This chapter explores Malick’s use of both diegetic and extra-diegetic music. It makes the bold point that, generally speaking, diegetic music—or ‘source music’—plays a relatively unimportant part in Malick’s films. More significantly, the chapter makes the point that the use of extra-diegetic music—or ‘underscore’—has long been a major part of Malick’s sonic style, and that over the course of his career Malick’s use of underscore—especially his use of underscore that consists not of originally composed music but of pre-existing music—has demonstrated a steady progression from consistent to eclectic.

Attention is called to the fact that Malick’s first film, Badlands, was underscored almost entirely by music from the child-oriented Schulwerk compositions of Carl Orff; attention is likewise called to the fact that Malick’s next four films, even though their credits include the names of A-list composers, are arguably more remarkable for their use of ‘borrowed’ music than for their original material, and the chapter concludes with the observation that in Malick’s most recent films the contributions of the credited composer count almost for nothing in comparison to the films’ rich array of ‘borrowed’ material.