Books on Film Music

Below is a summary of the books on film music that I have on my bookshelves. As well as details of the various titles, I offer a brief summary of my thoughts on each book.


by Winifred Phillips

Published by MIT Press (2017), 276 pages

A comprehensive, practical guide to composing video game music, from acquiring the necessary skills to finding work in the field.

Although the text on the inside of the book’s dust jacket explains that A Composer’s Guide To Game Music offers “indispensable guidance for musicians and composers”, Phillips’ book deserves a wider audience. Even with no formal music training and no real interest in video gaming, I found that there is much to enjoy. The content is well-balanced so that those who have an interest in composing music for video games and people who have a more general interest in the use of music in games, film and television can learn a lot from this book. An expanded review of this book can be read HERE.


by Jeffrey Dane

Published by iUniverse (2006), 290 pages

Miklós Rózsa composed the music for nearly 100 films. In this book, the author shares his own personal remembrances of the composer, the private vignettes he witnessed, specific anecdotes, personal photos, and facsimiles of Rózsa’s manuscripts. The author also presents some of the private correspondence between him and the composer over a more than 20-year period, including photographic copies of innumerable handwritten letters and notes he received from Dr. Rózsa during the decades of their friendship. These missives outline the evolution of the camaraderie and rapport that developed between the two men, offer insight into the kind of relationship between them, and reveal features of the composer’s own character.

This is an unusual book. I originally thought that it would be a biography of the composer but it turns out to be a series of reminiscences from the author – something that’s made obvious from the ‘blurb’ on the back of the book and something I should have paid more attention to. There are some musical examples of the composer’s scores to examine and some private photos to view (though the latter mostly feature the composer and author looking pretty glum). This self-published book is a bit of a wasted opportunity for fans of a titan of film music composing.


by Steven C. Smith

Published by University of California Press (1991), 416 pages

No composer contributed more to film than Bernard Herrmann, who in over 40 scores enriched the work of such directors as Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock, François Truffaut, and Martin Scorsese. In this first major biography of the composer, Steven C. Smith explores the interrelationships between Herrmann’s music and his turbulent personal life, using much previously unpublished information to illustrate Herrmann’s often outrageous behavior, his working methods, and why his music has had such lasting impact. From his first film (CITIZEN KANE) to his last (TAXI DRIVER), Herrmann was a master of evoking psychological nuance and dramatic tension through music, often using unheard-of instrumental combinations to suit the dramatic needs of a film. His scores are among the most distinguished ever written, ranging from the fantastic (FAHRENHEIT 451, THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL) to the romantic (OBSESSION, THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR) to the terrifying (PSYCHO). Film was not the only medium in which Herrmann made a powerful mark. His radio broadcasts included ORSON WELLES’ MERCURY THEATER ON THE AIR and THE WAR OF THE WORLDS. His concert music was commissioned and performed by the New York Philharmonic, and he was chief conductor of the CBS Symphony. Almost as celebrated as these achievements are the enduring legends of Herrmann’s combativeness and volatility. Smith separates myth from fact and draws upon heretofore unpublished material to illuminate Herrmann’s life and influence. Herrmann remains as complex as any character in the films he scored—a creative genius, an indefatigable musicologist, an explosive bully, a generous and compassionate man who desperately sought friendship and love.

I have to admit from the start that I am a big fan of the music of Bernard Herrmann. If I was pushed then I would say that he is the greatest and most influential film composer to have lived. Therefore, this book on the life and works of Herrmann is thoroughly recommended as the book to read in order to get a sense of the man and his place in music history. Smith’s authoritative book is so well written that it’s a joy to read.


by Mervyn Cooke

Published by Cambridge University Press (2008), 562 pages

This book provides a comprehensive and lively introduction to the major trends in film scoring from the silent era to the present day, focussing not only on dominant Hollywood practices but also offering an international perspective by including case studies of the national cinemas of the UK, France, India, Italy, Japan and the early Soviet Union. The book balances wide-ranging overviews of film genres, modes of production and critical reception with detailed non-technical descriptions of the interaction between image track and soundtrack in representative individual films. In addition to the central focus on narrative cinema, separate sections are also devoted to music in documentary and animated films, film musicals and the uses of popular and classical music in the cinema. The author analyses the varying technological and aesthetic issues that have shaped the history of film music, and concludes with an account of the modern film composer’s working practices.

This is an interesting history of film music that, rather than focusing on specific films over the years, takes an overview approach through film music history. As well as covering the development of film music in Hollywood, the book spends a bit of time covering the contributions of music written for films from other countries (e.g., United Kingdom, France) when their films became influential. There’s a discussion of how classical music is used in films, minimalism in films and the concept of the soundtrack album.


by Annette Davison

Published by Scarecrow Press, Inc (2009), 230 pages

Alex North’s A Streetcar Named Desire: A Film Score Guide examines the acclaimed score for Elia Kazan’s much-celebrated adaptation of Tennessee Williams’s A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE (1951). Situating the score within the context of Alex North’s life and career, the book begins with an overview of North’s musical training and his works up to his first scores for Hollywood in 1950, demonstrating how his experience in writing music for stage, concert hall, dance, and documentaries each contributed to the skills necessary for film composition. Annette Davison uses examples from North’s film career to identify and describe his scoring techniques. Using manuscript and archival research, Davison explores both the play’s debut stage production and the film’s production process, with a particular emphasis on the genesis and development of the music heard in the film. Considering the influence and changes imposed by the film’s studio (Warner Bros.), the Production Code Administration, and the Catholic Legion of Decency on the film, Davison explores the impact of these changes on the interpretation of this finely balanced drama, comparing the different versions of the film and its scores. The book concludes with a full and detailed analysis of the jazz-inflected score, taking a holistic approach and using both musicology and film studies to investigate the ways it gives a dynamic shape to the film as a whole.

What’s particularly interesting here is the discussion on North’s composing technique: his music is so distinctive that it’s interesting to try and grasp what it is that makes it so different. Though I am not sure that I grasped it all, it was interesting to read nonetheless. The historical context section was also interesting to read. Rather than have a cue-by-cue breakdown of the score, Davison chooses to analyse the score according to the characters and how the characters interact with one another. This is another excellent addition to the Film Score Guide series.


by David Cooper

Published by Scarecrow Press, Inc (2005), 168 pages

Regarded as one of the greatest film composers of all time, Bernard Herrmann was responsible for some of the most memorable music in film. His work with Alfred Hitchcock produced a slew of classics including VERTIGO (1958), NORTH BY NORTHWEST (1959), and PSYCHO (1960). Several years before collaborating with Hitchcock, however, Herrmann composed the brilliant score for THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR (1947), which remained a personal favorite of the composer’s. Herrmann’s score reinforces the film’s romantic theme, and much of the music has an appropriately elegiac quality. In mood, orchestration, and even to some extent thematic identity, it seems to prefigure his music for VERTIGO. In this latest addition to the Scarecrow Film Score Guide series, author David Cooper examines Herrmann’s career in general, as well as the specific elements that went into the creation of THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR’s score. Cooper traces the development of Herrmann’s craft as a film composer, especially through his radio work, where he made contact with many of the great artists of the age, most notably Orson Welles. This association was to give him a passport to Hollywood and led to the scoring of his first film, CITIZEN KANE. Herrmann’s subsequent film scores of the 1940s included THE DEVIL AND DANIEL WEBSTER, THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS, and JANE EYRE. In this guide, Cooper considers Herrmann’s musical technique and offers a theorization of some of the ways in which music can be “meaningful” in film. He also explores non-musical contexts of the film, including the screenplay’s relationship to the popular novel from which it was adapted, as well as the contribution of director Joseph L. Mankiewicz, the performances of Gene Tierney and Rex Harrison, and the editing of Dorothy Spencer. Cooper also provides a quantitative, evidence-based study of the score.

After a brief discussion of Herrmann’s scoring technique and a passage on the literary, filmic and critical context of the score, the author gives a cue-bu-cue rundown of Herrmann’s score. The book provides an interesting insight into the music and adds much to the enjoyment of listening to one of Herrmann’s loveliest scores.


by David Cooper

Published by Greenwood Press (2001), 158 pages

This in-depth musicological and critical study examines how Bernard Herrmann’s score for Alfred Hitchcock’s VERTIGO plays a crucial role in the articulation and development of the film’s narrative and how it affects readings of the film. Herrmann’s collaboration with Hitchcock spanned eleven years and nine films, and Herrmann’s film score for Vertigo is widely regarded as being one of his finest. Cooper considers the development of Herrmann’s career up to 1958, providing a detailed discussion of his musical style. The explicit information about the structure of Herrmann’s music is based on a study of Herrmann’s autograph score. Cooper examines not only the context of the film’s production, but also its reception and critical readings of the film. In addition, this study explores how the effects track co-operates with Herrmann’s non-diegetic and diegetic score and concludes with a detailed musicological study. The author advances a new theory, in his discussion of signification, about the establishment of meaning in film music through association with images on the screen. This sophisticated musicological approach will appeal to film music and film communication scholars.

