1. Jazz. Film scores that are either about the lives of jazz musicians, or that have a jazz-inflected score:
Man with the Golden Arm: VHS 5122
Breathless (A Bout de Souffle): DVD 1574
Anatomy of a Murder: DVD 5268
Round Midnight: Mus Videorecording: VCR 161
Elevator to the Gallows: VHS 4278 and Music Library: Sound Recording: REF CD R6718 v.3
Bird: LASER DISC 9323
Mo Better Blues: DVD 388
2. Opera. Films that present operas in filmic space, not as representations of stage productions.
Tchaikovsky: Eugene Onegin Music Videorecoding DVD
Mozart: Don Giovanni: Music Videorecording DVD 1112
Verdi: La Traviata: Music Videorecording: VCR 74, and VCR 74 c.2
Verdi: Otello: Music Videorecording DVD 1133
Wagner: Parsifal: Music Videorecording DVD 1012
Offenbach: The Tales of Hoffmann: Mus Videorecording LAS 1024
Admittedly, this is potentially a more demanding assignment, because in principle you should familiarize yourself with the opera as a staged work. Several of the films listed above, for example, have musical cuts, made so that the resulting film will not be overlong. Finding out what is cut, and then endeavoring to interpret the resulting work in its own terms, would have to be a part of this paper.
3. Compilation Scores: Scores that mostly (or even exclusively) use contemporary popular music.
American Graffiti: VHS 5104 and LASER DISC 9378
The Big Chill: LASER DISC 9324
Goodfellas: DVD 15
Nashville: DVD 243
Pulp Fiction: DVD 1003 discs 1 and 2
Woody Allen films (e.g. Stardust Memories [VHS 4851 and LASER DISC 9701] and others
For sentimentalists: Sleepless in Seattle (DVD 38) or When Harry Met Sally (VHS 5479 and DVD 282)
Or a film our your choice in this category.
4. The Modern Leitmotivic Score
Harry Potter films (choose 1)
The Lord of the Rings trilogy (choose 1)
The Spider Man films (choose 1)
5. Any Film You Want to Write About (!)
If you want to write about something else, please let me know.
APPENDIX: Questions to ponder as you study your chosen film (some of these points may not be relevant):
Please read the biography of the composer in question. (These are available in the online version in of the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians.) What are some of the distinctive features of this composer’s work and style? Are these features present in the work in question? What strikes you as remarkable about this composer’s work, as it is exemplified in the film you are examining?
When is there music in this film? When is there not music? What do think of the spotting? Is there too much music, or too little music? What is the style of the music (late Romantic? modern? impressionist? etc)? You may need to consider the secondary literature in order to be able to effectively characterize the composer’s style.
When music is present:
What moods are created? Don’t be afraid of attempting to characterize the music’s effects: Moody? Elegiac? Manic? Threatening? Boisterous? Rowdy? Insipid? Mercurial? Melancholy? Brooding?
What instruments do you hear? What mode is this or that section in: major, minor, or too complicated to say? What tempos are used? What instruments do you hear? How does the music support the drama? How does it underscore character traits? How does it underscore action (physical. dramatic, etc.)? Is there “mickey-mousing”? Are there obvious “stingers”? Are their leitmotifs, or other recurring ideas? How are these handled? (If there are leitmotifs, do they evolve, or do they always sound the same?)
If there is diegetic music in this film, what purpose(s) does it serve? Why were the specific songs or pieces chosen, do you think? (If a song is heard without its lyrics, are those lyrics still “present” on some level?) Does diegetic music interact with non-diegetic music, or do they exist in separate realms?
In so far as it is possible to think about these things, what seem to have been the composer’s reasons for this or that compositional choice? (Why, in other words, is this moment loud, this one fast, etc.)
How consistent is the musical style in the various cues? Is there an overall tone to the music, or is it eclectic?
Do you think the music is appropriate, given your understanding of the film’s style and purposes? What other sort of music might work with this film, or (even) work better?
Your paper can begin with a short introduction laying the groundwork: telling me something about the film itself, and the work of the composer in question. The body of the paper, however, should be taken up with a clearly written examination of the music.
Some notes on format: please refer to DVD chapter numbers as well as specific timings, if appropriate. In other words, please make it as easy as possible for me to watch excerpts from the film, and so evaluate your responses.
Finally: don’t get too bogged down in an attempt to describe minutely a whole series of specific cues. Rather, formulate a number of broad ideas about the score in question, its strengths, its weaknesses, its styles, and so forth. Then discuss a handful of cues in some detail, in order to illustrate or bolster your arguments. Reading these papers should be a pleasure for the professor.
A Note on your research: your work must be scrupulously documented. Any words or ideas that are not your own must be backed up with appropriate citations. This includes basic factual information that you may have culled from any number of sources.