Reading Tonality through Film: Transformational Hermeneutics and the Music of Hollywood

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Reading Tonality through Film: Transformational Hermeneutics and the Music of Hollywood

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Title: Reading Tonality through Film: Transformational Hermeneutics and the Music of Hollywood
Author: Lehman, Frank Martin
Citation: Lehman, Frank Martin. 2012. Reading Tonality through Film: Transformational Hermeneutics and the Music of Hollywood. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
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Abstract: Film musicology is growing at a heartening pace, but the discipline is still bereft of sustained contributions from music theory. The current study seizes the opportunity presented by the underanalyzed repertoire of film music, offering an argument for applying the techniques of transformational analysis, and neo-Riemannian analysis in particular, to the interpretation of music for the moving image. Film musical style and form respond strongly to a transformational approach, which adapts well to both the triadic chromaticism characteristic of Hollywood’s harmonic practice and the dynamic and contingent condition of musical design inherent to the medium. Concurrently, the analytic tools and conceptual structure of neo-Riemannian theory benefit from exposure to a fresh repertoire with different analytic needs than those of art music. In this dissertation, the author scrutinizes the capacity for tonality to act as a unifying and dramatically potent force in film. With parameters of effective cinematic tonal design established, the adapted transformational methodology responds faithfully to the expressive and temporal qualities of the soundtrack. The author develops a model for harmonic associativity and a general hermeneutics of transformation, extrapolated from analyses of scores from John Williams, James Horner, Jerry Goldsmith, and many others. The power of the transformational approach to capture tonal phenomena through spatial representations is marshaled to perform critical readings of scores for A Beautiful Mind and Star Trek. Not only can the neo-Riemannian stance illuminate the way film music works, but it can train the listener and analyst to perceive and enjoy film with more sensitive ears.
Citable link to this page: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:10288956
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