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Film music as a film device. A neoformalist approach to the analysis of music in films

Film music as a film device. A neoformalist approach to the analysis of music in films
Film music as a film device. A neoformalist approach to the analysis of music in films
In the last ten years there has been a significant shift of interest in film music from Film departments to Music departments. This study seeks to balance the situation and bring film music back into the sphere of action of Film Studies. Film scholars can still give an important specialistic contribution by tackling the music as one of the cinematic devices, and focussing on the analysis of its interplay with the other formal elements of film. In this view, the scope of this study is to develop an approach and a set of analytical tools that serve as a guidance to film scholars to address music in film from their discipline-specific perspective.

The analytical approach here offered stems from a mix of Neoformalism – from Film Studies – and concepts drawn from Leonard Meyer's music theories. Neoformalism describes and explains the filmic system focussing on the overall form and style, not only on the interpretation of the film's contents and meanings. In particular, the analysis concentrates on the function(s) and motivation(s) of a series of devices, whose interplay is at the basis of the film's formal system. Being one of the film's devices, music carries out specific functions and responds to specific motivations. Yet, film music is also music. Hence, Neoformalism is coupled with Leonard B. Meyer's theories. According to Meyer the meaning and emotional effect of a tonal piece of music derives from the way in which the composition plays with the listener’s expectations and anticipations, which are based on a shared knowledge of norms and conventions. This interest in norms and conventions and in the psychology of perception links Meyer's studies to Neoformalism. And their common interest in the 'whole,' in formal stabilisation, and closure makes Gestalt Psychology a fitting overarching theoretical framework to integrate Neoformalism with Meyer's musicology. The combination of the micro-configuration of the music and that of the visuals produces a macro-configuration in which the whole is something different from the sum of its parts. In this audiovisual interaction, three areas of musical agency are identified in the film: music can have a perceptive function; an emotive function; a cognitive function.

The findings are valuable for both the disciplines involved. To film scholars, it presents film music as a topic that can be handled with more confidence and breadth, because the musicological analysis of the musical text (the score) is not required in this approach. To musicologists, it provides a way to deepen their understanding of and insights into the formal and stylistic ways in which music interacts and combines with the other cinematic components.
University of Southampton
Audissino, Emilio
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Audissino, Emilio
8604767d-1d76-41ec-89cc-9a38f7b0f7c5
Donnelly, Kevin
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Izzo, Francesco
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Audissino, Emilio (2017) Film music as a film device. A neoformalist approach to the analysis of music in films. University of Southampton, Doctoral Thesis, 259pp.

Record type: Thesis (Doctoral)

Abstract

In the last ten years there has been a significant shift of interest in film music from Film departments to Music departments. This study seeks to balance the situation and bring film music back into the sphere of action of Film Studies. Film scholars can still give an important specialistic contribution by tackling the music as one of the cinematic devices, and focussing on the analysis of its interplay with the other formal elements of film. In this view, the scope of this study is to develop an approach and a set of analytical tools that serve as a guidance to film scholars to address music in film from their discipline-specific perspective.

The analytical approach here offered stems from a mix of Neoformalism – from Film Studies – and concepts drawn from Leonard Meyer's music theories. Neoformalism describes and explains the filmic system focussing on the overall form and style, not only on the interpretation of the film's contents and meanings. In particular, the analysis concentrates on the function(s) and motivation(s) of a series of devices, whose interplay is at the basis of the film's formal system. Being one of the film's devices, music carries out specific functions and responds to specific motivations. Yet, film music is also music. Hence, Neoformalism is coupled with Leonard B. Meyer's theories. According to Meyer the meaning and emotional effect of a tonal piece of music derives from the way in which the composition plays with the listener’s expectations and anticipations, which are based on a shared knowledge of norms and conventions. This interest in norms and conventions and in the psychology of perception links Meyer's studies to Neoformalism. And their common interest in the 'whole,' in formal stabilisation, and closure makes Gestalt Psychology a fitting overarching theoretical framework to integrate Neoformalism with Meyer's musicology. The combination of the micro-configuration of the music and that of the visuals produces a macro-configuration in which the whole is something different from the sum of its parts. In this audiovisual interaction, three areas of musical agency are identified in the film: music can have a perceptive function; an emotive function; a cognitive function.

The findings are valuable for both the disciplines involved. To film scholars, it presents film music as a topic that can be handled with more confidence and breadth, because the musicological analysis of the musical text (the score) is not required in this approach. To musicologists, it provides a way to deepen their understanding of and insights into the formal and stylistic ways in which music interacts and combines with the other cinematic components.

Text
FILM MUSIC AS A FILM DEVICE. A NEOFORMALIST APPROACH TO THE ANALYSIS OF MUSIC IN FILMS - Version of Record
Available under License University of Southampton Thesis Licence.
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Published date: March 2017

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 414097
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/414097
PURE UUID: 990fb5b4-6d03-44c2-8743-6cc08e59c344

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Date deposited: 14 Sep 2017 16:31
Last modified: 31 Mar 2020 04:01

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