-20.

Arnold, Alison. 1988. Popular film song in India: A case of mass-market musical eclecticism. Popular Music 7, no. 2: 177-88.

Atkins, Irene Kahn. 1983. Source music in motion pictures. East Brunswick, NJ: Associated University Press.

Balázs, Béla. 1924. Der sichtbare Mensch; oder, die Kultur des Films. Vienna and Leipzig: DeutschÖsterreichischer Verlag.

Barrette, Johanne. 1993. Keeping up with Quebec film market. Canadian Composer 4, no. 4: 10-12.

Barthes, Roland. 1977. From work to text. In Image-Music-Text. Translated by Stephen Heath. London: Fontana Press.

Becce, Giuseppe, Ludwig Brav, and Hans Erdmann. 1927. Allgemeines Handbuch der Filmmusik. Berlin: Schlesinger.

Behlmer, Rudy. 1989. Tumult, battle and blaze: Looking back on the 1920s–and since–with Gaylord Carter, the dean of theater organists. In Film music I. ed. Clifford McCarty. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc.

Behne, Klaus-Ernst. 1982. Musik-kommunikation oder geste? Musikpädagogische Forschung Band 3: 125-43.

Bell, David A. 1994. Getting the best score for your film. Los Angeles: Silman-James Press.

Berg, Charles. 1978. Cinema sings the blues. Cinema Journal 17, no. 2: 1-12.

Bordwell, David. 1980. The musical analogy. Yale French Studies 60 (fall): 141-56.

Bowers, David Q. 1986. Nickelodeon theaters and their music. New York: The Vestal Press.

Brown, Royal S. 1994. Overtones and undertones: Reading film music. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Buhler, James and David Neumeyer. 1994. Review of Settling the Score, by Kathryn Kalinak and Strains of Utopia: Gender, nostalgia and Hollywood film music by Caryl Flinn. Journal of the American Musicological Society, 67, no. 2 (summer): 364-85.

Burt, George. 1991. The art of film music. Boston: Northeastern University Press.

Bush, Richard H. 1989. The music of Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers. In Film music I. ed. Clifford McCarty. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc.

Carlin, Dan. 1991. Music in film and video productions. Boston & London: Focal Press.

Carroll, Brendan. 1987. Erich Wolfgang Korngold 1897-1957: His life and works. 3rd impression, rev., ed. Konrad Hopkins and Roland van Roekel. The Music Makers Series, vol. 1. Paisley: Wilfion Books.

———. 1997. The last prodigy: A biography of Erich Wolfgang Korngold. Portland: Amadeus Press.

Chell, Samuel. 1984. Music and emotion in the classical Hollywood film score: The case of The Best Years of Our Lives. Film Criticism 8, no. 2 (winter): 27-38.

Chion, Michael. 1994. Audio-Vision: Sound on screen. Translated by Claudia Gorbman, forward by Walter Murch. New York: Columbia University Press.

Christie, Ian. 1993. Sounds and silents. Sight and Sound 3, no. 3 (March): 18-21.

Cochran, Alfred W. 1986. Style, structure, and tonal organization in the early film scores of Aaron Copland. Ph.D diss., Catholic University, Washington, DC.

———. 1990. Leith Stevens and the jazz film score: The Wild One and Private Hell 36. Jazz Research Papers 10: 24-31.

———. 1990. The spear of Cephalus: Observations on film music analysis. Indiana Theory Review 11, no. 1-2: 65-80.

Condren, R. 1991. Abstract for Let it bleed: The music of Goodfellas. Popular Music and Society 15, no. 3: 131- 36.

Covach, John. 1990. The rules and the use of specific models in musical satire. Indiana Theory Review 11, no. 1-2: 119-44.

Darby, Ken. 1990. American film composers: Techniques, trends, 1915-1990. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company.

———. 1992. Hollywood holyland: The filming and scoring of The Greatest Story Ever Told. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press.

de la Motte-Haber, Helga. 1980. Wirkungen der Filmmusik auf den Zuschauer. Musica 34, no. 1: 12-17.

