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All sessions take place on Thursdays at 4pm on Zoom. UK times are displayed (BST/GMT).

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13th January 2022, 4-5:30pm (chair: Melissa Morton, University of Edinburgh)

Library Music in Digital Media

  • "Tunes for influencers": Library Music for Online Videos (Júlia Durand, NOVA University Lisbon)

  • "Exquisitely criminal production music": CrimeSonics and the Sound of True Crime (Toby Huelin, University of Leeds)

  • Loud Music in the Library: Epic Style and the Cinematic Trailer (James Deaville, Carleton University)

This panel will serve as a launch event for an RMA Study Day on library music to be hosted by the University of Leeds in September 2022 – click here to view the call for papers.

"Tunes for influencers": Library Music for Online Videos

Júlia Durand, NOVA University Lisbon

Abstract: The industry of library music has undergone a significant expansion since its transition to a digital medium, with the development of new licensing models that are specifically directed towards online audiovisuals. Royalty-free catalogues have become the go-to source of pre-existing music for video creators who publish their content in online platforms, and who have neither the budget nor the legal expertise needed for more complex and costly licensing options. In addition to these new licenses, there are increasingly marked differences between library music that is destined for more traditional end uses, such as television and trailers, and that which is marketed for vloggers, streamers, and other creators whose activity is centred in online platforms.

Drawing from interviews conducted over a period of four years, this paper will explore some of the ways in which library music companies target this new market of online content creators. While an important part of this phenomenon is the growing demand for simplified music licenses that cover multiple platforms, we must also take into account the strategic categorization of library tracks to explicitly direct them to online media, as well as the offer of stems and cut-downs which allow for a track to be easily edited to suit different video formats. Despite these adaptations of library music for new audiovisual genres, it is also interesting to note that a significant portion of online videos use library tracks in ways that are closely aligned with the typical “functions” assigned to music in mainstream cinema and television.

Bio: Júlia Durand is a musicology PhD student at the NOVA University of Lisbon, Portugal. She is a member of the Center of Sociology and Musical Aesthetics (CESEM) and takes part in the research activities of its Group for Studies in Sociology of Music (SociMus) and Group for Advanced Studies in Music and Cyberculture (CysMus). In addition to several papers on music and audiovisuals presented at international conferences such as Music and the Moving Image, her research has been published as chapters in edited volumes and in the journals Music, Sound and the Moving Image and Revista Portuguesa de Musicologia. Her PhD is funded with an FCT grant (SFRH/BD/132254/2017), and it focuses on the production and use of library music in online videos.


"Exquisitely criminal production music": CrimeSonics and the Sound of True Crime

Toby Huelin, University of Leeds

Abstract: ‘If you’re looking for “Crimey” music or sound effects, you’ve found the undisputed best on earth!’ proclaims the website for CrimeSonics, a US-based production music library. CrimeSonics specialises in music for true crime-based media productions: instead of hiring a composer to craft a bespoke score, production companies can turn to this pre-existing catalogue to provide suitably ‘Crimey’ music for their shows, primarily for budgetary reasons. CrimeSonics’ varied selection responds to prevalent programming trends, with recent albums of music including ‘Criminal Minimalist’ and ‘Killers Volume One’, in addition to collections of sound design and effects, such as ‘Walkie Talkie SFX’ and ‘Slams and Sirens’. These CrimeSonics albums function as a lens through which to explore the composition and branding of production music, targeted towards the particular demands of true crime television.

This study comprises two sections: first, it draws on original interview testimony from CrimeSonics composer Brooke Mitchell, exploring how she negotiates between her own creative judgements and the pragmatic requirements of television editors in preparing her tracks for true crime-themed productions. Second, it analyses how CrimeSonics markets its music to true crime media producers; for example, through the utilisation of specific album titles and metadata tags, in addition to other kinds of extramusical branding practices. Together, these areas foreground the role of production music in shaping the sound of true crime media, and, more broadly, underline the ethical implications of the creation and marketing of this musical content—especially when dealing with the dramatisation (and sensationalisation) of traumatic real-life events.

Bio: Toby Huelin is a PhD candidate at the University of Leeds, investigating the use of library music in contemporary British television. His research is funded by the AHRC via the White Rose College of the Arts and Humanities (WRoCAH). Toby’s forthcoming publications include peer-reviewed journal articles for Music and the Moving Image, Critical Studies in Television and the European Journal of American Culture. Toby is also a media composer: his music has featured in the Emmy Award-winning series United Shades of America (CNN), the documentary Subnormal: A British Scandal (BBC One) and an international advertising campaign for internet brand Honey.


Loud Music in the Library: Epic Style and the Cinematic Trailer

James Deaville, Carleton University

Abstract: Whenever the film trailer is referenced within other audiovisual media forms, its presence is musically announced in the “epic mode,” which has become emblematic for trailer soundscapes and indeed, for trailers in general (Deaville 2017). Consisting of bold themes, strong rhythmic ideas, “large” orchestration, a dynamic crescendo, and (often) wordless choir (Buhler 2021), the epic style centrally figures within libraries of production music. As such epic music is well suited for the visceral theatrical experience: it valorizes sensory overstimulation through aural excess and over-determined gestures (Deaville/Malkinson, 2015). Not coincidentally, trailer houses exploit the style in soundtracks for action, adventure, and fantasy/science fiction previews.