Cooper’s book is an in-depth analysis of Herrmann’s wonderful score. There are few scores that could stand up to such intense scrutiny or provide as much material for such a detailed essay. Cooper dissects Herrmann’s score in an engaging and interesting way with numerous musical examples and a detailed cue-by-cue breakdown. It’s an engrossing read from start to finish.


edited by Daniel Goldmark, Lawrence Kramer & Richard Leppert

Published by University of California Press (2007), 324 pages

This groundbreaking collection by the most distinguished musicologists and film scholars in their fields gives long overdue recognition to music as equal to the image in shaping the experience of film. Refuting the familiar idea that music serves as an unnoticed prop for narrative, these essays demonstrate that music is a fully imagined and active power in the worlds of film. Even where films do give it a supporting role—and many do much more—music makes an independent contribution. Drawing on recent advances in musicology and cinema studies, Beyond the Soundtrack interprets the cinematic representation of music with unprecedented richness. The authors cover a broad range of narrative films, from the “silent” era (not so silent) to the present. Once we think beyond the soundtrack, this volume shows, there is no unheard music in cinema.

A collection of essays on various aspects of film music that are collected under 3 groupings: “Musical Meaning”, “Musical Agency” and “Musical Identity”. The sixteen essays cover a wide range of subjects – e.g., music in THE PIANIST and THE PIANO, myth-making in KOYAANISQATSI, “the fantastical gaps between diegetic and non-diegetic” music, music of the animated cartoons of the 1920s, and Miles Davis – and I found them to be of varying levels of interest. I often use the descriptor ‘academic’ when describing film music books or essays, usually in a negative way in that when I describe something as ‘too academic’ it’s my go-to phrase to describe something I found difficult to follow. I found several of these essays too academic. But, as each chapter is a self-contained discussion it’s a book I can dip in and out of when I want to.


by Janet K. Halfyard

Published by Scarecrow Press, Inc (2004), 178 pages

Danny Elfman is recognized as one of the most successful, interesting, and innovative figures in recent film music composition. He came to the fore in the late 1980s in connection with his collaboration with Tim Burton on his films including PEE-WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE (1985), BEETLEJUICE (1988), BATMAN (1989), EDWARD SCISSORHANDS (1990), THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS (1993), and SLEEPY HOLLOW (1999). In addition to this, Elfman has composed music for more than 40 other films, including SOMERSBY (1993), DOLORES CLAIBOURNE (1995), GOOD WILL HUNTING (1997), MEN IN BLACK (1997), and SPIDERMAN (2002). Beetlejuice was the first mainstream commercial success of the collaboration, but BATMAN was the film which marked Tim Burton’s arrival as a major figure in Hollywood film direction, and equally established Danny Elfman as a film score composer, particularly in relation to action and fantasy genres. The score for BATMAN won a Grammy in 1989 and is an outstanding example of his collaboration with Burton as well as admirably demonstrating his particular talents and distinctive compositional voice. In particular, it displays the characteristic “darkness” of his orchestration in this genre and the means he uses to create a full length film score from what is often a relatively small amount of musical material, in this case the famous Batman theme. This book examines Elfman’s scoring technique and provides a detailed analysis and commentary on the BATMAN score. The film is discussed in the context of its comic-book origins and the fantasy-action genre, setting it and its score against the late 1970s and early 1980s equivalents such as STAR WARS and SUPERMAN, and revealing how Burton and Elfman between them changed the cinematic idea of what a superhero is. The book also explores Elfman’s musical background, his place within the film music industry and the controversy that sprang up following the release of BATMAN.

Following the usual discussion on the composer’s scoring technique and the historical and critical context of the score under discussion, Halkyard provides an interesting discussion on the sound of Elfman’s score (Batman’s theme and the love theme), which she follows with a two-part discussion on the score. As is usual with this series of books, this book is full of interesting musical examples from throughout the score.


by Mariana Whitmer

Published by Rowman & Littlefield (2017), 160 pages

Released in late 1960, THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN was a Western reimagining of the 1954 Japanese film SEVEN SAMURAI. Despite such stars as Steve McQueen, Yul Brynner, and Charles Bronson, the film was not terribly successful when it premiered. However, in the years since, the film has become recognized as a classic of the genre. And though the movie received only one Academy Award nomination, that honor was bestowed on Elmer Bernstein’s rousing score. Beyond the scope of the film, the score has permeated American culture: the music has been used in countless commercials and referenced on television shows like CHEERS and THE SIMPSONS. But what makes this score so memorable? In Elmer Bernstein’s The Magnificent Seven: A Film Score Guide, Mariana Whitmer examines the creation and development of one of the most iconic soundtracks in the history of cinema. Whitmer explores the significance of the familiar score through a variety of lenses, first delving into the background of Elmer Bernstein and his emergence as one of the key composers of the Silver Age of film music. The author then traces Bernstein’s early musical endeavors and considers why he was attracted to “Americana” music, which particularly influenced his scoring of THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN. The book also summarizes Bernstein’s early Western scores, noting that although they are clearly in the mainstream of the genre’s musical style, they are also enhanced by Bernstein’s own distinctive touches. Providing unique insights into the creation of this iconic score—which was deemed one of the ten greatest film scores of all time by the American Film Institute—this book explains what makes this music so enduring. Elmer Bernstein’s The Magnificent Seven: A Film Score Guide will be of interest to cinema and music scholars in general, as well as to fans of film music and the work of one of Hollywood’s finest composers.

Interesting sections include the music of Bernstein and ‘authentic Americana music’ and a discussion of the western music of the composer. The interesting analysis of the score – with the usual reliance on musical examples – is broken down into the various themes and motifs used in the score rather than examining the score cue by cue. As usual, the book delivers a fascinating insight into an iconic score.


by Alessandro De Rosa

Published by Oxford University Press (2019), 352 pages

Master composer Ennio Morricone’s scores go hand-in-hand with the idea of the Western film. Often considered the world’s greatest living film composer, and most widely known for his innovative scores to THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY and the other Sergio Leone’s movies, THE MISSION, CINEMA PARADISO and more recently, THE HATEFUL EIGHT, Morricone has spent the past 60 years reinventing the sound of cinema. In Ennio Morricone: In His Own Words, composers Ennio Morricone and Alessandro De Rosa present a years-long discussion of life, music, and the marvellous and unpredictable ways that the two come into contact with and influence each other. The result is what Morricone himself defines: “beyond a shadow of a doubt the best book ever written about me, the most authentic, the most detailed and well curated. The truest.” Opening for the first time the door of his creative laboratory, Morricone offers an exhaustive and rich account of his life, from his early years of study to genre-defining collaborations with the most important Italian and international directors, including Leone, Bertolucci, Pasolini, Argento, Tornatore, Malick, Carpenter, Stone, Nichols, De Palma, Beatty, Levinson, Almodóvar, Polanski and Tarantino. In the process, Morricone unveils the curious relationship that links music and images in cinema, as well as the creative urgency at the foundation of his experimentations with “absolute music”. Throughout these conversations with De Rosa, Morricone dispenses invaluable insights not only on composing but also on the broader process of adaptation and what it means to be human. As he reminds us, “Coming into contact with memories doesn’t only entail the melancholy of something that slips away with time, but also looking forward, understanding who I am now. And who knows what else may still happen.”

