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Books about film music


Alex
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Hi,

 

Just wondered if anyone could recommend any good books about film music.

 

Thanks

 

EDIT - Sorry I should have been more specific, I mean books containing general information/history, not "how to score a film" type books

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KARLIN, Fred - On the Track: A Guide to Contemporary Film Scoring

NEUMEYER, David - The Oxford Handbook of Film Music Studies

 

I guess any film score guide (e.g. the Scarecrow ones) could be an enlightening read as well.

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I agree with Jilal.   Karlin/Wright's On the Track is the film scoring bible but I am not sure if it is still in print.  It might be costly but worth it.  Also valuable are books on the industry/business of film scoring like "The Emerging Film Composer" and Burlingame's "Sound and Vision" which is practically an analysis of why great film scores worked from a dramaturgical point of view.  If you know music but don't understand drama, you don't stand a chance so that is a fantastic read.

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Adorno and Eisler's 'Composing for the Films' is good for a laugh if you can get past their obnoxious academic-speak.

 

Mervyn Cooke's 'A History of Film Music' is a decent primer, but his dismissal of Tiomkin is baffling.

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1 hour ago, Shatner's Rug said:

Adorno and Eisler's 'Composing for the Films' is good for a laugh if you can get past their obnoxious academic-speak.

 

Mervyn Cooke's 'A History of Film Music' is a decent primer, but his dismissal of Tiomkin is baffling.

 

No one should do Adorno the service of reading him.

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Always an excellent topic this one! :)

 

On 2.8.2016 at 7:46 AM, Shatner's Rug said:

Mervyn Cooke's 'A History of Film Music' is a decent primer, but his dismissal of Tiomkin is baffling.

Mervyn Cooke's book is indeed an impressive primer and so dense with detail that it can be an exhausting read but it does cover everything from silent film era to modern trends. Evaluation of much of the music is done on the basis of how did it advance the art form and if it didn't, it usually is dismissed quite quickly. Cooke also overlooks people like Goldsmith whose wider work get surprisingly little discussion and he seems to raise really odd criticism at times.

 

E.g. I remember Cooke devoting a paragraph to Williams' Amistad and not so much discussing the music but criticising how the president Van Buren in one short part of a montage would have needed three hands in tuning his harp as he could not possibly have played a bell, tuned the harp and played it at the same time, which he seems to make out as dismeriting Williams' score somehow.

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1 hour ago, TheWhiteRider said:

 

No one should do Adorno the service of reading him.

 

Adorno is great, and COMPOSING FOR THE FILMS which he did with Hans Eisler in 1947 is rightfully a classic in film music literature; a pioneering work. True, some of their ideas of an 'ideal cinema' and an 'ideal sound' may seem a little farfetched in terms of practical application, but the sentiments were refreshing (counter-establishment, counter-Hollywood etc.). It's the same basic ideas that gave us The French New Wave, and while that's something that is probably not appreciated in this Hollywood-centric community, I -- for one -- am glad they did.

 

But I see that you edited your first post, alextrombone94, and you're looking for more general history/information, not really academic books (although the latter are my favourites, and those I have the closest connection to).

 

I think Mervyn Cooke's aforementioned book is a bit too "whimsical" in structure. Like the introduction book FILM MUSIC by my colleague Peter Larsen here in Norway (translated into English by now, I think) -- a decent intro, but covers too many bases and lacks focus.

 

If you're into Hollywood, Darby & Dubois' AMERICAN FILM MUSIC (1999) may be of interest; but it's basically a walkthrough of various American composer biographies, and you can just as well find that information online these days. Then I'd rather recommend Russell Lack's TWENTY FOUR FRAMES UNDER: A BURIED HISTORY OF FILM MUSIC (1999), which at the very least has more subjective elements; and is more entertaining as a read.

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Aside the already mentioned On The Track by Fred Karlin, I would heartily suggest these ones:

 

Music for the Movies by Tony Thomas -- a great read, with chapters dedicated to all the major figures of American film music

The Composer in Hollywood by Christopher Palmer -- My own favorite book about film music, probably. A fascinating essay about the major Golden Age composers (Korngold, Newman, Tiomkin, Waxman, Steiner)

Listening to the Movies: A Film Lover's Guide to Film Music by Fred Karlin -- Another fascinating and insightful read, covering a lot of topics.