This paper explores the world of epic trailer music by first introducing its production, cinematic use, and fandom, and then turning to the sounds themselves. By tracking one cue designated “epic”—“Ode to Power” from Trailerhead by Immediate Music—through trailers for the films The Good German (2016), Ghost Rider (2007), and The Simpsons Movie (2007), I will consider what its polysemy meant at the time of its peak use. In its broader context “Ode to Power” will serve as an example for the “life and death” of such epic library cues. Drawing on an interview with the track’s creator Jeff Fayman (2014), I plan to compare his affective intentions with fan videos using the cue, in order to argue for this library music as a major site for fan identity and creative labour.

Bio: James Deaville teaches Music at Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada. One primary area of interest is music and sound in trailers, about which he has published in Music, Sound and the Moving Image (2014) and the Routledge Companion to Screen Music and Sound (2017). He edited Music in Television (Routledge, 2011) and with Christina Baade co-edited Music and the Broadcast Experience (Oxford, 2016). He co-edited with Ron Rodman and Siu-Lan Tan the Oxford Handbook of Music and Advertising (2021), and with Rodman and Jessica Getman is currently co-editing the Oxford Handbook of Television Music. In 2019 he received a four-year Insight Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council for research on aural representations of disability in screen media and in 2021 a two-year Insight Development Grant from SSHRC to study racial, ethnic and national bias in soundscapes of new coverage from the initial epicentres of the COVID-19 pandemic.

20th January 2022, 4-5pm (interviewer: Elsa Marshall, University of Sheffield)

Interview: Gabriel Dharmoo (composer, vocalist, improviser, interdisciplinary artist and researcher)

Gabriel Dharmoo is a composer, vocalist, improviser, interdisciplinary artist and researcher based in Montréal – Tio’Tia:Ke (Canada).

His works have been performed in Canada, the U.S.A, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Spain, Estonia, Poland, Australia, Singapore and South Africa. He has received many awards for his compositions, such as the Canada Council for the Arts Jules Léger Prize for his chamber work Wanmansho (2017) and the Conseil Québécois de la Musique Opus Award for his opera À chaque ventre son monstre (2018).

Having researched Carnatic music with 4 renowned masters in Chennai (India) in 2008 and 2011, his personal musical style encourages the fluidity between tradition and innovation. He has participated in many cross-cultural and intertraditional musical projects, many being led by Sandeep Bhagwati in Montreal (Sound of Montreal, Ville étrange) and in Berlin (Zungenmusiken, Miyagi Haikus).

As a vocalist and interdisciplinary artist, his career has led him to travel internationally, notably with his solo show “Anthropologies imaginaires” which was awarded at the Amsterdam Fringe Festival (2015) and the SummerWorks Performance Festival (2016). Other key projects include his album Quelques fictions, their drag persona Bijuriya (@bijuriya.drag) as well as video art projects that mix voice and makeup (Portraits,Ghaav). He is a PhD candidate at Concordia University's PhD "Individualized Program" with Sandeep Bhagwati (Music), Noah Drew (Theatre) and David Howes (Anthropology).

27th January 2022, 4-5pm (chair: David Cotter, University of Cambridge)

Audiovisual Cultures in the 19th Century

  • Showcasing the Ghosts: Spirit Images and Their Voices in Nineteenth-Century Operas (Feng-Shu Lee, National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University)

  • Early Film Documents as Sources for 19th Century Performance Practice (Jörg Holzmann, Bern University of the Arts)

Showcasing the Ghosts: Spirit Images and Their Voices in Nineteenth-Century Operas

Feng-Shu Lee, National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University

Abstract: Presenting optical illusions of spirit images was fashionable in the late eighteenth- and nineteenth-century public entertainment industry. Opera narratives involving ghosts often alluded to similar visual effects. However, composers presented different solutions to the question of how forceful the spirits ought to appear and sound. In this paper, I create a genealogy of ghosts, with Weber's Der Freischütz, Meyerbeer's Robert le diable, and Wagner's Der fliegende Holländer as my examples. Weber and Meyerbeer depicted ghosts as invisible, with their voices projected either from offstage or through a megaphone. While Wagner alluded to several of the illusions above and adopted strategies similar to those that Weber and Meyerbeer used, he expanded on their presentations by dramatizing the specters’ alien identity. In Act III, he depicted the ghost crew of the haunted ship The Flying Dutchman as an aggressive force that clashes with the human characters using its own instrumentation and tonality. Wagner thus “embodied” the ghosts, which in turn contributes to the needed dramatic tension between the supernatural and human characters.

Recent scholarship in music and visual culture has used theatrical devices that produced optical illusions to explain atypical musical features in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century music. I argue that the subject matter of apparition offered opera composers a space to experiment with a musical language for the visually intangible and sonically otherworldly. Furthermore, optical technologies served as a medium through which Wagner responded to larger issues in contemporary philosophy and literature, especially the discussion of spirit and the definition of humanity.

Bio: Feng-Shu Lee is assistant professor of musicology at National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University (Hsinchu, Taiwan). She received her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in violin performance, as well as a Master’s Degree in musicology, from the New England Conservatory (Boston, MA). She received her Ph.D. in music from the University of Chicago. Her research interests include opera history, music and visual culture in late eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Europe, and the relationship between nineteenth-century music, German philosophy, and theology.