This is a very interesting glimpse into the creative drive of this most prolific composer. Morricone’s career spanning decades, his vast back-catalogue and his sheer command of music composition means that he is an ideal sole subject for a book of this kind. Every answer to the interviewer’s questions is of the greatest interest to the reader and the interviewer has done a great job at putting the composer at ease so that Morricone’s responses to questions comes across as being conversational rather than formalised question answers. Sometimes though De Rosa’s questions feel as though they are formed after Morricone’s comments have been given – a sort of fit-the-question-to-the-answer approach – but this is only a minor criticism. Personally, I enjoyed this book when it concentrated on discussing Morricone’s film scores rather than talking more about the theory of music (which occupies too much of the final third of the book for my tastes) and I felt that I wish that I knew better Morricone’s output so that I could follow the relevant discussions. But these aspects of my experience of this book did not detract from my overall enjoyment. I thoroughly recommend this book to anyone who wants to get a sense of Morricone as a composer and his process, and to anyone who felt the slightest pang of sorrow at hearing of his recent passing.


by Maurizio Baroni

Published by Gingko Press Inc (2020), 368 pages

Unique in its genre, Ennio Morricone: Master of the Soundtrack originates from the idea of the collector, author, and cinema expert Maurizio Baroni. Baroni draws on his own archive to give life to a rich selection highlighting over fifty years of a prestigious career, largely unseen before, which includes handwritten scores by the maestro himself, the original album and single cover sleeves from his soundtracks, and much more.

The thing that lingers most in the memory after having browsed through this book is the myriad of album covers featured in the book. And the weight – over 2 kilograms! It’s a lavish book with the vivid colour reproduction of the artwork for decades worth of score releases. The briefest of snippets of information pepper the book at various points, providing some interesting facts. And there’s the occasional musical example too. To be honest, this book is more of a coffee table exhibit to browse through occasionally rather than a source of detailed information on the composer and his works. For what it is, it works very well.


by Stéphane Lerouge

Published by Decca Records / Universal Music France (2019), 48 pages

This release is an 18 disc, 50 year summary of the music of Ennio Morricone that features classic scores as well as rare and previously unreleased music/scores. Included with this set is a 48-page booklet that has photos of the composer as well as stills from some of the films that feature his music. There also features a short interview with Morricone himself that can only scrape at the surface of the maestro’s extensive career.


by Charles Leinberger

Published by Scarecrow Press, Inc (2004), 140 pages

Although five-time Academy-Award nominee Ennio Morricone has scored numerous films in various genres, his westerns will undoubtedly remain his most memorable cinematographic accomplishments. This guide demonstrates Morricone’s unique and enduring contributions to the art of film music through a discussion of his compositional and orchestrational processes, many of which are evident in his music for THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY in a way that can be easily understood by both musicians and nonmusicians. Leinberger begins his study with a brief discussion of Morricone’s musical background through his experience in the Italian music business, his earliest Italian film scores, and his accomplishments in Hollywood. The second chapter is a discussion of the many compositional techniques that distinguish Morricone’s music from that of other film composers. Subsequent chapters examine the historical and cultural context of the film and attempt to place the style of Morricone’s score for THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY in relation to his scores for other well-known Westerns. The book’s final chapter is an analysis of compositional techniques presented in chronological order from the film’s opening credits to its climactic ending. Although this guide focuses on Morricone and his music from a theoretical perspective, other non-musical issues that are relevant to the audience’s ultimate experience of the film are also discussed.

Morricone’s score is such an iconic example of film music scoring that any discussion is bound to be excellent. And Leinberger’s analysis of Morricone’s music for Leone’s movie delivers on all counts. Filled with numerous musical examples, the author takes us through the music as featured on the soundtrack album. As an added bonus, there are several musical examples from the earlier segments of the ‘Dollars Trilogy’. There’s been many a time when I have listened to the album with this book in my hand.


by Ben Winters

Published by Scarecrow Press, Inc (2007), 186 pages

Winner of the Academy Award for best dramatic score in 1938, the score for THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD is seen by many as the archetypal accompaniment to a Warner Brothers swashbuckler, and it established the score’s composer, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, as one of the leading exponents of film score composition at a formative point in its history. In the newest addition to the Scarecrow Film Score Guides series, author Ben Winters uses manuscript and archival research to challenge preconceived notions about the score’s composer and its authorship. Winters examines Korngold’s career, his film scoring techniques, and his engagement with the Hollywood studio system; he examines the film’s treatment of the Robin Hood legend, its historical and critical contexts, and its place within the swashbuckler genre and the studio’s anti-fascist agenda.

Some of the Film Score Guides spend a significant proportion of the book discussing the composer’s technique and the historical and critical context of the score before discussing the actual music composed for the film. Here, Winters briefly covers the opening subjects and spends the majority of the pages of the book analysing Korngold’s swashbuckling music. Rather than describing the music on a cue-by-cue basis, Winters discusses the music in the context of broader subjects which offers a refreshing change from the more common cue-by-cue analysis.


by Douglas Gordon

Published by Book Works / Artangel / Agnès b

Feature Film continues Douglas Gordon’s fascination with the films of Alfred Hitchcock. Focusing this time on the music, Feature Film draws on the momentous score by Bernard Herrmann for Hitchcock’s classic VERTIGO. Douglas Gordon, in his directorial debut, has created a new film featuring James Conlon (chef d’orchestre of the Paris Opera), in which the music is played out through his dramatic head and hand gestures. The book is published as a parallel work with reproductions of movie stills from Feature Film and VERTIGO that represent the same moment in the score along with a CD that contains a complete new recording of the music from VERTIGO.

The book is mostly a series of stills from Feature Film featuring the head and hand gestures of the conductor, and also has text written by Raymond Bellour and Royal S. Brown. I found the book pretty uninteresting and rather pretentious. The main draw to the book is the accompanying CD that contains a new recording of the complete Herrmann score for VERTIGO. The music is a great representation of the score but it’s presented terribly: as a single 60 minute track of the entire score. I had lots of fun using David Cooper’s VERTIGO score handbook – and the included cue list and timings – to break down the 1-hour track into individual cues. The book is pretty forgettable, this version of the score isn’t.


by Peter Larsen

Published by Reaktion Books (2007), 254 pages

Film and music belong together; classics like Fritz Lang’s METROPOLIS (1927) and Mike Nichols’ THE GRADUATE (1967) are renowned for their brilliant soundtracks. But what exactly is film music? Does music act as an accompaniment to the film’, or is film an illustration of the music, or are the two inseparable? In “Film Music”, Peter Larsen traces the history of music in film and discusses central theoretical questions concerning its narrative and psychological functions. He looks in depth at classics such as Howard Hawks’ THE BIG SLEEP (1946) and Alfred Hitchcock’s NORTH BY NORTHWEST (1959), as well as later international blockbusters and cult films including AMERICAN GRAFITTI (1973), STAR WARS (1977) and BLADE RUNNER (1982). These case studies explore the role of music in the history of film, and also show how other films can be discussed in relationship to their music. “Film Music” offers a much-needed overview of how music functions in film and serves as a fascinating, accessible introduction to the analysis of film music. The book will serve as an important text for students of film, music and cultural disciplines, as well as the general reader with an interest in film and popular music.

Larsen’s book is a handy tome that recounts briefly the history of film music. I enjoyed the writing and coverage of the book which has, as the cover suggests a significant amount of pages analysing Bernard Herrmann’s score for Hitchcock’s NORTH BY NORTHWEST. Discussions of NORTH BY NORTHWEST, THE BIG SLEEP and METROPOLIS are illustrated with several musical examples and there is a manageable discussion on the psychology of film music. This is an enjoyable read and recommended as a worthwhile addition to anyone’s film music library.


by Roy M. Prendergast

Published by W.W. Norton & Company (1992), 330 pages

From the Foreword to the Second Edition: “That Mr. Prendergast is unusually well-equipped to discuss both the technology and the aesthetics of film music is revealed once more in this second edition, particularly in the new section on synthesizers. And in this discussion he is disarmingly frank and perceptive. The hands-on experience he has had as one of Hollywood’s leading music editors has allowed him to make comments and judgments that serve the history of film music.” ? William Kraft, composer, from the Foreword In addition to the new material on the synthesizer mentioned above, the author has completely reviewed the four parts of the book and integrated new material where appropriate: History (an overview from the silent films to the present); Aesthetics (the artistic purposes film music serves and the forms it takes); Technique (how to synchronize music to picture and the special demands of television); and Contemporary Techniques and Tools (comprising video post-production, digital audio, and other innovations). A completely updated bibliography rounds out this informative study.