———. 1983. Musik als erlebte Gefühl—Ausdruck als Sinnkatagorie von Musik. Musikpädagogische Forschung Band 3: 11-13.

de la Motte-Haber, Helga and Hans Emons. 1980. Filmmusik: Eine systematische Beschreibung. Munich: Carl Hanser Verlag.

Denisoff, R. Serge and George Plasketes. 1990. Synergy in 1980s film and music: Formula for success or industry mythology? Film History 4, no. 3: 257-76.

Denisoff, R. Serge and William D. Romanowski. 1991. Risky business: Rock in film. New Brunswick & London: Transaction Publishers.

Doerschuk, Robert L. 1993. Michael Kamen. Keyboard Magazine 19 (September): 56-65.

———. 1994. Music in the air: The life and legacy of Leon Theremin. Keyboard Magazine 20, no. 2 (February): 48-51.

Duchen, Jessica. 1996. Erich Wolfgang Korngold. 20th Century Composers Series. London: Phaidon/Chronicle Books.

Ebert-Obermeier, Traude. 1982. Kunst im Dienst der Revolution: Zur Musik von Edmund Meisel für den Film Panzerkreuzer Potemkin. Musik und Gesellschaft 32: 648-53.

Ehrler, H. 1993. Viele Töne verdoppeln die stummen Bilder: Alfred und Andrej Schnittkes Filmmusik zu Pudowkins Das Ende von St. Petersburg. Neue Musikzeitung 41: 58.

Etscheit, Ulrich. 1988. Ich habe die Oper mein ganzes leben gehaßt: Zur Rezeption von Musik im literarischen und filmischen Schaffen Pier Pasolinis. Musica 42, no. 3: 246-54.

Faulkner, Robert R. 1971. Hollywood studio musicians: Their work and careers in the recording industry. Chicago: Aldine-Atherton.

———. 1983. Music on demand: Composers and careers in the Hollywood film industry. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Books.

Fisher, Lucy. 1982. René Clair, Le Million, and the coming of sound. Cinema Journal 21, no. 2: 34-50.

Fiske, John. 1987. Television culture. London: Routledge.

Flinn, Caryl. 1992. Strains of utopia: Gender, nostalgia and Hollywood film music. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Freedland, Michael. 1991. André Previn. London: Century.

Fregoso, Rosa Linda. 1993. The bronze screen: Chicana and Chicano film culture. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Fry, S.M. 1992. The film and television music of Henry Mancini: A selective annotated bibliography of the literature. The Cue Sheet 9, no. 2: 27-33.

———. 1992. The music for The Pink Panther: A study in lyrical timelessness. The Cue Sheet 9, no. 2: 14-23

Gibson, Gloria J. 1987. The cultural significance of music to the black independent filmmaker. Ph.D diss., Indiana University.

Gies, Stefan. 1986. Musik im Film: Manipulation oder dramatisches Mittel? Musik und Bildung 18 (September): 762-70.

Giffuni, Cathe. 1988. A bibliography of the film scores of Ralph Vaughan Williams. Music and Musicians International 37, no. 2 (October): 24-31.

Gorbman, Claudia. 1987. Unheard melodies: Narrative film music. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Green, Laurence. 1992. The impact of music on film. Contemporary Review 260, no. 1515: 214-16.

Grey, Andrea. 1985. Music for film: Papers delivered at the National Music for Film Symposium. Sydney: Resources Unit, Australian Film Television and Radio School.

Hahne, Dietrich. 1992. Komposition und Film: Projekt nach Motiven aus Camus ‘Der Abtrünnige’ für Chor, Orchester und Spielfilm. Folkwang-Texte II: Beiträge zu Musik, Theater, Tanz, Bd 5. Essen: Die blaue Eule.

Harris, Steve. 1988. Film, television & stage music on phonograph records: A discography. Jefferson, NC & London: McFarland & Company, Inc.

Heckel, Frank. 1982. Miklós Rózsa. Filmmusik 8, no. 12: 12-22.