Early Film Documents as Sources for 19th Century Performance Practice

Jörg Holzmann, Bern University of the Arts

Abstract: Similar to audio recordings or piano rolls, early film documents have proved to be a valuable source of information when examining 19th Century Performance Practice, as they reveal additional insights that allow us to reconstruct the physical and haptic details in the playing of performers from the past.

Compared to today’s practice (textual fidelity combined with protruding body movements), interpreters trained in the 19th century seem to strive for the opposite: their noticeably calm posture goes hand in hand with increased expressiveness and numerous freedoms with regard to the musical text. Of course, the evaluation of film documents must be preceded by a source-critical examination, which, in addition to the well-researched technological side, also takes into account the recording situation and elements of the staging. An initial overview suggests that the earliest recordings of classical music performances were closely based on realistic performance situations, and in several cases the new medium of film was even explicitly used to preserve the musical tradition of the 19th century, for example in 1926 in the (possibly lost) didactic sound film series of the Berlin University of Music, or a number of performances with classical music among the short films known as “Vitaphone shorts” from the early sound film era in the USA.

The paper proposes to describe the source material, offer a first categorization, show ways of tracing it and, of course, explain how to gain knowledge from these special films and how to apply this to musicological research.

Bio: Jörg Holzmann first studied classical guitar at the University for Music and Performing Arts in Stuttgart, where he graduated from both the artistic and pedagogical courses with the highest marks. He was subsequently active in solo and chamber music as guitarist and oboist, worked as guitar teacher at several music schools, continued his studies in composition, and successfully took part in international guitar competitions, winning prizes at important festivals in Spain, India, Korea and the USA. From 2017 to 2021 he studied musicology, literature and art history in Stuttgart, Halle (Saale) and Leipzig, his master’s thesis dealing with piano rolls recorded by women. At the same time, he was employed at the Musical Instruments Museum Leipzig. In 2020 he became research assistant at the Bern University of the Arts in the “Historical Embodiment” project under the direction of Professor Kai Köpp, evaluating the musicological benefits of early film documents.

3rd February 2022, 4-5:30pm (chair: Melissa Morton, University of Edinburgh)

Perspectives on Intermediality

  • Moving on from Liveness to aLiveness: Applying Intermedial Theory to Orchestral Music (Sureshkumar P. Sekar, Royal College of Music)

  • Hacking Hitchcock: Intermediality in Nicole Lizée's Hitchcock Études (Caroline Ehman, Brandon University)

  • The Refusal of Time? Simultaneity and Circularity in William Kentridge’s Wozzeck (2017) and The Head & the Load (2018) (Lawrence Alexander, University of Cambridge)

Moving on from Liveness to aLiveness: Applying Intermedial Theory to Orchestral Music

Sureshkumar P. Sekar, Royal College of Music

Abstract: Live or not live, all any performance art aims for is to come 'alive' to its audience. Philip Auslander’s (2008) “liveness” is about being connected to people. aLiveness is being connected to the art. aLiveness occurs when the audience becomes conscious that the work of art is presenting, with least ambiguity, its most essential truth—the truth of its form and content, and aesthetic and affect.

In the ever-accelerating all-pervading screen culture, all art aspires as much to the immersion of moving images as to “the condition of music” (Walter Pater). In this paper, I use Lars Ellestrom’s (2020) intermedial theory to illustrate the aLiveness of orchestral music in audiovisual form, a form through which it can make its internal structure and patterns intelligible, and its pleasures accessible and enjoyable, to all audiences.

Ellestrom suggests that when a text is transferred from one medium to another, it is transformed. Music as notations on paper is transferred to sound when performed by musicians, and then to moving images when the performance captured with multiple moving cameras is edited into a cinematized concert, or when made into an alternate audiovisual representation. A meaningful transfer means “keeping something, getting rid of something else, and adding something new”, and it involves two stages: deconstruction of the source text (eg. live concert) and reconstructing it to fit into the target medium (eg. cinematized concert). Imbued into the transformed art are the traces of these two processes, and therein lies the potential for aLiveness.

Bio: Sureshkumar P. Sekar is a third year PhD candidate from the Royal College of Music, London, and a RCM Studentship holder. He holds an MA with distinction in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. As part of his PhD, he is investigating the experience of the audience attending Film-with-Live Orchestra concerts, and building a theory called “aLiveness” as an update to Philip Auslander’s concept of “Liveness”. His video essay “Film-with-Live-Orchestra Concerts: A New Hope” has been accepted for publication in the peer-reviewed, audiovisual academic journal [in]Transition.


Hacking Hitchcock: Intermediality in Nicole Lizée's Hitchcock Études

Caroline Ehman, Brandon University

Abstract: Among the most unique voices in the international new music scene, Canadian composer Nicole Lizée (b. 1973) is known both for her genre-bending eclecticism and for her innovative use of obsolete technologies. While articles on Lizée’s music (by Maxime McKinley and Amanda Bayley) have focused primarily on her integration of approaches from turntablism and electro-acoustic music, the importance of film and its extensive use in her concert works has received little scholarly attention.

