Music

From Opera to Film (E)

Module code: W3088
Level 5
15 credits in autumn semester
Teaching method: Seminar, Lecture
Assessment modes: Coursework

The module, which is split into two five-week units, examines the history of musical narrative from classical opera through to film music. Its principal focus will be the audio-visual study of musical 'texts' to explore the technical means by which music creates metaphors of linear plot and development. While this involves primarily the study of opera and film, some 'abstract' instrumental music, such as the symphonic poem, will also be considered. Richard Strauss, for example, provides a pivot between the language of late romantic opera and 20th century film music, made more explicit in the work of Eric Korngold whose operas lead directly into his film scores of the 1930s and 1940s. Also considered will be post-war scores in which the role of music is more complex than the mere ghosting of visual action. The 'psychological' music motifs in Hermann's scores for Hitchcock's Psycho and Vertigo are cases in point. These works find their operatic links with the 'irrational' music of Schoenberg's Erwartung and Berg's Lulu. Essay work is complemented by regular aural analysis training in opera and film music. No prior technical knowledge of music is required to study the module and none of the module requires any ability to read music: the objects of study are audio-visual, not written scores.

Module learning outcomes

  • Articulate (both in critical writing and in response to visual-aural examples) the differing approaches to continuity in a variety of musical-narrative styles in both opera and film genres
  • Identify parallels and precedents for early Hollywood film music in opera and late nineteenth-century symphonic repertoire
  • Demonstrate an understanding and critical awareness both of music's inner workings and its cultural/social roles and functions
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the social, cultural economic and aesthetic importance of contemporary media