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Film Studies

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 a film’s sound design, namely dialogue and sound effects (see also sound). 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 combined folk songs with 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 scores 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. (2020). "Music." In A Dictionary of Film Studies. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 2 Apr. 2022

In the library's collections

The books on film music are now located in Baker-Berry Library. The call number range is ML 2075 in Baker Stacks Level 1. You can use one of the subject headings below to begin your research:

Introductory reading(s)

Selected book title(s) on film music

To find more resources in the collections, search the online catalog.

Other library resource(s)

Finding scholarly articles & journals

You can find popular and scholarly articles on film music in various publications. We have at least two journals which look exclusively at film music. You can start your research in Film & Television Literature Index, Web of Science or the search box at the top of the page.