This paper focuses on the interaction of live musical performance, soundtrack, and film in Lizée’s Hitchcock Études (discussing both the original 2010 version for piano, soundtrack, and film, and the 2014 version with string quartet and percussion). As in her other works that incorporate film scenes as found objects, such the Kubrick Études (2013) and the Lynch Études (2016), Lizée suspends moments from the films by isolating and manipulating specific sounds, gestures, and speech fragments which creates a “glitch” effect in dialogue with the live performer(s). Drawing on theories of intermediality by Chiel Kattenbelt and Matthew Causey, among others, I discuss how the relationships between the aural and the visual, as well as the live and the mediated, are continuously reconfigured in this work. This paper argues that the intersections between the manipulated film scenes and the live musical performance create a liminal hybrid space, in which Lizée explores new approaches to temporality, narrative, and the relationship between sound and gesture.

Bio: Caroline Ehman is Assistant Professor of Musicology at Brandon University. After completing her PhD at the Eastman School of Music, she was on the faculty of the University of Louisville from 2013-2019. She is completing a book project on treatments of the Faust legend in opera since 1980, and her publications include a book chapter on Italian composer Luca Lombardi’s Faust-themed opera and a forthcoming festschrift chapter on portrayals of Faust in 21st-century opera. Her current research also encompasses portrayals of motherhood in the operas of Kaija Saariaho and the intersections between live performance and film in opera and new music performance, focusing particularly on the works of Michel van der Aa and Nicole Lizée.


The Refusal of Time? Simultaneity and Circularity in William Kentridge’s Wozzeck (2017) and The Head & the Load (2018)

Lawrence Alexander, University of Cambridge

Abstract: What is the value of distortion for media archaeology? This paper considers South African visual artist William Kentridge’s media archaeological sensibility as one that illuminates the violent distortions that continue to haunt Western narratives of history, representation, and linear models of temporality. For Thomas Elsaesser, these questions entail thinking of media archaeology in relation to a constellation of contemporary crises: ‘of history, causality, and memory, and of representation and the image’ (2016, 188). Against this turbulent background, Freud’s conception of Entstellung (‘distortion’, but also ‘dis-placement’) is instructive as a means of thinking the archaeological and the symptomatic together. This paper evaluates how Kentridge’s media archaeological practice renders the distortions which always contour the construction of historical narratives, and in particular, the deformations of landscapes and bodies – African and European – ravaged by industrial warfare and colonialism in the early twentieth century.

I explore Kentridge’s production of Alban Berg’s opera Wozzeck and the use of the cinematographic apparatus to render visually the composer’s ‘anti-temporal’ palindromes and retrogrades. This practice distorts a sense of linear temporal continuity with a sense of time turning back on itself: a negation – or refusal – of time. Meanwhile, in The Head & the Load, Kentridge’s kaleidoscopic, intermedial production rendering the experiences of African carriers during the First World War, I argue this logic of simultaneous spatial organisation is expanded further still. Kentridge’s production figures an assemblage of displaced objects and bodies, dislocated from fixed moments in historical time – and space – carried in a procession of unfolding simultaneity. I argue that this approximation and complication of cinematic projection allows Kentridge to activate a multiplicity of media histories exposed in an artistic practice that reveals and reclaims distortion to narrate the ‘forgotten’ histories of the colonial archive.

Bio: Lawrence Alexander is a PhD candidate at the University of Cambridge’s Centre for Film and Screen. His research focuses on the theme of ‘face value’ in the moving image practices of Harun Farocki, Hito Steyerl, and William Kentridge. Lawrence’s doctoral dissertation adopts the Deleuzo-Guattarian model of ‘faciality’ as a framework to consider these artists’ engagement with late capitalist and colonialist structures of power and control. This focus probes related questions of individual and cultural memory in dialogue with media-archaeological, postcolonial, and critical race theoretical perspectives on moving image scholarship. He is the recipient of a studentship jointly hosted by the Cambridge AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership and Churchill College.

10th February 2022, 4-5pm (chair: Georgia Brown, Queen Mary, University of London)

On-screen Performance and Pre-existing Music

  • ‘I am a damaged dollar’: Failed Vocal Performance as a Disruption of Neoliberal Resilience Discourse in Brady Corbet’s Vox Lux (2018) (Alice Pember, Queen Mary, University of London)

  • Navigating Sonic Spectacle: Babette’s Feast and Renegotiating the Soundtrack (Nicolas de Groot, University of Ottawa)

‘I am a damaged dollar’: Failed Vocal Performance as a Disruption of Neoliberal Resilience Discourse in Brady Corbet’s Vox Lux (2018)