This was one of my earliest film music books I read and it is still one of my favourites. Structured chronologically from music for silent film through to the early nineties, Prendergast also discusses the aesthetics of film music and the various techniques and tools used by composers. Including lots of musical examples from a wide range of films one of the things that stands our for me with this book is the appearance of musical examples from the scores of Scott Bradley.


edited by K.J. Donnelly

Published by Edinburgh University Press (2001), 214 pages

For something we often barely notice music in films is usually highly effective. It creates tension, elicits emotion and is undoubtedly one of the most important aspects of the cinematic experience. Upon closer inspection, it can be seen that film music is highly complex and artful, not only having immediate emotional impact but also comprising some of the most outstanding music produced in the twentieth century. Bringing together some of the most influential international scholars on the subject, this anthology provides a detailed, diverse and accessible perspective on music in the cinema. As well as chapters on the techniques and views of film music and on film music scholarship, the book embraces topics as diverse as Bernard Herrmann’s music for Welles’s CITIZEN KANE, the use of discs to accompany silent films and gender and the cinematic soundscape.

A series of 10 essays on film music of the twentieth century that gives a historical perspective on the art of film music. As with Donnelly’s other works that I have sampled, this is a difficult book to enjoy as a lot of the discussions are very dry and it feels like a textbook rather than a book for a more general audience. Again, as the structure of the book is a collection of essays, you can dip into it and sample it in manageable amounts.


by Royal S. Brown

Published by Scarecrow Press (2006), 424 pages

For nearly twenty years, scholar and critic Royal S. Brown contributed a regular column, “Film Musings,” to Fanfare magazine. This single volume assembles the material from these columns and presents Brown’s reviews of significant recordings of movie scores. Although many of the reviews are of “original soundtrack recordings” for films released during the column’s run, a number of the reviews also cover reissues of earlier recordings, as well as newly recorded versions of “classic” scores. In certain instances, Brown was even able to include in his column interviews with composers such as David Raksin (LAURA) and Howard Shore (THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS) concerning new recordings of their music. An expert on film and film music, Brown frequently offers controversial perspectives not just on the music but also on the film for which the music was composed, and in many cases, he stresses the interactions between the cinematic action and the score, an aspect generally ignored by most film-music critics. His perceptions are presented in an accessible style that will lead even readers who are new to the subject to discover many of the treasures of what once was a neglected art. Not intended as a guide for collectors? although many of the recordings discussed are still available? but rather to open new horizons in a unique art form, this is a collection that will appeal to anyone who is interested in both film and film music.

This hefty book is an interesting collection of reflections and critical comments on film music collected from between 1983 and 2001. Opinions range from examining the music as heard in the movie to giving a summary of the music as heard on the soundtrack album. In some cases, Brown also offers his take on what he thinks of the films too. Always very forceful with his thoughts, one of the attractive features of the titles he covers is that some of the films that are covered are rarely spoken about in books such as this. Overall, a worthwhile book that’s full of interesting nuggets of information and opinion pieces that are brought together in one place.


by Vasco Hexel

Published by Rowman & Littlefield (2016), 212 pages

Christopher Nolan’s caped crusader trilogy – BATMAN BEGINS, THE DARK KNIGHT, and THE DARK KNIGHT RISES – is considered by many to be one of the finest translations of comic book characters to the big screen. The second film in the series, THE DARK KNIGHT, was both a critical and commercial success, featuring an Oscar-winning performance by Heath Ledger as the Joker. The score-by Academy Award winner Hans Zimmer and eight-time Oscar nominee James Newton Howard-also received accolades, including a Grammy. Intricately interwoven with the sound design-and incorporating Mel Wesson’s ground-breaking ambient music design, Zimmer’s and Howard’s music gives the film an added layer of ominous tones that makes palpable the menace facing Gotham City. In Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard’s The Dark Knight: A Film Score Guide, Vasco Hexel delves into the composers’ backgrounds to reveal the many facets of meaning in the highs and lows of the score. This book also highlights the working methods of Zimmer and Howard and how they collaborated with each other and the filmmaking team to create such a memorable soundtrack. By drawing on unprecedented access to some of the key creators of the film, the author provides unique insights into the score’s composition. Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard’s The Dark Knight: A Film Score Guide will be of interest to cinema and music scholars, as well as fans of both composers.

Hexel’s book is another excellent addition to the Film Score Guide series of books. The author discusses the technical approach that the composers used when composing for this movie. The score itself is analysed firstly as a musical text and then as part of the overall soundscape. There is, however, one major drawback to this book which is captured in the Editor’s Foreword: “The Series of Film Score Guides was established to promote score-focused scholarship…it is disappointing that, for the first time in the almost twenty years that this series has been running, the rights holders for the music copyright have refused to grant permission for musical examples to be reproduced in this scholarly text. They have not given a reason for refusing this permission.”


by Jack Sullivan

Published by Yale University Press (2008), 354 pages

For half a century Alfred Hitchcock created films full of gripping and memorable music. Over his long career he presided over more musical styles than any director in history and ultimately changed how we think about film music. This book is the first to fully explore the essential role music played in the movies of Alfred Hitchcock. Based on extensive interviews with composers, writers, and actors, and research in rare archives, Jack Sullivan discusses how Hitchcock used music to influence the atmosphere, characterization, and even storylines of his films. Sullivan examines the directors important relationships with various composers, especially Bernard Herrmann, and tells the stories behind the musical decisions. Covering the whole of the directors career, from the early British works up to FAMILY PLOT, this engaging look at the work of Alfred Hitchcock offers new insight into his achievement and genius and changes the way we watch, and listen, to his movies.

Divided into chapters centred around the director’s various movies, this book attempts and succeeds in covering the various composers who have scored Hitchcock’s filmography. I am most familiar with Hitchcock’s relationship with Bernard Herrmann – and so I automatically link the two together – so it was good to get a sense of the director’s relationship with composers such as Franz Waxman, Miklós Rózsa and Dimitri Tiomkin. The book doesn’t contain as many musical examples as I would have liked but the book is more to do with the interaction between people rather than an in-depth analysis of the music.


by Christian DesJardins

Published by Silman-James Press (2006), 358 pages

Designed to speak clearly and intelligently to non-musicians and musicians alike, Inside Film Music is a must-read for every film music fan. Through its more than forty lively, insightful interviews, it delves deeply into the creative process, the basics of musical thought, filmmaking’s collaborative nature, and the individual psyches of its participating composers. It covers every current style of film music, the role of the artist in commercial enterprises…and much more.

This is a thorough set of interviews with many interesting snippets of information. As is common to all interview books of this type, each composer speaks passionately about their craft and it’s interesting to hear how the composers got started in the industry. Because of the large number of composers and other names from the industry interviewed for this book it does get a bit repetitive after a while since the length of the interviews can be short. So, it’s definitely better to dip in and out of the book rather than sitting down and starting from the start and working your way through.


by David Huckvale

Published by McFarland & Co. (2011), 311 pages

Composers give a unique and powerful voice to stories on the big screen. Those who work principally with one genre may leave a unique imprint. James Bernard was one such composer. From 1952 to the late 1990s, he was one of horror’s definitive and distinctive voices, scoring many of Hammer’s best-known films, including DRACULA. This is a critical biography of James Bernard. It is also a thorough and meticulous examination of his music, including its intricate mechanisms and the many sources of Bernard’s inspiration. Movie scores examined include THE QUATERMASS EXPERIMENT, QUATERMASS 2, X – THE UNKNOWN, THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, DRACULA, THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES, THE KISS OF THE VAMPIRE, SHE, and many others. A foreword by Ingrid Pitt, a glossary, a filmography, notes, bibliography and index complete the work.

[Personal comment to follow.]


Published by Chris Siddall Music (2021), 210 pages

Notable for so many reasons, ALIENS was the score for which James Horner received his first Oscar nomination. Surprising perhaps, given that barely any of the score exists intact in the final edit of the movie. Infamous for the strain it put on the working relationship between Horner and director James Cameron, this book presents each cue as it was originally intended and can be studied alongside the London Symphony Orchestra’s soundtrack recording, available from Varèse Sarabande. For the first time, enjoy being able to study the extended note ranges, techniques and effects which Horner employed to create this iconic piece of film music history.

Chris Siddall’s production of Horner’s iconic score seems to have been a labour of love. I say this because the quality of the book’s content is so high. Horner’s music is reproduced here to such a high quality. I was concerned that my lack of musical training would mean that having this book would be of no value to me whatsoever. But, even though people with a knowledge of reading music will get a lot out of this book, even someone with little or no musical training can have fun trying to follow the notes whilst listening to the album. A most interesting book and an excellent companion piece to the soundtrack album.


by Erik Heine

Published by Rowman & Littlefield (2016), 2012 pages

Eight-time Oscar nominee, James Newton Howard is one of Hollywood’s most sought-after composers. Though THE SIXTH SENSE is the most famous collaboration of Howard and director M. Night Shyamalan, the film score for SIGNS is held in much higher esteem. This book provides background information on Howard, discusses some of his most memorable scores, and also emphasizes the working relationship between Howard and his directors, most notably Shyamalan.

