Charms that soothe: classical music and the narrative film by Dean Duncan

By Dean Duncan

From Chaplin’s amazing use of Wagner within the Gold Rush to the Bach chorale ultimate Scorsese’s on line casino, classical song has performed a desirable function in videos.

Dean Duncan offers a clean serious survey of the aesthetics of classical song in movie. Exploring tensions among excessive artwork and advertisement tradition, Duncan examines how administrators quote issues and classical passages in genres starting from the Soviet avant garde to Hollywood romances. Drawing on movie idea, musicology, and cultural feedback, he clarifies the connections among very varied artwork kinds.

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In response there have also been waves of opposition and reaction, new methodologies and new criticisms, more measured and scholarly approaches to texts and to their interpretation, or explication. These also may have had their own PLACE OF CLASSICAL MUSIC IN FILM STUDIES 23 tendentious roots and unacknowledged, even unconscious agendas. I will not take time here to set forth any kind of critical history, but I do wish to present a distillation of methods that emerge out of these numerous contending, incomplete impulses.

Desmond Shawe-Taylor observes that the 1954 edition was particularly poor, and even parochial, in its coverage of ethnic and popular music. 27 Nowhere is this attitude more evident than in the discussion on film music, which appears to be heard as ethnic (read American) and popular in the worst ways. Why the withering disapproval? There were, of course, valid musicological objections. But additionally, Sir George’s amateur’s love of beauty, and of communicating its pleasures, were no longer admissible when popular beauties had become so dangerous, and its aficionados had gone so far astray.

The first of these is that the initiate’s platitude is of great value to the disoriented neophyte, including perhaps the experienced musician. The other is that notwithstanding their familiarity, I remain satisfied that these pearls of received wisdom still contains much that is wise, and that even specialists need cardinal points for their ongoing navigations. How can we begin a more useful, open-minded discussion about classical music in film? The boosters of the film music community might benefit from the following four ideas.

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