Alice Pember, Queen Mary, University of London

Abstract: Brady Corbet’s Vox Lux depicts a school shooting survivor’s transformation into a singing superstar, connecting the trauma of a terrorist attack to the phenomenon of musical celebrity. In so doing, the film figuratively renders the relationship between the pop singer and ‘neoliberal resilience discourse’ that has been described by music philosopher Robin James. The film charts protagonist Celeste’s ascension to celebrity, predicating this ascent on her ability to vocally transform her experience of mass violence into resilient pop anthems. This article suggests that, rather than endorsing the resilience that it depicts, the film formally critiques the neoliberal function of pop stardom by disrupting the pleasurable affect associated with pop music and celebrity. Whilst Raffey Cassidy’s performance of the soundtrack, composed by singer Sia, was praised in many reviews, its vocal delivery by Natalie Portman (playing the older Celeste) was criticised for its ‘synthetic’ sound. Far from being a weakness of the film, my reading suggests that it is in the discord between the pleasurably resilient affect of the music and Portman’s affected and heavily autotuned vocal performance that the film’s critique of neoliberal resilience discourse comes to the fore. Denying us the resilient overcoming promised by the film’s first half, Portman’s failure to convince as a pop singer can be seen as central to the film’s political function. Taking an interdisciplinary approach to vocal performance grounded in the perspectives of music and political philosophy, girlhood studies and the study of pop culture and celebrity, this article proposes that Vox Lux interrogates the neoliberal function of celebrity through a disruption of the pleasurable affect associated with the pop star’s vocal performance.

Bio: Alice Pember is a PhD researcher in Film Studies at Queen Mary, University of London. She recently submitted her thesis, which examines the politics of dance and pop music in contemporary cinematic depictions of girlhood. She is co-editor of the ASMCF special issue ‘Robin Campillo’s 120 BPM (2017): Screening AIDS, Activism, and Queer Identity in Contemporary France’ which will be published in 2022. Her article on pop music in Céline Sciamma's Bande de Filles was recently awarded French Screen Studies’ annual Susan Hayward Prize. She currently teachers Film Studies at Aquinas Sixth Form College.


Navigating Sonic Spectacle: Babette’s Feast and Renegotiating the Soundtrack

Nicolas de Groot, University of Ottawa

Abstract: Though the presence of a bespoke Per Nørgård score would seem to be Babette’s Feast’s greatest sonic attraction, the film’s soundtrack is instead reliant on its diegetic musical forms. The preponderance of performances – occurring with limited narrative competition – confuses generally accepted vococentric norms. Babette’s Feast is largely devoted to diegetic spectacle functions, of which sonic spectacle accounts for a hefty portion. In order to incorporate sonic spectacle without disturbing the viewer’s attention, the film shifts track hierarchies through a series of combinatory strategies.

As such, traditional methods of assessing soundtracks prove wanting for a film like Babette’s Feast. I propose an expanded methodology of dovetailing to analyze these combinations, working with structures already proposed by Danijela Kulezic-Wilson and Annabel Cohen. Furthermore, these strategies are not necessarily unique to this film, but occur structurally in other period films and sporadically elsewhere.

Bio: Nicolas de Groot is currently at the University of Ottawa, pursuing his Master's in Musicology with a concentration in medieval and Renaissance studies. His thesis research focuses on Juan de Porras and Hans Gysser, printers of early music books in Salamanca. Nico graduated from Gettysburg College with a Bachelor's in Piano Performance and a concentration in music composition in 2018. His background in the liberal arts inspired multidisciplinary and global approaches to music, perspectives reinforced at the University of Ottawa.

17th February 2022, 4-5pm

(no session)

24th February 2022, 4-5pm (chair: Elsa Marshall, University of Sheffield)

Realist Sound Recording and Comedic Soundscapes

  • Jacques Tati and the Sonic Construction of the Comedic (Anna Stoll Knecht, Accademia Teatro Dimitri (SUPSI))

  • The ‘Truth of Sound’: Exploring Immersive Location Sound Recording in Realist Filmmaking (Steve Whitford, University of Portsmouth)

Jacques Tati and the Sonic Construction of the Comedic

Anna Stoll Knecht, Accademia Teatro Dimitri (SUPSI)

Abstract: Grounded in the tradition of silent film, Jacques Tati created a unique cinematic style of non-verbal comedy, based on a sophisticated interaction of sound and image. Tati constructed his soundtracks himself, entirely in post-production, working them out as musical scores, playing on a subtle counterpoint of voices, music and sound effects.

While film scholars discussed the characteristics of Tati’s meticulous sound work (Chion 2003 and 1987, Castle 2019, De Valck 2005, Turvey 2020), most focus on sound effects. This paper seeks to offer a musicological perspective on Tati’s soundtracks, highlighting the musical construction of the comedic in _Mon Oncle_ (1958) and _Playtime_ (1967). _Mon Oncle_ is built on the opposition between pre- and post-war worlds, sonically expressed by the contrasted use of music versus sound. The popular songs of Alain Romans and Franck Barcellini construct a nostalgic vision of the past, to which Hulot’s chaotic world belongs, while the cleanliness of modernity is signaled by mechanical sounds. In _Play Time_, Hulot is lost in the city and disappears behind the sounds of modernity. Tati’s modernist ‘de-emphasis’ of the comic character, as Turvey puts it, is reflected in a radical reconfiguration of the relationship between music and sound. Drawing on archival documents, this paper examines the evolution of Tati’s soundscapes and the significant role they played in constructing the comedic imagination in the post-war audio-visual landscape.