Settling the Score: Music and the Classical Hollywood Film by Kathryn Kalinak -- A more kind of essay work, but very easy and accessible to read. There's a wonderful chapter completely dedicated to Williams' The Empire Strikes Back

Overtones and Undertones: Reading Film Music by Royal S. Brown -- A very ponderous read, with a scholarly approach, but there are some great insights all throughout, including an analysis of Williams' Images.

 

And I also heartily recommend Emilio Audissino's John Williams' Film Music book, so far the best written piece about our Maestro.

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Kalinak's is a classic, of course (and -- as you say -- quite accesible), as is Claudia Gorbman's UNHEARD MELODIES. I also considered recommending the Brown (one of my own personal favourites), but figured it was too academic for the purposes of this thread. But the others you mention are more 'popular science', and should be fine. Well, stuff like the Karlin is a perhaps bit too 'industry/technical'-oriented, but the others.

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9 hours ago, Thor said:

 

Adorno is great, and COMPOSING FOR THE FILMS which he did with Hans Eisler in 1947 is rightfully a classic in film music literature; a pioneering work. True, some of their ideas of an 'ideal cinema' and an 'ideal sound' may seem a little farfetched in terms of practical application, but the sentiments were refreshing (counter-establishment, counter-Hollywood etc.). It's the same basic ideas that gave us The French New Wave, and while that's something that is probably not appreciated in this Hollywood-centric community, I -- for one -- am glad they did.

 

But I see that you edited your first post, alextrombone94, and you're looking for more general history/information, not really academic books (although the latter are my favourites, and those I have the closest connection to).

 

No.  Adorno is far from great.  He was a brickheaded windbag who is now largely recognized as such by the musical community.  He was a poisonous polemic who as it turns out has contributed essentially nothing worthwhile to lasting musical thought.  Even his chosen saviors of music scorned him.  Whether or not the film music community has received word of this yet is another matter.  If this book has any virtue, it is only by the grace of a second author and a subject that was, at the time, less ripe for his brand of bullshit.  

 

If you're going to read his writings on music, do so for a laugh.  Anything more and you'll find your brain rotting.  

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1 minute ago, Jilal said:

Where's all that love for Pilgrimus gone?

 

When did it leave?

 

Has anyone here read Simians and Serialism, the Planet of the Apes book?

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1 hour ago, TheWhiteRider said:

 

No.  Adorno is far from great.  He was a brickheaded windbag who is now largely recognized as such by the musical community.  He was a poisonous polemic who as it turns out has contributed essentially nothing worthwhile to lasting musical thought.  Even his chosen saviors of music scorned him.  Whether or not the film music community has received word of this yet is another matter.  If this book has any virtue, it is only by the grace of a second author and a subject that was, at the time, less ripe for his brand of bullshit.  

 

If you're going to read his writings on music, do so for a laugh.  Anything more and you'll find your brain rotting.  

 

Ha, ha...where does this hatred come from? Did Adorno kill your family or something?

 

I dig what Adorno (and the other members of the Frankfurt school) did to critical thought at the time; a crucial alternative to what was feeded us through mainstream culture. COMPOSING FOR THE FILMS may be a parenthesis in his overall output, but in terms of literature on film music, it was an absolute cornerstone and a crucial alternative to what else existed at the time -- whether one agrees with their viewpoints or not.

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There is no hatred.  I am informing you of commonly-held views on the man's overall musical thinking, albeit in colorful language.

 

You're welcome.  Wouldn't want to embarrass yourself by speaking too highly of him in this regard to some people!

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His "musical" thinking is less important to me than the angle he came from (Eisler was the only musician of the two, after all).

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On 8/1/2016 at 6:00 PM, karelm said:

I agree with Jilal.   Karlin/Wright's On the Track is the film scoring bible but I am not sure if it is still in print.  It might be costly but worth it. 

 

It's still in print--and still costly. It's gone through a couple of editions. The newest isn't a hardback like the original, but I think the layout's better. (It also omits the click book at the end, since that's become an outdated tool.)

 

 

On 8/2/2016 at 1:05 AM, Incanus said:

Mervy Cooke's book is indeed an impressive primer and so dense with detail that it can be an exhausting read but it does cover everything from silent film era to modern trends. Evaluation of much of the music is done from the basis of how did it advance the art form and if it didn't, it usually is dismissed quite quickly. Cooke also overlooks people like Goldsmith whose wider work get surprisingly little discussion and he seems to raise really odd criticism at times.

 

I've had my eye on that one for a long time. I need to get my hands on a copy.

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