Another excellent addition to the Film Score Guide series of books. Heine discusses the composer’s excellent score within the context of Newton Howard’s musical background and scoring technique, as well as the wider historical and critical context of the film. Filled with numerous musical examples derived from the score, the author provides an interesting analysis of Newton Howard’s score for SIGNS that’s written at a level that makes the book approachable for non-musical types such as myself.


by Mariana Whitmer

Published by Scarecrow Press, Inc (2012), 200 pages

With its unique focus on pacifism, THE BIG COUNTRY was an unusual Western for audiences of the 1950s. Produced in 1958, this epic film featured an all-star cast that included Gregory Peck, Charlton Heston, and Oscar-winner Burl Ives. One of the most enduring elements of the film has been Jerome Moross’s score. Inspired to re-think the traditional Western score and approach it in a way that enhances the emotional content, rather than simply accompanying the action, Moross created a work that stands as one of the great achievements of cinematic music. In Jerome Moross’s The Big Country: A Film Score Guide, Mariana Whitmer examines Moross’s landmark work, a score that continues to attract listeners and influence composers of film, Westerns and otherwise. This book begins with a biographical survey of Moross’s formative years, his early dramatic compositions in ballet and musical theater, and his early film work, providing an historical context for understanding his approach to scoring THE BIG COUNTRY. Drawing upon Moross’s original manuscripts and correspondence, Whitmer looks carefully at the score itself. She relates the history of this magnificent score and how the film’s music differs significantly from contemporary trends in the Western. Whitmer also examines the music’s individual cues and describes how Moross approached the film as a dramatic entity, delineating sections of the narrative into mega-scenes through the music. Finally, the aftermath of this score is considered, including how it has influenced not only subsequent Westerns but also music videos. The first book devoted to a Western film score and the only biographical book on the composer, Jerome Moross’s The Big Country: A Film Score Guide, will be a valuable read for musicologists, film scholars, and anyone interested in Moross and his music.

The first half of this book gives an interesting essay on the composer’s place in Hollywood, as well as summarising composing technique for drama and Moross’ score in the context of the changing western score. There’s a thorough analysis of the score – as you would expect with this series of books – that’s very readable (though I do sometimes do get lost a bit in the analysis). As with most of these guides, Whitmer’s book provides an added interest to an already excellent score.


Published by Omni Music Publishing (2021), 240 pages

Steven Spielberg once referred to Poltergeist as his “land Jaws.” “Terror is relentless, and the terror is unseen in both movies,” he added. Scheduling conflicts between this film and E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL meant John Williams couldn’t write the score. Thankfully, Spielberg turned to Jerry Goldsmith, who was experiencing a career peak, composing several high-profile scores to successful films. The key to the score’s success is how it first establishes the strong bond between the Freeling family. The composer noted, “POLTERGEIST is not a horror picture; Poltergeist is a love story, a scary love story.” Goldsmith composed a lullaby to represent Carol Anne. With the emotional core of the music in place, Goldsmith cleverly combined ambitious and complex music for the supernatural events that centre on this quiet suburban house. As the drama unfolds, Goldsmith introduces vicious tritone figures to represent the malevolent spirits. A wordless choir underscores the grand mystery lurking on the ‘other side.’ Goldsmith expertly weaves many disparate themes while still maintaining a cohesive musical narrative. The music simultaneously supports the drama and creates a score that is an enjoyable listening experience on its own. His ability to blend sophisticated orchestral techniques while maintaining a sense of musical continuity earned the composer an Academy Award nomination. For the first time, musicians, music students, conductors – any music lover – can study Poltergeist in this durable, high-quality edition, carefully reproduced and edited from the original manuscripts and sketches.

POLTERGEIST is one of my favourite scores composed by Jerry Goldsmith, and to have his full score in hand – courtesy of Omni Music, is a great thrill. All credit to Joel Kreimeyer-Kelly, Timothy Rodier, and Noah Taylor for the book’s contents, laying out Goldsmith’s score in such an easy-to-digest way. Aa well as the full orchestral score, the manuscript is preceded by a short analysis of the main themes and ideas of the score which helps when it comes to listening to the music and trying to follow with the book. What helps with following the music as written is that the score sheets contain brief descriptions of what is happening on-screen. I find this a great help in following the music and the on-screen action and provides points at which I can get back to following image and music side-by-side. Rather than following the score as heard on the released soundtrack album, this book appears show the music as originally written and, as a result, there are a few times where we see the original version of a cue and then a modified version (i.e., a film version revision). This is a great accompaniment to the soundtrack album and is a wonderful record of Goldsmith’s excellent score.


Published by Omni Music Publishing (2021), 473 pages

Ten years after it was cancelled by NBC, the beloved series, STAR TREK, made the leap to the silver screen in 1979. It was a big budget, epic cinematic event. While the response was mixed among fans and critics, the box office returns were enough to begin a new, and lucrative, film franchise for Paramount Pictures. The original cast reprised their roles. Along with the dazzling special effects, Jerry Goldsmith’s bold and timeless score was lauded by all. Goldsmith wrote what is inarguably his magnus opus. The originality, size, and grand scope of the score in unequaled in all his oeuvre. It was not an easy assignment, however. Last minute edits and delays meant that Goldsmith was often forced to score to an unfinished picture. In addition, director Robert Wise added to the pressure by wanting him to write an iconic, memorable theme. After much toil, Goldsmith created a rousing musical identity for the film. In addition to several themes created for the story and characters, the main antagonist in the film, V’Ger, was represented with a relatively new instrument, the “blaster beam.” The bizarre sounds it created, coupled with Goldsmith’s lavish and unique orchestration, gave the score its otherworldly sound. For the first time, musicians, music students, conductors – any music lover – can study Star Trek: The Motion Picture in this durable, high-quality edition, carefully reproduced and edited from the original manuscripts.

Omni Music’s full score book of Jerry Goldsmith’s music for Robert Wise’s STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE is a thick book, and is packed full of fascinating moments. As with other Omni Music’s full score books, this book opens with a brief analysis of the score’s themes: it’s a great way to set out Goldsmith’s iconic themes and ideas in a way that helps with understanding their genesis and how they are used and moulded in the score itself. The full score book contains early versions of cues, including the early version of “The Enterprise”, and each cue manuscript features short descriptions of on-screen action that helps align the music with what’s happening on screen. This is an invaluable help for someone like myself who struggles to follow the music when listening to the music at the same time (I am much more familiar with marrying up the music as heard and the on-screen visuals). As always, Omni Music’s preparation of the book is excellent with Joel Kreimeyer-Kelly, Timothy Rodier, and Glynn Davies deserving special mention for their work on typesetting and design. Star Trek: The Motion Picture in Full Score is another excellent addition to the growing number of publications reproducing some of the most iconic film soundtracks ever written.


by Barry Russell

Published by Rhinegold Publishing (2007), 40 pages

This guide looks at John Barry’s score for the seminal 1964 Bond film GOLDFINGER, a core work for Edexcel A2 Music Technology, providing students with comprehensive study of the relationships between music and image. It is aimed at Music Technology students, but will also be of interest to the general reader and anyone studying film. After examining the transition from novel to film, and a brief synopsis of plot and characters, the guide gives an insight into John Barry’s musical background. The analysis of style, characterisation, instrumentation, orchestration, key relationships and dramatic pacing in the film will help students identify the distinctive features of Barry’s sound. Fifteen of the film’s cues are analysed and three case studies provide a more detailed look at the use of the music within specific scenes. The guide also includes an overview of the earlier Bond scores and the spy film genre in general, together with a review of the later Barry works. A useful list of technical and musical vocabulary is included.

The bulk of the book is made up of a chapter devoted to an analysis of the 15 cues found on the most recent CD release, with 3 of the cues being expanded into ‘case studies’. This, together with a broader discussion of the score, provided some interesting snippets of information on Barry’s music. The book concludes with a brief summary of John Barry’s other James Bond scores as well as a couple of paragraphs on music for other spy films. There’s also a discussion on product placement in the Bond films – which seems weird. The book is very slight but is worth a read. An expanded review of this book can be found HERE.