Bio: Anna Stoll Knecht currently holds a four-years research grant “Ambizione” from the Swiss National Science Foundation for a project entitled “Music and Clowning in Europe, 20th-21st centuries” (Accademia Teatro Dimitri), and serves as associated scholar for the Médiathèque Musicale Mahler in Paris. Previously a British Academy postdoctoral fellow at the University of Oxford (Jesus College), she has engaged in research on Gustav Mahler’s interpretation of Richard Wagner, both as a conductor and as a composer. Her recent publications include a monograph on Mahler’s Seventh Symphony (Oxford University Press, 2019); book chapters and articles in Mahler in Context (Cambridge University Press, 2020), Wagner in Context and Wagner Studies (CUP, forthcoming), Rethinking Mahler (OUP, 2017), The Wagner Journal (2017); an article on music and clowning in Geography Notebooks (no 4, 2021), and a chapter on Jacques Tati’s soundtracks for the The Palgrave Handbook of Film Music and Comedy (forthcoming in 2022).


The ‘Truth of Sound’: Exploring Immersive Location Sound Recording in Realist Filmmaking

Steve Whitford, University of Portsmouth

Abstract: This piece focuses on the somewhat neglected (at least within scholarly circles) area of location-based sound recording, drawing much-needed critical attention to the intricacies and skills involved in location sound recording within realist filmmaking – both scripted and unscripted. Through my own practice-as-research, I aim to reimagine an ontological definition of location sound recording by proposing that a reinvigoration of the ‘realist’ genre can be achieved by connecting the storytelling skills of recording for single camera with the new opportunities afforded by immersive audio technologies – ambisonics here being a vital part of that development process. I demonstrate how use of such immersive audio technologies offer new creative opportunities for realist makers and audiences, based on the unique experience of geographical place and physical event that immersive audio delivers.

Bio: Before joining the University of Portsmouth in 2010, Steve Whitford worked for over 25 years as a Sound Recordist in the Film/TV industry, specialising in Observational Documentaries, for international broadcasters. He won a Royal Television Society Award: Sound - Entertainment Non-Drama Production. Steve Whitford (Recipient), 1 Mar 2004 for “Fighting The War” - a BBC2 documentary series, where he was embedded with the Black Watch (7th Armoured) during the invasion of Iraq. Film Credits here: He now teaches Film Production practice at the University of Portsmouth having led curriculum change to include the embedding of professional/ industry experiences in curriculum, and to synergise practical and contextual elements. He has long standing memberships of industry bodies – Institute of Professional Sound and Association of Sound Designers - and has just been accepted into Association of Motion Picture Sound. He will lead a new MA for 2022: Creative Sound for Screen.

3rd March 2022, 4-5pm (chair: Melissa Morton, University of Edinburgh)

‘Play It Again:’ Remaking Pre-existing Music in Screen Media

  • ‘Musical Remakes’: Re-envisioning the Rearrangement of Pre-Existing Music in Contemporary Screen Scoring (James Denis Mc Glynn, University College Cork)

  • Of Covers and Cues: The Use of Pre-Existing Music in Trailer Remake Culture (James Deaville, Carleton University)

‘Musical Remakes’: Re-envisioning the Rearrangement of Pre-Existing Music in Contemporary Screen Scoring

James Denis Mc Glynn, University College Cork

Abstract: In recent years, so many film and television scores have reworked music that is familiar to audiences. Whether the songs of Radiohead are heard tinkling on a player piano in the 19th-century frontier of Westworld (2016) or swing reworkings of Roxy Music waft through the jazz clubs of Babylon Berlin (2017), the rearrangement of pre-existing music has become a well-established trend in screen scoring. Composers routinely capitalise on pre-existing music’s “associational potency” (Smith 1998) by reworking songs in ways that audiences are encouraged to expect, anticipate, and decipher. Yet, despite the increased prominence of this trend, scholarship on music in screen media rarely foregrounds rearrangement as a recurrent and important practice in contemporary screen scoring.

This paper illustrates how, in recent years, processes of rearranging, reworking or otherwise manipulating pre-existing music have characterised numerous soundtracks and become increasingly visible in screen scoring, reflecting a “vigorous trend of musical borrowing and transformation in contemporary media” that has only recently been subject to scholarly attention (McQuiston 2017). Broadly understood as denoting an array of processes of “musical remaking,” it examines (i) the many ways in which pre-existing music can be reworked, (ii) the array of individuals involved, and (iii) narrative implications. With reference to several recent examples, including Her (2013), Swiss Army Man (2016) and The Florida Project (2017), this paper ultimately argues that, more than ever before, filmmakers have demonstrated a profound awareness of rearrangement’s potential properties, and often tap into this potential in the most creative and narratively significant ways.

Bio: James Denis Mc Glynn is a film music scholar and Assistant Lecturer at the Department of Music, University College Cork. His research explores the rearrangement of pre-existing music in contemporary screen scoring. James is an alumnus of the Quercus Talented Students Programme, having been awarded a Quercus Creative & Performing Arts Scholarship in 2015. His receipt of a PhD Excellence Scholarship in 2017 enabled him to pursue his doctoral research at UCC, which he completed in 2020. James serves on the inaugural editorial board for Sonic Scope: New Approaches to Audiovisual Media (Goldsmiths Press). His research appears in Sonic Scope and the Journal of Popular Music Studies, as well as the forthcoming anthology After Midnight: Watchmen After Watchmen (University Press of Mississippi). He is currently co-editing a special issue of the Journal of Sound and Music in Games (University of California Press) with Richard Anatone and Andrew S. Powell.