Hubbard, Preston. 1985. Synchronized sound and movie-house musicians. American Music 3, no. 4: 429-41.

Huckvale, David. 1990. Twins of evil: An investigation into the aesthetics of film music. Popular Music 9, no. 1: 1-35.

Insdorf, Annette. 1980. Maurice Jaubert and François Truffaut: Musical continuities from L’Atalante to L’Histoire d’Adele H. Yale French Studies 60: 204-18.

Jalkanen, Pekka. 1993. Musical character spotting: The leitmotiv in Finnish film music. Finnish Music Quarterly, no. 3: 51-56.

James, Dennis. 1989. Performing with silent film. In Film music I. ed. Clifford McCarty. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc.

James, Richard S. 1986. Avant-garde sound-on-film techniques and their relationship to electro-acoustic music. Musical Quarterly 72, no. 1: 74-85.

Johnson, Edward. 1977. Bernard Herrmann, Hollywood’s music-dramatist: A biographical sketch with a filmography, catalogue of works, discography and bibliography. Forward by Miklós Rózsa. Triad Press Bibliographical Series; No 6. Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire: Triad Press.

Johnston, Sheila. 1992. Knowing when to keep quiet (interview with Ryuichi Sakamoto). The Independent (9 October): Education 17.

Jones, Christopher. 1993. Focus on film music. Canadian Composer 4, no. 4: 10-12.

Julien, Jean-Rémy. 1980. Éléments méthodologiques pour une typologie de la musique de film. Revue de Musicologie 106, no. 2: 179-202.

Kalinak, Kathryn. 1982. The fallen woman and the virtuous wife: Musical stereotypes in The Informer, Gone With the Wind, and Laura. Film Reader 5: 76-82.

———. 1990. Music to my ears: A structural approach to teaching the soundtrack. Indiana Theory Review 11, no. 1-2: 29-45.

———. 1992. Settling the score: Music and classical Hollywood film. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.

Karlin, Fred. 1994. Listening to movies: The film lover’s guide to film music. New York: Schirmer.

Karlin, Fred and Rayburn Wright. 1989. On the track: A guide to contemporary film scoring. New York: Schirmer.

Keane, David. 1984. The birth of electronic music in Canada. Studies in Music from the University of Western Ontario 9: 55-78.

Keller, Matthais. 1993. Opern ohne Gesang: Der Filmkomponist Erich Wolfgang Korngold. Opera Yearbook: 34-37.

Kershaw, David. 1992. Music and image on film and video: An absolute alternative. In Companion to contemporary musical thought. ed. John Paytner, Tim Howell, Richard Orton and Peter Seymour. London: Routledge.

Khatchadourian, Haig. 1985. Music, film & art. Musicology Series, vol. 3. New York: Gordon & Breach Science Publishers, Inc.

Kloppenburg, Josef. 1983. Musikkulturelle Vielfalt - Eindeutigkeit des Ausdrucks. Der ‘Unstil’ der Filmmusik. Musikpädagogische Forschung, Band 4: 207-16.

———. 1986. Die dramaturgische Funktion der Musik in Filmen Alfred Hitchcocks. München: Wilhelm Fink Verlag.

Lababed, I. 1987. John Barry: The man with the golden baton. Creem 19 (October): 30-31.

Larson, Randall D. 1985. Musique fantastique: A survey of film music in the fantastic cinema. Metuchen, NJ & London: Scarecrow Press, Inc.

Lichtman, Irv. 1993. Words & music: Kamen keeps track of film scores vs. singles. Billboard 105 (6 March): 18.

Limbacher, James L. 1974. Film music: From violins to video. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press.

———. 1981. Keeping score: Film music from 1972 to 1979. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press.

Limbacher, James L.and H. Stephen Wright. 1991. Keeping score: Film and television music, 1980-1988 : with additional coverage of 1921-1979. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press.

Lipscomb, Scott. 1990. Perceptual judgment of the symbiosis between musical and visual components in film. Master’s thesis, University of California, Los Angeles.

Littlefield, Richard. 1990. Review of Unheard Melodies by Claudia Gorbman. Indiana Theory Review 11, no. 2: 65-73.

