26 Pages

Performances in Early Hollywood Sound Films: Source Music, Background Music, and the Integrated Sound Track

Of the many genres in twentieth-century composition, music for cinema has proven to be one of the least amenable to theoretical modeling. To those familiar with the literature on the subject, this statement may seem paradoxical, since few notions in film theory are so widely accepted as the two principal constructs placing film music into a framework for interpretation: music serves a film's narrative system, and, therefore, the primary axis along which film music moves is determined by the implied physical space of the narrative world. Thus, music's "spatial anchoring"

(Metz [1975], 154) is either secure (source music) or undefined (background music or underscoring). Furthermore, since it is assumed in both film and film-music literatures that the primary repertoire of cinema is the narrative feature film (not documentaries, cartoons, or "abstract" films), the goal of film-music criticism or interpretation is to understand/ read / analyze narrative functions, or music's role in shaping and furthering narrative processes. This is equally true whether one's orientation is that of a formalist or an ideological critic.