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Film Studies: Film music

This guide is an introduction to the resources for Film Studies at Dartmouth. If you are interested in Television, see the separate research guide for Television.

Definition for film music

A central component of a film's soundtrack, including the score and any other musical elements. Film music is usually considered in relation to, but distinct from, the other component parts of film sound, namely dialogue and sound effects. Music in early and silent cinema (see early cinema; silent cinema) would often consist of gramophone records played from behind the screen or (more commonly) live piano accompaniment. Pianists were adept at improvization but also used published musical extracts, or cue sheets, which were packaged with films (as well as being sold separately). Filmmakers seeking prestige and publicity would often commission a composer to provide an original score, and entire orchestras would sometimes play as an accompaniment to the screening of a film. Joseph Breil's music for The Birth of a Nation (D.W. Griffith, US, 1915), for example, was often performed by a full orchestra and included folk songs and excerpts from the work of the German composer Richard Wagner. Acclaimed original film scores from the early 20th century include Erik Satie's score for Entr'acte (René Clair, France, 1924), Edmund Meisel's score for Bronenosets Potyomkin/Battleship Potemkin (Sergei Eisenstein, USSR, 1925) and Oktyabr/October (Sergei Eisenstein and Grigori Aleksandrov, USSR, 1927), Arthur Honneger's scores for La Roue/The Wheel (Abel Gance, France, 1924) and Napoléon (Abel Gance, France, 1927), and Dimitri Shostakovich's score for Novyy Vavilon/The New Babylon (Grigori Kozinstev and Leonid Trauberg, USSR, 1929).

Kuhn, A., & Westwell, G. (2012). "Music." In A Dictionary of Film Studies. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 19 Jul. 2017.

In the Library's Collection

Most of the books on film music are located the Paddock Library in the basement of the Hop.

Introductory reading(s)

A short list of books about film music

Finding scholarly articles & journals

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Keeping up with Film Studies journal literature

Want an easy way to keep up with the journal literature for all facets of Film Studies? And you use a mobile device? You can install the BrowZine app and create a custom Bookshelf of your favorite journal titles. Then you will get the Table of Contents (ToCs) of your favorite journals automatically delivered to you when they become available. Once you have the ToC's you can download and read the articles you want.

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Don't own or use a mobile device? You can still use BrowZine! It's now available in a web version. You can get to it here. The web version works the same way as the app version. Find the journals you like, create a custom Bookshelf, get ToCs and read the articles you want.