Lucchesi, Joachim. 1984. Filmmusik Hanns Eislers in der Akademie der Künste. Musik und Gesellschaft 34: 602-603.

Luttikhuis, Paul. 1991. Erich Korngold als filmcomponist. Mens en Melodie 46 (February): 82-87.

Mancini, Henry and Gene Lees. 1989. Did they mention the music? Chicago: Contemporary Books.

Manson, Eddy Lawrence. 1989. The film composer in concert and the concert composer in film. In Film music I. ed. Clifford McCarty. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc.

Manuel, Peter. 1988. Popular music in India: 1901-86. Popular Music 7, no. 2: 157-76.

Manvell, Roger and John Huntley. 1957. The techniques of film music. London: Focal Press. revised edition by Richard Arnell and Peter Day, New York: Hastings House, 1975.

Marks, Martin. 1979. Film music: The material, literature and present state of research. Notes 36: 282-325. updated in the Journal of the University Film and Video Association 34, no. 1 (Winter 1982): 3-40.

———. 1983. The well-furnished film: Satie’s score for Entr’acte. Canadian University Music Review 4: 245-77.

———. 1990. Film music of the silent period, 1895-1924. Ph.D. diss., Harvard University, in book form as Music and the silent films: Contexts and case studies, 1895-1924. New York. Oxford University Press, 1997.

Marks, Martin and Fred Steiner. 1986. Film music. In The new Grove dictionary of American music. eds. H. Wiley Hitchcock and Stanley Sadie. London: Macmillan.

Mathieson, Thomas J. 1990. Silent film music and the theatre organ. Indiana Theory Review 11, no. 1-2: 81-117.

McCarty, Clifford. 1972. Film composers in America: A checklist of their work. Los Angeles: Valentine, 1953. Reprint, New York: Da Capo Press.

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McLean, Adrienne L. 1993. It’s only that I do what I love and love what I do: Film noir and the musical woman. Cinema Journal 33, no. 1 (fall): 3-16.

Meloy, M. 1992. Michael Kamen: Chameleon composer. The Instrumentalist 46 (April): 44-47.

Metz, Christian. 1977. Le significant imaginaire. Paris: U.G.E.

Miceli, Sergio. 1981. La Musica nel Film: Arte e artigianato Fiesole. Firenze: Discanto, Distribuzione La Nuova Italia.

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Needs, Jason. 1995. Interview: Michael Kamen with a vengeance. Music from the Movies (summer): 7-9.

Neumeyer, David. 1990. Film music analysis and pedagogy. Indiana Theory Review 11, no. 1-2: 1-27.

Newsom, Jon. 1978. David Raksin: A composer in Hollywood. Quarterly Journal of the Library of Congress 35: 142-72.

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———. 1980. Film music. In The new Grove dictionary of music and musicians. ed. Stanley Sadie. London: Macmillan.

———. 1984. Dimitri Tiomkin: A portrait. London: T.E. Books.

———. 1989. Prokofiev and Eisenstein. Music and musicians international (November): 6 10.

———. 1990. The composer in Hollywood. New York & London: Marion Boyars.

———. 1991. Prokofiev, Eisenstein and Ivan. Musical Times 132 (April): 179-81.

Pauli, Hanjörg. 1990. Bernard Herrmanns Musik zu Citizen Kane. Dissonance 26 (November): 12-18.

Penn, William. 1985. The music for David O. Selznick’s production no. 103 Duel in the Sun. Perspectives on music: Essays on collections at the Humanities Research Center. ed. David Oliphant and Thomas Zigal. Austin: Humanities Research Center, The University of Texas at Austin.

———. 1990. Music and image: A pedagogical approach. Indiana Theory Review 11, no. 1-2: 47-63.

Petruschanskaya, Jelená. 1988. Ein Gespräch mit Alfred Schnittke: Die Möglichkeit des Dialogs zwischen Bild und Musik im Film. Kunst und Literature 36, no. 2: 272-80.