Published by Alan Howarth, 54 pages

Halloween III – Season of the Witch Manuscript. This limited edition collection is the entire music score from Halloween III transcribed by Alan Howarth in 1983. Never available until now, this rare bound book contains every music cue as well as pictures and documents relating to this classic film score. A must have for any HALLOWEEN fan and a unique gift for this season. Every copy is personally autographed by Alan Howarth.

(Note: the format of the current version of this book/full score manuscript may be different to the one that I refer to here.)

Put together as a spiral ring-bound book with a plain grey cover with hand-written title page, this publication features the hand-written manuscript for Carpenter’s third instalment of the HALLOWEEN film series. Having the hand-written version of the manuscript rather than the score converted into formal notation gives a sense of the vibrancy of the composition process. It’s difficult to follow the manuscript whilst listening to the score as represented on CD as it looks like there was a lot of adaption of the written score for the film. But, when it’s possible to line up manuscript with album, following the two together gives an insight into this excellent score.

The inclusion of the music cue sheet is a nice addition to the presentation, as is the signed (by Howarth) photo.


by David Morgan

Published by PerfectBound (2000), 314 pages

This collection of interviews with Hollywood composers offers the most intimate look ever at the process of writing music for the movies. From getting started in the business to recording the soundtrack, from choosing a musical style to collaborating with directors, including Martin Scorsese, Stanley Kubrick, the Coen brothers, Terry Gilliam, Kenneth Branagh, and Ken Russell, from learning to deal with editing to writing with time-sensitive precision, the leading practitioners in the field share their views on one of the most important — and least understood — aspects of filmmaking: the motion picture art that’s heard but not seen.

Morgan’s series of interviews with composers is interesting in that it groups the interviews into different subjects. For example, in the section ‘Period Pieces’ the author interviews Carter Burwell on his score for ROB ROY and talks to Basil Poledouris about his score for CONAN THE BARBARIAN (an unusual period piece!) and Elmer Bernstein discusses his adaptation of Herrmann’s music for CAPE FEAR as used in the nineties remake as part of the section on ‘Adaptation’. Structuring the interviews in this way adds to the enjoyment of the interviews as a whole.


by Fred Karlin

Published by Wadsworth Publishing Co Inc (1994), 430 pages

Music has been an essential part of virtually every movie ever made. In the words of the great director D. W. Griffith, “The music sets the mood for what your eye sees; it guides your emotions; it is the emotional framework for visual pictures.” Or, as composer Bernard Herrmann said, “Movies need the cement of music.” Listening to Movies is the lay person’s guide to the exciting world of film music. Featuring 100 photographs, including stills from classic films as well as portraits and candid shots of the creators of film music, this book tells how music for the movies is written, performed, recorded, and mixed; how composers work with directors and producers; and how the whole process evolved. Fred Karlin surveys the history of this very special kind of music, from the era when pianists and live orchestras accompanied silent films, through the great days of the Hollywood studio orchestras and the ground-breaking work of composers like Korngold, Herrmann, and Rozsa, on to the present, when electronic scores, crafted through a dizzying array of high-tech hardware and software, exist side by side with symphonic scores. Throughout, Karlin draws on his interviews with key figures in the industry to personalize the world of film music. Listening to Movies reveals not only how film music is made but how it can be crucial in establishing tone, setting a pace, and involving the audience. Through numerous examples, Karlin helps the reader to understand and appreciate exactly how the music on the soundtrack enhances the movies we see.

I always think of this book as part-informative film music book and part-film music reference book with the former style being an informative summary of what goes into creating a film score and the latter style being a book full of facts that I can go to when I want to learn about film composers and their credits, Academy Award nominees and winners, etc – though the internet ably caters for those interested in acquiring facts quickly it’s sometimes nice just to thumb through a book looking for the information you want and being diverted by something on another page. Karlin’s book is of the type that you can get lost in.


by James Wierzbicki

Published by Scarecrow Press, Inc (2005), 186 pages

FORBIDDEN PLANET is a product of the M.G.M. studio, which at the time of the production of this film was hardly in the business of making science-fiction films. Originally planned as a “B” picture, the 1956 FORBIDDEN PLANET was praised for its spectacular special effects and brilliant color cinematography. The plot practically tingles with sexual innuendo and the dialogue is rich in references to Freudian psychology. However, in spite of all this, the film was marketed to a juvenile audience .Notwithstanding its uncommon look and “feel,” perhaps the most unusual aspect of the film is the way it sounds. Never before had a major Hollywood effort utilized a score generated entirely by electronic means, yet seldom does one find commentary on how Louis and Bebe Barron’s score again and again challenges Hollywood norms. In addition to placing the composers and film in historical context, James Wierzbicki’s study offers a deep and thorough analysis of not only the music as used in the film, but also of the decontextualized music as presented by the Barrons on the 1977 “original soundtrack album.” The text is generously illustrated with transcriptions and graphs, and can serve as a model for the examination of other extended works of electronic music for which no written score has ever existed.

I was interested to see how the author approached the challenge of discussing a score that’s so different from much of what’s been written for film. One of the interesting features of this book is that the music is analysed firstly as music on the soundtrack album (separate from the image) and then discussed in the context of the film. Wierzbicki makes the discussion interesting and accessible with liberal use of musical examples: the breakdown of the various motifs and how they are used in the score and movie is of particular interest.


by Timothy E. Scheurer

Published by McFarland (2008), 266 pages

This work studies the conventions of music scoring in major film genres (i.e., science fiction, historical romance, western), focusing on the artistic and technical methods that modern composers employ to underscore and accompany the visual events. Each chapter begins with an analysis of the major narrative and scoring conventions of a particular genre and concludes with an in-depth analysis of two film examples. Several photographic stills and sheet music excerpts are included throughout the work, along with a select bibliography and discography.

Illustrated with numerous musical examples, this book features chapters such as “Alien Harmonies: The Science Fiction Film”, “Music for the Mean Streets: The Hardboiled-Detective Film”, “The Rhythm of the Range: The Western Film Score” and “From Swan Lake to Synthesizers: The Music of Horror Films” and the book’s writer does a good job of condensing the music of the various genres down to their essential parts. The book does veer a bit too far into the academic arena with discussions of heroism in sports movies and women’s films (e.g., REBECCA and THE PIANO); I find it difficult to follow books that talk of the music in terms of more broader themes underlying the music itself.


by Jon Burlingame, Geoff Leonard and Pete Walker

Published by Redcliffe Press Ltd. (2022), 494 pages

A near five-hundred page, fully-illustrated (often with rarely seen images), chronological exploration of key landmarks underpinning John Barry’s illustrious career. Written in the form of extensively researched essays concentrating on one specific score, over forty are represented from the first, BEAT GIRL, to the last, ENIGMA. Whether highly acclaimed or more low key films, each chapter sets out, clearly and accurately, the circumstances surrounding the inception and completion of the score under scrutiny and in doing so, provides fresh insights into John Barry’s remarkable legacy.

[Personal comment to follow.]


edited by James Buhler and Mark Durrand

Published by Routledge (2020), 304 pages

Music in Action Film is the first volume to address the central role of music and sound in action film―arguably the most dominant form of commercial cinema today. Bringing together 15 essays by established and emerging scholars, the book encompasses both Hollywood blockbusters and international films, from classic works such as THE SEVEN SAMURAI to contemporary superhero franchises. The contributors consider action both as genre and as a mode of cinematic expression, in chapters on evolving musical conventions; politics, representation, and identity; musical affect and agency; the functional role of music and sound design in action film; and production technologies. Breaking new critical ground yet highly accessible, this book will be of interest to students and scholars of music and film studies.

[Personal comment to follow.]


edited by Neil Lerner

Published by Routledge (2010), 248 pages

Music in the Horror Film is a collection of essays that examine the effects of music and it’s ability to provoke or intensify fear in this particular genre of film. Frightening images and ideas can be made even more intense when accompanied with frightening musical sounds, and music in horror film frequently makes its audience feel threatened and uncomfortable through its sudden stinger chords and other shock effects. Scholars in film studies have tended to downplay the audible over the visual, to overlook if not the presence of music in horror films, the its potency within them. The essays in this collection – some of which take a thematic approach, some of which focus on a particular film – strive to address that lacuna with respect to the particular genre of film known for its ability to terrify us, the horror film. With contributions from scholars across the disciplines of music and film studies, these essays delve into blockbusters like THE EXORCIST, THE SHINING, and THE SIXTH SENSE, together with lesser known but still important films like CARNIVAL OF SOULS and THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT. By leading us with the ear to hear these films in new ways, these essays allow us to see horror films with fresh eyes.

