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Music 468

In: Film and Music

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1. Ben-Hur represented many characteristics typical of the classic film score. This includes broad use of different music, exposure of the full assortment of orchestral colors, credits moods during the opening title and formations of principal themes. Also, there were musical support for dramatic moods, settings, characters and action, and unity through leitmotifs and thematic transformation.
Rozsa exploited a strong brass section, organ, and complete substantial orchestral medley in order to demonstrate the emotions and different plot events, by expansively using music. In addition, he employed distinct musical ideas that can be related with Roman, Hebrew, and early Christian music by maintaining stylistic uniformity and unity.
Leitmotifs were also very important to the movie. Various leitmotifs and themes in the movie were displayed to give characters insight. During the scenes of “The Fall of the House of Hur,” the hate theme appears when Ben-Hur chose to protect his Jewish friends by not backstabbing them by going along with Messala’s ambitions. The Hate theme foreshadowed a twist of fate when Ben-Hur opposed Messala. It was inserted in the 2nd and 3rd measures in the Roman march for Gratus, and was reiterated repeatedly. This became the prominent theme after the accident. Another important theme was Christ’s theme. Christ’s theme involved Jesus, and during Ben Hur’s desert march, music is played to reflect his feeling of distressed and torture. But, when Christ is introduced who offered him water, the music turns somewhat pure and halo.

2. During the 1960s, there were key changes in the way Americans noticed the world and themselves, and thus, adjusting the way leaders in the art world, expressed themselves. The 1960s envisioned an alteration in the thought process. The process of making art become just as significant as the final product itself. Also, the 1960s wanted to take further action and separate serious arts and popular arts, and composers turned to newer, more innovative compositional styles.
The innovative score of Psycho was the responsiveness of Bernard Herrman. He used orchestra to reflect the stark black and white cinematography for the film and not for lyrical manner. Bernard Herrman wrote the music for a string orchestra, choosing to not incorporate a complete variation of colors that are usually provided by wind instruments and chose for the strings to sound unsympathetic. The orchestra was forbidden to play lyrically, thus creating an overall limited orchestral color. This film differs significantly from previous films because they used full orchestral colors.
A unique aspect to the film is the way Herrman created a consistent dissonant unified score. Even though there were contrasts of moods during the film, it was very new and different. He used the percussive sounding string to develop exclusive sounds for the film. Herrman was able to do this by placing a microphone close to the instrument, in order to make the sound more vociferous.
Also, in this new approach there was a lack of contrast in a given cue. Hermann would sometimes juxtapose cues with different qualities, but there would be no gradual shifts within a cue. There were expectations of music increasing the tension when the highway patrol man stops to watch her. Instead, the music remained aloof, and “ continues changing chords in a detached, and neutral manner.” (Pg 263). The score of Psycho primarily functioned to create mood, while avoiding standard Hollywood underscoring.
3. The late 1940s was a time where the initial euphoria, changed from cynicism and pessimism from the victory of WWII, which mirrored the dark cloud that had settled over the Hollywood film industry. Prior to the release of film noir Laura (1944), popular music was mainly reserved for source music, musicals, and comedies in drama films, and usually associated with sophisticated and wealthy youths. Composed by David Raksin, Laura was the origin of popular music extending beyond its typical role. Also, Raksin allowed openings for expanding roles for popular music in future films by using Noir’s popular music to underscore dramatic moments. The Laura theme created by Raksin has established itself as one of the decade’s most popular melodies by creating an overriding mood of pessimism and without using contrasts of mood. American Nationalism is a film produced in the late 1940s that utilized popular music too. The composer most closely associated with this film is Aaron Copland. He worked on films such as The Red Pony and The Heiress. Hugo Friedhofer, a composer whose musical styling included a warm orchestra, syncopated rhythms, non-traditional harmonies, and melodies built on disjunct intervals. His work was much indebted to the works and influence of Aaron Copland’s American nationalistic style. The overall role of popular music in the 1940s, jazz particularly, grew in a number of films such as noirs, particularly Laura and Champion. As we reach the 1950s, film composers continue the jazz theme, but introduce newer jazz sounds and styles to represent moods of sexuality and violence. An example of this would be in the film A Streetcar Named Desire, composed by Alex North. In general, popular music in film has little effect to contrast the mood. But if popular music is used as underscoring, it can be noticed in scenes without dialogue and action in order to maintain a mood that did not necessarily reflect the moods of the characters. In the movie, Alex North used popular music through source music, thus allowing Jazz sounds played throughout the setting to create a sexually charged and luscious atmosphere. Also, Rock and Roll and Musicals had a huge role in popular music in film. Popular rock music with film was able to attract young and wild audiences. Young audiences benefited both singers and production companies. Elvis Presley was the main singer that benefited from Rock and Roll music, and later became a legend of the Rock and Roll era. Later in the 50s, stage adaptions increased dramatically and An American in Paris, Singin’ in the Rain, and Gigi was the most admired. In different ways, other highly acclaimed films incorporated popular music. In Some Like it Hot, popular music cues were used to display a love theme, hot scenes, and a narrow escape of the main characters. In Anatomy of a Murder, Duke Ellington utilized popular music to contribute to the complete sexual theme of the movie. In the late 1950s Henry Mancini introduced Touch of Evil as the film that utilized a large variety of popular musical styles throughout the score. Also, it established the differences between source music and underscoring. During the 1960s, the American society began to go through a huge societal transformation. This was when incorporation popular music in films were favored, and epics were constantly declining. Examples of this include the film West Side Story- composed by Leonard Bernstein, where popular sounds were combined with modernistic harmonies. As film continued to develop in the early 1970s, tensions within countries began to rise. In the movie The Godfather, composed by Nino Rota and Carmine Coppola, eclectic scored were created from modern and popular musical styles being juxtaposed. The music moved “freely from Italian and American popular music to modern dissonances and quotations of Bach.” (Pg. 310) The 70s saw mixtures of modern music and jazz, diverse musical styles involving rock, and the numerous predecessors of eclectic score.

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