Powis, T. 1993. They shoot: he scores! Canadian Composer 4, no. 1: 20-21.

Preston, Mike. 1993. Tele-tunes: Television, film & show music on compact disc, cassette, LP & video. Morecambe: Mike Preston Music.

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Prox, Lothar. 1980. Musik zu alten Filmen, Stummfilmvertonung der Fernsehanstalten. Musica 34: 25-31.

———. 1993. Musik und Stummfilm: Schnittke’s Neukomposition für einen Russischen Revolutionsfilm von 1927. Neue Zeitschrift für Musik 154 (January): 53-55.

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Reitinger, Douglas W. 1992. Paint it black: Rock music and Vietnam war film. Journal of American Culture 15, no. 3 (fall): 53-59.

Rieger, Eva. 1986. “Spiel’ es Sam!” Filmmusikanalyse im Musikunterricht dargestellt am Spielfilm Casablanca. Musik und Bildung 18 (September): 771-78.

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———. 1989. Stravinsky and MGM. In Film music I. ed. Clifford McCarty. New York: Garland Publishing Inc.

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———. 1982. …ohne durch die ordnende Instanz des Intellekts zu gehen. Reflexe auf die vermutete Wirkung von Musik im Spielfilm. Musikpädagogische Forschung, Band 3: 164-79.

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———. 1992. Was macht eigentlich ein Filmkomponist? Musica 46, no. 2: 79-82.

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———. 1991. A heart at fire’s center: The life and music of Bernard Herrmann. Berkeley & Los Angeles: University of California Press.

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Steiner, Fred. 1983. Keeping score of the scores: Music for Star Trek. Library of Congress Quarterly 40, no. 1: 4-15.

———. 1989. What were musicians saying about movie music during the first decade of sound? A symposium of selected writings. In Film music I. ed. Clifford McCarty. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc.

Steiner, Frederick. 1981. The making of an American film composer: A study of Alfred Newman’s music in the first decade. Ph.D. diss., University of Southern California.

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———. 1994. Stravinsky and Balanchine: A musico-choreographic analysis of Agon. Ph.D. diss., University of Michigan.

———. 1997. Symbol, narrative and the music of Truly, Madly, Deeply. Screen 38, no. 1 (Spring): 60-75.

Strauch, Hedemarie. 1980. Der Einfluß von Musik auf die filmische Wahrnehmung am Beispeil von L. Buñuel’s Un Chien Andalou. In Musikpädagogische Forschung 1. ed. Karl-Ernst Behne. Laaber: Laaber Verlag.

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Thiel, Wolfgang. 1980. Gedanken und Gespräch über filmmusikalische Geataltung. Musik und Gesellschaft 30 (October): 584-89.

———. 1981. Filmmusik in Geschichte und Gegenwart. Berlin: Henschelverlag Kunst und Gesellschaft.

———. 1981. Gibt es eine Renaissance der Stummfilmmusik? Film und Fernsehen 3: 22-26.

———. 1983. Stummfilmmusik as kunstlerische Aufgange: Ein Arbeitsbericht. Musik und Gesellschaft 33 (October): 606-11.

———. 1986. Zwischen Klang und Geräusch: Anmerkungen zur zeitgenössischen internationalen Filmmusik. Musik und Gesellschaft 36: 27-32.

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———. 1997. Music for the movies. 2nd updated ed. New York: Silman-James Press.

Tomkins, Les. 1988. John Cacavas: The changeable world of film scoring. Crescendo International 25 (January): 20-23.

Turk, Edward Baron. 1991. Deriding the voice of Jeanette MacDonald: Notes on psychoanalysis and the American film musical. Camera Obscura: A Journal of Feminism and Film Theory 25-26 (Spring): 225-49.

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———. 1991. Diegetic music in opera and film: A similarity between two genres of drama analysed in works by Erich Wolfgang Korngold. Amsterdam: Rodopi.

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How to Cite

Stilwell, R. J. (2009). Music in Films: A Critical Review of Literature, 1980-1996. Journal of Film Music, 1(1), 19-61.