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Music & Film 468

In: Film and Music

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1. The three basic types of music heard in original scores during the silent film era, were adaptations, newly composed music, and arrangements. Adaptations of classical works are usually used in action and dramatic scenes and involve borrowing of a substantial portion of an existing composition for use in a film score. In The Birth of a Nation an example of adaptations was when a composition by Mozart was used for a scene that showed Lincoln’s assassination as well as for the ending of the entire movie. These music was used to portray the tension and violence in these scenes. Adaptations are the most prominent in the film. This type of music is meant to be very recognizable as well as well as true to the original piece.
Newly composed music is music that is created to reflect themes that are highly specific to the storyline of the film. This new music is original and is created for the film. D.W. Griffith uses this time of music to create themes that run throughout the story and attach to specific characters and their role in the film. Themes can be altered throughout the film to reflect a change in the story or the mood. Arrangements are a new form of a previously composed melody. In an arrangement the film composer borrows the just the melody from a classic and creates an almost entirely new sound. In The Birth of a Nation, arrangements of well-known melodies are used to stir up emotions. Southern songs such as “Maryland, My Maryland”, “Old Folks at Home”, and “Dixie” remind the viewer of the films setting as well as incite emotions of nationalism for the south. These songs also create lighter as well as brighter mood.
2. The role of source music in Casablanca is to amplify the mood or the character, identify a scene, and introduce the prominent melody. Because the storyline in Casablanca revolves around two main locations, specific music is used to identify those locations and make them unique. The majority of scenes in the film jump between the Middle East and the United States. When the scenes are based in the Middle East, more specifically in The Blue Parrot Café, Arabian music plays. In contrast, when the film is based in the United States at Rick’s Café, well-known American music is played in the underscore to identify the change in location. Casablanca is set around war so cheerful music from the United States is used to juxtapose the mood of the refugees in the film. This contrast gives an air of tension and this tension eventually leads to a sing-off of sorts between the French and Germans. These situations both add to the uneasy feeling in the movie that war really does create in real life.

The music for Gone with the Wind is the paradigm of the Classic Hollywood film score, and the music for Citizen Kane represents, like the film as a whole a departure. Describe the basic characteristics of the Classic Hollywood film score using Gone with the Wind and other films from this period (1933-43) for examples. Then discuss the new qualities found in the music for Citizen Kane
3 or more paragraphs
3. The Classic Hollywood film score

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