Nostalgia, the Silent Cinema, and the Art of Quotation in Herbert Stothart’s Score for The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Keywords:nostalgia, quotation, silent cinema, Stothart, Wonderful Wizard of Oz
Composed under the direction of Herbert Stothart, the orchestral score to MGM’s The Wizard of Oz (1939) is laden with musical quotations ranging from Kodály to Schumann. While the inclusion of outside musical sources in a film score is not unusual, Stothart elevates this practice to a high level of sophistication. In particular, he incorporates melodies previouslyassociated with silent film musical accompaniment, reinforcing Oz’s nostalgic character by hearkening to an earlier era of film exhibition. In this article I analyze the various implications of this musical nostalgia as they intersect with earlier cinematic practices, the film’s narrative, and Herbert Stothart’s musical aesthetics. In addition to bringing a retrospective quality to the Oz score, Stothart’s quotations interact musically and semantically with the film’s songs, furtherunifying orchestral background score and vocal material.
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