Of Covers and Cues: The Use of Pre-Existing Music in Trailer Remake Culture

James Deaville, Carleton University

Abstract: The trailer occupies a unique position within the ontological economy of audiovisual remake culture. By definition rearrangements of fragments from (imagined) pre-existing cinematic texts with added music (Jensen 2014), trailers construct their appeal through an intertextual alliance of anticipation and recognition: the visual narratives hold out the promise of eventual theatrical completion (Kernan 2004), whereas the polyvalent underscores rely both on the memory of music and the prospect of aural cinematic experience (Deaville 2017, 2021). Thus the “trailer ear” both cognitively appreciates the skilful reworking of a known song and affectively perceives a suitable (library) track (Kassabian 2013). Since they equally invoke prior knowledge or experience, the trailer cover song and library cue can be considered both as pre-existing music.

This presentation explores how trailer studios play upon such differential experiences of trailer music within a film campaign. When editors deploy covers, it predominantly occurs in the first trailer, the teaser, with the subsequent, more informative “official” trailers relying on library tracks. We will consider how remade songs with connections to a filmic premise cognitively engage audience attention, while the affect-driven library track supports narrative on a visceral, extra-cognitive level. The paper will investigate this two-stage use of music in trailer campaigns for two fantasy/sci fi films, Miss Peregrine’s Home… (2016; teaser: Nina Simone's ‘There’s a New World Coming”) and Valerian… (2017; teaser: the Beatles’ “Because”). In doing so we will uncover the mechanisms behind the use of pre-existing trailer music to engage audiences and hence secure studio profits.

Bio: James Deaville teaches Music at Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada. One primary area of interest is music and sound in trailers, about which he has published in Music, Sound and the Moving Image (2014) and the Routledge Companion to Screen Music and Sound (2017). He edited Music in Television (Routledge, 2011) and with Christina Baade co-edited Music and the Broadcast Experience (Oxford, 2016). He co-edited with Ron Rodman and Siu-Lan Tan the Oxford Handbook of Music and Advertising (2021), and with Rodman and Jessica Getman is currently co-editing the Oxford Handbook of Television Music. In 2019 he received a four-year Insight Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council for research on aural representations of disability in screen media and in 2021 a two-year Insight Development Grant from SSHRC to study racial, ethnic and national bias in soundscapes of new coverage from the initial epicentres of the COVID-19 pandemic.

10th March 2022, 4-5pm (chair: Ian Sapiro, University of Leeds)

The Scoring of MGM Musicals

  • Hearing the “Tunes” and Not the “Orchestrations”: The Shifting Sounds of MGM Musicals 1946–1951 (Steve Pysnik, independent scholar)

  • Analysing cinematic integration in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954): a historically- and digitally-informed approach (Elsa Marshall, University of Sheffield)

Hearing the “Tunes” and Not the “Orchestrations”: The Shifting Sounds of MGM Musicals 1946–1951

Steve Pysnik, Independent scholar

Abstract: MGM musicals in the mid to late 1940s offer some of the most extravagant examples of orchestrations and arrangements from throughout the history of film musicals. However, tectonic shifts in the studio’s leadership in the early 1950s ushered in a series of edicts that would profoundly change the sound of their musicals thereafter. The music department’s directive: alter their approach to arranging musical numbers such that film viewers would “hear the tunes in the musicals and not the orchestrations.” Matthew Tinkcom (2002) identifies this period as one of a balancing of “camp visual elements” and the films’ narratives. So, too, did the camp musical practices shift—particularly those of Conrad Salinger, the studio’s foremost musical arranger.

In this paper, I will examine Salinger’s arrangements of Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein’s songs from Show Boat in two filmic treatments at MGM: Till the Clouds Go By (Whorf, 1946) and Show Boat (Sidney, 1951). This inquiry is based in the analysis of the harmonic, countermelodic, and orchestrational differences between the musical numbers of these respective films and the consequent influence on their critical and cultural reception. Doing so will reveal multiple facets of musical simplification in the later film, thus providing tangible evidence that Salinger had to tone down the excesses of earlier musicals’ sonic aesthetics in response to the pressures from the studio’s executives and shifting mainstream tastes.

Bio: Steve Pysnik completed his Ph.D. in Musicology at Duke University in Spring 2014. His dissertation, entitled “Camp Identities: Conrad Salinger and the Aesthetics of MGM Film Musicals,” explores the music of American arranger–orchestrator Conrad Salinger (1901–62) and its relationship to camp. Steve lives in Durham, North Carolina, where he works as a Salesforce consultant by day and sings in choirs by night.


Analysing cinematic integration in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954): a historically- and digitally-informed approach

Elsa Marshall, University of Sheffield

Abstract: The common assertion that integrated musicals, those where there is a close relation between musical numbers and plot, are examples of higher art than revue-based musicals has recently been criticised and revised (McMillin 2006 and Wolf 2011). While a more egalitarian approach to understanding the composition of musicals is needed, a more thorough historiography of how formal integration has been discussed in the past is also needed in order to not lose sight of historic practices and to better structure new theories and analytical methods going forward. For example, in Film Music Notes and similar publications of the 1940s and 1950s, “integration” was used by film music composers to describe different techniques and challenges involving the combination of music with narrative, setting, speech, visuals, and other artistic modes, and as a way to advocate for composers to be involved from the start of pre-production. The resulting combination of music with artistic modes, a type of formal integration I term cinematic integration, can be analysed in detail using digital tools.

