Film Music after 1950

Module code: W3039
Level 5
15 credits in spring semester
Teaching method: Seminar, Lecture
Assessment modes: Coursework

This module examines issues relating to how music is used on stage and screen and other theatre environments. It complements material studied in the autumn term ‘Music, Stage and Screen 1’ in such a way that the module is free-standing. (MSS1 is not a pre-requisite to MSS2). The module is divided into 2 Units.

  1. Opera on Stage after WW2
  2. Film Music: Beyond the Hollywood Model
Unit 1 : Opera on Stage after WW2

This unit looks at one aspect of music for the stage in a particular context – opera as theatre in Europe from 1945 to 2000. This focuses on the dynamic northern European opera scene, and the German-speaking world in particular, through the remarkable reconstruction of opera after the European cataclysm of the war, through some of its creative practice on stage.
Firstly, it looks at the immediate post-WW2 scene, to consider how key interpretive artists (stage directors and designers) brought new perception and new readings of existing canonical work to mainstream opera platforms. Secondly, it reviews some creative responses by post-war composers across Europe to the same context. It also considers a small sample of avant-garde opera and looks briefly at some instances of translation of opera into another key medium during this period, such as Felsenstein's/Offenbach's Les Contes d'Hoffmann; and Hans-Jürgen Syberberg's/Wagner's Parsifal.

Unit 2 Film Music: Beyond the Hollywood Model

The second unit in this module explores alternative and non-narrative solutions developed in examples taken from European and contemporary cinema. The module examines how the music relates to the visual action and what this conveys about the works' cultural, gender and socio-historical identities. We round off the unit by looking at Lost Highway, a film by David Lynch, which was made into an opera by composer Olga Neuwirth, allowing us to reconsider the relationship between film and opera. In this regard we will also briefly examine the phenomenon of using video in live multi-media stage productions.

Issues which will be touched upon regarding different roles of music in screen media will include:

  • the fragmentation/(de)construction of narrative and identity in contemporary forms
  • the creation of meaning using expressive materials involving sound and sight
  • different interpretations of the 'real'
  • issues to do with 'live' performance and different interpretations of what is 'live'.

Module learning outcomes

  • Demonstrate an understanding and critical awareness of how film music is made and works, and its cultural/social roles and functions
  • Demonstrate understanding of the social, cultural, economic and aesthetic importance of film music
  • Account for and demonstrate role of film music in appropriate media through presentations and written work
  • Critically evaluate relevant scholarship on film music and relate finding s to specific case studies