[Personal comment to follow.]


edited by K.J. Donnelly and Philip Hayward

Published by Routledge (2013), 248 pages

The music for science fiction television programs, like music for science fiction films, is often highly distinctive, introducing cutting-edge electronic music and soundscapes. There is a highly particular role for sound and music in science fiction, because it regularly has to expand the vistas and imagination of the shows and plays a crucial role in setting up the time and place. Notable for its adoption of electronic instruments and integration of music and effects, science fiction programs explore sonic capabilities offered through the evolution of sound technology and design, which has allowed for the precise control and creation of unique and otherworldly sounds. This collection of essays analyzes the style and context of music and sound design in Science Fiction television. It provides a wide range of in-depth analyses of seminal live-action series such as DOCTOR WHO, THE TWILIGHT ZONE, and LOST, as well as animated series, such as THE JETSONS. With thirteen essays from prominent contributors in the field of music and screen media, this anthology will appeal to students of Music and Media, as well as fans of science fiction television.

[Personal comment to follow.]


edited by Kathryn Kalinak

Published by Routledge (2012), 248 pages

Music in the Western: Notes from the Frontier presents essays from both film studies scholars and musicologists on core issues in western film scores: their history, their generic conventions, their operation as part of a narrative system, their functioning within individual filmic texts and their ideological import, especially in terms of the western’s construction of gender, sexuality, race and ethnicity. The Hollywood western is marked as uniquely American by its geographic setting, prototypical male protagonist and core American values. Music in the Western examines these conventions and the scores that have shaped them. But the western also had a resounding international impact, from Europe to Asia, and this volume distinguishes itself by its careful consideration of music in non-Hollywood westerns, such as RAVENOUS and THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY and in the “easterns” which influenced them, such as YOJIMBO. Other films discussed include WAGON MASTER, HIGH NOON, CALAMITY JANE, THE BIG COUNTRY, THE UNFORGIVEN, DEAD MAN, WILD BILL, THERE WILL BE BLOOD and NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN.

[Personal comment to follow.]


by Tony Thomas

Published by Silman-James Press (1997), 330 pages

Film music fans have eagerly awaited this fully updated and greatly expanded edition of Tony Thomas’s popular history of Hollywood film music (from the thirties through the nineties) as viewed through portraits of many of its foremost practitioners.

Thomas travels chronologically through film music history via biographical chapters of over 20 film music composers (though not John Williams). The book is an excellent and interesting read that is interspersed with numerous quotes from the composers themselves or from those who knew the composers well.


by Fred Karlin and Rayburn Wright

Published by Routledge (2004), 534 pages

On the Track offers a comprehensive guide to scoring for film and television. Covering all styles and genres, the authors, both noted film composers, cover everything from the nuts-and-bolts of timing, cuing, and recording through balancing the composer’s aesthetic vision with the needs of the film itself. Unlike other books that are aimed at the person “dreaming” of a career, this is truly a guide that can be used by everyone from students to technically sophisticated professionals. It contains over 100 interviews with noted composers, illustrating the many technical points made through the text.

This is probably the most comprehensive guide and, for me, the best book on film music available. It has everything: informative text from knowledgeable authors, numerous musical examples from a wide range of films and it’s written in a style that’s both fascinating and engaging. I have spent hours pouring over the information contained in this book and it’s my first go-to book for information.


by Royal S. Brown

Published by University of California Press (1994), 396 pages

Since the days of silent films, music has been integral to the cinematic experience, serving, variously, to allay audiences’ fears of the dark and to heighten a film’s emotional impact. Yet viewers are often unaware of its presence. In this bold, insightful book, film and music scholar and critic Royal S. Brown invites readers not only to “hear” the film score, but to understand it in relation to what they “see.” Unlike earlier books, which offered historical, technical, and sociopolitical analyses, Overtones and Undertones draws on film, music, and narrative theory to provide the first comprehensive aesthetics of film music. Focusing on how the film/score interaction influences our response to cinematic situations, Brown traces the history of film music from its beginnings, covering both American and European cinema. At the heart of his book are close readings of several of the best film/score interactions, including PSYCHO, LAURA, THE SEA HAWK, DOUBLE INDEMNITY, and PIERROT LE FOU. In revealing interviews with Bernard Herrmann, Miklós Rósza, Henry Mancini, and others, Brown also allows the composers to speak for themselves. A complete discography and bibliography conclude the volume.

I find this book to be pitched just at the right level to provide enough in-depth information on film music composing for the non-musical reader to make it an engrossing read. The bulk of the book uses Golden Age examples to illustrate the ideas put forward by the author. The book closes with a small number of short interviews with composers such as John Barry, Maurice Jarre and Howard Shore. One part of the book I particularly enjoyed was Brown’s 5-6 page summary of how to hear a movie – a glossary and supporting information of various aspects of film music.


by Roger Hickman

Published by W.W. Norton & Company (2005), 526 pages

This book examines the role that music plays in films, from the birth of film at the turn of the twentieth century to the present day. It provides all the information student need to understand how music works in film and it examines popular and symphonic film scores from the late nineteenth to the early twenty-first century. From Tin Pan Alley to rock and roll, the kinetoscope to DVDs, World War I to Iraq – this book sets the history of film music in the context of cultural, historical, and political events.

Hickman’s book goes a long way to delivering on its back-of-the-book promises. And he does it in an engaging way. Written with the student in mind, the level of the book is pitched well for the non-musical reader but there is a level of information and detail that makes it an informative read. Comprehensive in its level of detail, the book covers film music scoring from 1895 through to 2004.


by Matt Schrader

Published by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (2017), 350 pages

Step into the soundproof studios of film’s top composers to experience their journeys, struggles, secrets and how they find their groove. Join the filmmakers of Score: A Film Music Documentary for rare, in-depth interviews with maestros of the modern age.

There’s little to separate this from the other film music composer interview books that are available. There’s some interesting snippets of information to be found within the book’s pages but there’s a lot of standard questioning from the interviewer that doesn’t really lead the interviewees to divulge much that hasn’t been covered before. Having a book as an accompaniment to a feature-length documentary is an interesting idea but reading the book didn’t have me wanting to track down the film and I wonder if the same is true the other way round.


by J. Blake Fichera

Published by Silman-James Press (2016), 356 pages

Scored to Death collects 14 info-packed, terrifyingly entertaining interviews with renowned film composers who have provided music for some of the horror genre’s greatest films and franchises, including HALLOWEEN, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, FRIDAY THE 13TH, HELLRAISER, MANIAC, THE FOG, PRINCE OF DARKNESS, CUJO, DAWN OF THE DEAD, DEEP RED, SUSPIRIA, SANTA SANGRE, ZOMBIE, THE BEYOND, INSIDIOUS, THE CONJURING, HOSTEL, THE STRANGERS, HOUSE OF THE DEVIL, and many more!

Fichera’s collection of interviews with film music composers adds a twist to the usual collection by focusing on one particular genre: horror. And because there’s been such a myriad of styles employed by composers writing for horror, focusing on this genre works. The questions asked are interesting and elicit interesting responses from the various composers interviewed – some of whom I haven’t seen being interviewed for books before. Definitely a book for both the horror movie watcher and film music listener.


by J. Blake Fichera

Published by Silman-James Press (2020), 492 pages

Following in the spirit and style of Scored to Death (2016), his popular book of interviews with horror music greats, J. Blake Fichera’s Scored to Death 2 collects 16 brand-new, info-packed, terrifyingly entertaining interviews with renowned composers who have provided the music for some of horror’s most revered films, film franchises, and TV shows, including GET OUT, US, MARTIN, RE-ANIMATOR, THE WALKING DEAD, PUPPET MASTER, SAW, CREEPSHOW, DAY OF THE DEAD, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4: THE DREAM MASTER, EVIL DEAD, ARMY OF DARKNESS, DARK SHADOWS, BURNT OFFERINGS, THE TERMINATOR, THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW, RING, KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE, AUDITION, GHOULIES, HAPPY DEATH DAY, IT FOLLOWS, GRETEL & HANSEL, and many more!