Using ELAN video annotation software and reflecting on archival production documents, this study proposes a historically- and digitally-informed analytical framework for identifying techniques of cinematic integration through a case study of the kidnapping sequence of MGM’s Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954). The original film musical involved musical considerations and personnel from the start of production, exemplifying the type of creative process studio composers were demanding for all film genres. The kidnapping sequence begins with the “Sobbin’ Women” song and continues into a dramatically scored action sequence, allowing for a consideration of how cinematic integration is constructed both within and beyond musical numbers.

Bio: Elsa Marshall is completing her PhD at the University of Sheffield, supervised by Prof. Nicola Dibben and Prof. Jonathan Rayner. Her dissertation combines archival research and audiovisual analysis to trace the business, collaborative labour, and techniques of formal integration in the production of the Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954). She holds a Doctoral Academy Award from the University of Sheffield, and a Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada Doctoral Fellowship. She has presented on the relationship between music and narrative in film musicals, silent film, and concept albums at conferences of the RMA; IASPM Canada; Song, Stage, and Screen; SCMS; and Music and the Moving Image. She was Chair of the RMA Student Committee for 2021, and she is a member of the BARN organising committee.

17th March 2022, 4-5pm (chair: Georgia Brown, Queen Mary, University of London)

Horror and Myth in Audiovisual Media

  • Press Any Key to Continue: Has interactivity produced the aleatoric media soundtrack? (Hannah Capstick, University of Oxford)

  • A “visualized soundtrack” for a modern myth: Orfeo 9 by Tito Schipa Jr. (1975) (Daniele Peraro, University of Rome La Sapienza)

Press Any Key to Continue: Has interactivity produced the aleatoric media soundtrack?

Hannah Capstick, University of Oxford

Abstract: To what extent does music reflect the understanding that video games are simply interactive films? This presentation will explore the different “shades” of moving-image media, demonstrating how they differ, and intermediary genres such as the “interactive drama”. Comparing the music and sound of different forms of moving-image media will help develop an understanding of their relationships, and we will see how music calls for a re-evaluation of the theoretical divisions that define them. To reach these conclusions, I will focus my discussions within the horror genre, and investigate to what extent the chosen form affects the way in which sound is deployed and heard.

The primary difference is the role of player interaction. The active player (in contrast to the passive viewer) introduces variability, meaning that games are different on each playthrough. Music, or more specifically sound, inherently exaggerates the role of player interaction: the soundscape of a game is adorned with interactive or player-triggered sounds, and thus understanding the role sound plays in games in comparison to films will help us understand how games diverge from being simply interactive films. As a result, we can view the soundscape of a video game to be a type of chance-based music, in contrast to the fixed end-result of a film score. Questions can be raised as to the future of the soundscape of film and game, and whether these distinct genres should seek to continue to diverge from each other, and if there is value in their convergence.

Bio: Hannah Capstick is a third-year undergraduate student reading music at University College, Oxford, where she is President of the College Music Society. She is events director and editor for the Broad Street Humanities Review, a journal dedicated to publishing the works of undergraduate academics, where she is establishing a conference for aspiring academics to present their work. Her current research explores the impact of interactivity on music, diegesis and immersion, and how these change our understanding of sound and music in video games and film. Her first article on the subject has been published in the Sonic Scope Journal of Goldsmiths University. She is also a keen performer, studying the flute at the Royal Academy of Music, managing and playing in the Oxford University Philharmonic and Wind Orchestras, as well as giving regular solo recitals and singing in the college Chapel Choir.


A “visualized soundtrack” for a modern myth: Orfeo 9 by Tito Schipa Jr. (1975)

Daniele Peraro, University of Rome La Sapienza

Abstract: Broadcast for the first time in 1975, Orfeo 9 is a film musical written and directed by Tito Schipa Jr. and produced for television by Rai, the Italian state broadcaster. The first Italian rock opera to appear on the TV screen, it is a modern version of the myth of Orpheus. Adapted from the theatrical musical staged in 1970 in Rome, the film is primarily a remediation of the double LP released in 1973: it was in fact built on the pre-existing audio recording, thus becoming the first experiment of “visualized soundtrack” on Italian television, according to critic Renato Marengo’ definition. Accordingly, this presentation reverses the common perspective that considers what pop music can offer cinema, asking instead what the language of film can offer a pop music recording.

In particular, I focus on the ways in which the film Orfeo 9 contributed to the “shaping of the experience of song”, to quote film scholar Claudio Bisoni. I discuss the modalities of the “musical re-writing of the image” (Simone Arcagni’s expression) that allowed Schipa to experiment with different relationships between audio and video through the medium of cinema. The issue of genre, in particular the American film musical, plays a significant part in my analysis. My overall intention is to show how the film Orfeo 9 was an experiment that aimed at a synthesis between different possibilities of remediation of song.

Bio: Daniele Peraro holds a master’s degree from the University of Milan, Italy. Since October 2019 he has been a doctoral student in Music and Performance Studies at the University of Rome La Sapienza. His research project centres on the reception of the American musical in Italy between the 1950s and the 1980s. He has presented his work at international conferences. His interests include musical comedy and theatrical and film musicals, with a particular focus on popular music.

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