[Personal comment to follow.]


by Andy Hill

Published by Hal Leonard Books (2017), 392 pages

Today, musical composition for films is more popular than ever. In professional and academic spheres, media music study and practice are growing; undergraduate and postgraduate programs in media scoring are offered by dozens of major colleges and universities. And increasingly, pop and contemporary classical composers are expanding their reach into cinema and other forms of screen entertainment. Yet a search on Amazon reveals at least 50 titles under the category of film music, and, remarkably, only a meager few actually allow readers to see the music itself, while none of them examine landmark scores like VERTIGO, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, PATTON, THE UNTOUCHABLES, or THE MATRIX in the detail provided by Scoring the Screen: The Secret Language of Film Music. This is the first book since Roy M. Prendergast s 1977 benchmark, Film Music: A Neglected Art, to treat music for motion pictures as a compositional style worthy of serious study. Through extensive and unprecedented analyses of the original concert scores, it is the first to offer both aspiring composers and music educators with a view from the inside of the actual process of scoring-to-picture. The core thesis of Scoring the Screen is that music for motion pictures is indeed a language, developed by the masters of the craft out of a dramatic and commercial necessity to communicate ideas and emotions instantaneously to an audience. Like all languages, it exists primarily to convey meaning. To quote renowned orchestrator Conrad Pope (who has worked with John Williams, Howard Shore, and Alexandre Desplat, among others): If you have any interest in what music ‘means in film, get this book. Andy Hill is among the handful of penetrating minds and ears engaged in film music today.

Hill’s book contains all the essential elements that make for an interesting and engaging film music book. It’s well-written, features numerous well-known films and has lots of musical examples to illustrate the book’s analyses. As well as well-trodden films such as VERTIGO and TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, the author devotes chapters to analysing titles that don’t tend to receive much analysis: JENNIFER 8, Elfman’s ALICE IN WONDERLAND, MICHAEL COLLINS. The analysis of Don Davis’ THE MATRIX is fascinating to read and see.


by John O’Callaghan

Published by Pithikos Entertainment (2015), 262 pages

“Simians & Serialism is the first comprehensive history and analysis of Jerry Goldsmith’s landmark score to Arthur P. Jacob’s production of Franklin J. Schaffner’s film Planet of the Apes. Each and every cue in the score is decoded and deconstructed, detailing for the first time Goldsmith’s extensive use of Arnold Schoenberg’s serial technique and the strong influences of Bartok, Ravel and Mussorgsky. The book features 49 illustrations with examples from Goldsmith’s score. There is all new research on the production and release of the classic 1968 sci-fi film and its four sequels that reveals a rich background on their development and includes fascinating, unknown details. Simians & Serialism is an indispensable volume for any fan of Jerry Goldsmith, film music, PLANET OF THE APES or movie history.”

After an interesting opening section to the book, the author spends the bulk of the book analysing Goldsmith’s score in a great amount of detail with numerous musical examples. The book is written in an easy-to-follow manner, adding a new perspective to Goldsmith’s score. The accompanying CD featuring a complete re-recording of the score. Generally. when it comes to score re-recordings my own personal preference is for the new versions to be as near to the original as possible. The re-recording here is, in the main, an excellent reproduction of the original score with electronic reproduction and the use of original percussion instruments going a great job in mimicking the original recording (the sourcing of the original percussion instruments goes a long way to recreating the original). An expanded second edition published in 2020 explores deeper into Goldsmith’s original score, adds an in-depth analysis of Goldsmith’s score to the sequel, ESCAPE FROM THE PLANET OF THE APES and examines Leonard Rosenman’s score to BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES.


by Jon Burlingame

Published by Billboard Books (2000), 244 pages

An unparalleled reference source and much, much more, Sound and Vision offers a detailed history of movie music on record and compact disc; up-to-date biographical sketches of soundtrack composers throughout movie history; and annotated listings of the best-selling, award-winning, or otherwise noteworthy soundtracks of the past and present – original film scores as well as movie musicals and song-compilation scores. It even provides a comprehensive index so that you can instantly know if the music you’re looking for is commercially available.

Broken down into sections featuring the different film music composers, Burlingame’s book was a great reference book for me and allowed me to see which important albums were missing from my collection. Although way out-of-date now, at the time, this was an invaluable resource. And to highlight that fact, this is one of the few books I allowed myself to add pencil notes to. With the number of albums released since this book’s publication, I wonder to how many pages an updated version of this book would run to?


by George Burt

Published by Northeastern University Press (1994), 266 pages

Music is a key element in narrative cinema. The film score offers important clues about characters and situations and gives illusion of continuity to otherwise disparate images. The Art of Film Music draws on conversations with Hollywood’s leading composers as well as author George Burt’s own experience composing for the screen to provide a useful, fascinating guide to creating music for dramatic films. Burt explores music’s significant role and powerful effect by analyzing several scenes in classic films produced from the 1930s through the 1980s. His thorough examination of the practical and aesthetic aspects of scoring a film is richly illustrated by the personal perspectives of such renowned composers as Hugo Friedhofer, Alex North, David Raksin, and Leonard Rosenman. The volume features a penetrating discussion of the landmark scores from key scenes in THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES, LAURA, and EAST OF EDEN. It also offers a technical guide to composing film music, explaining the spotting process, timing, synchronization, and general approaches to composition. In addition, numerous musical examples from films as far-ranging as HIGH NOON and WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF?, as well as a glossary of musical terms, are included.

Burt’s book provides a nuts-and-bolts breakdown into the various requirements of a film score and the role that film music does (and doesn’t) play in supporting a movie. The Art of Film Music is full of musical examples that are used to illustrate scenes from some of the most iconic movies – focusing on Golden Age composers such as Hugo Friedhofer, David Raksin and Leonard Rosenman (e.g., THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES, LAURA, EAST OF EDEN).


by Daniel Goldmark (Editor)

Published by Chicago Review Press (2002), 336 pages

The popularity of cartoon music, from Carl Stalling’s work for Warner Bros. to Disney sound tracks and THE SIMPSONS’ song parodies, has never been greater. This lively and fascinating look at cartoon music’s past and present collects contributions from well-known music critics and cartoonists, and interviews with the principal cartoon composers. Here Mark Mothersbaugh talks about his music for RUGRATS, Alf Clausen about composing for The Simpsons, Carl Stalling about his work for Walt Disney and Warner Bros., Irwin Chusid about Raymond Scott’s work, Will Friedwald about CASPER THE FRIENDLY GHOST, Richard Stone about his music for ANIMANIACS, Joseph Lanza about REN AND STIMPY, and much, much more.

A collection interviews, essays and articles – some previous published – that cover a variety of aspects of the use of and influences on music music used in a variety of forms of cartoons and animated films. Of particular interest were the pieces related to composers such as Carl Stalling, Scott Bradley and Hoyt Curtin, conductor Leopold Stokowski and the style of BETTY BOOP. The age of the book showed at points – the discussion on anime soundtracks “worth checking out” was particularly dated – and, for me, there was too much emphasis on the use of music in THE SIMPSONS. But, overall, this was an interesting overview of various areas of a much-neglected subject.


by Jim Lochner

Published by McFarland (2018), 256 pages

Charlie Chaplin the actor is universally synonymous with his beloved Tramp character. Chaplin the director is considered one of the great auteurs and innovators of cinema history. Less well known is Chaplin the composer, whose instrumental theme for MODERN TIMES (1936) later became the popular standard “Smile”, a Billboard hit for Nat “King” Cole in 1954. Chaplin was prolific yet could not read or write music. It took a rotating cast of talented musicians to translate his unorthodox humming, off-key singing, and amateur piano and violin playing into the singular orchestral vision he heard in his head. Drawing on numerous transcriptions from 60 years of original scores, this comprehensive study reveals the untold story of Chaplin the composer and the string of famous (and not-so-famous) musicians he employed, giving fresh insight into his films and shedding new light on the man behind the icon.

[Personal comment to follow.]


by Emilio Audissino

Published by Wisconsin Film Studies (2021), 376 pages

From the triumphant ‘Main Title in STAR WARS to the ominous bass line of JAWS, John Williams has penned some of the most unforgettable film scores – receiving more than fifty Academy Award nominations. This updated and revised edition of Emilio Audissino’s groundbreaking volume takes stock of Williams’ creative process and achievements in music composition, including the most recent sequels in the film franchises that made him famous. Audissino discusses Williams’ unique approach to writing by examining his neoclassical style in context. A must for fans and film music lovers alike

[Personal comment to follow.]


by Jon Burlingame

Published by Oxford University Press (2012), 294 pages

The story of the music that accompanies the cinematic adventures of Ian Fleming’s intrepid Agent 007 is one of surprising real-life drama. In The Music of James Bond, author Jon Burlingame throws open studio and courtroom doors alike to reveal the full and extraordinary history of the sounds of James Bond, spicing the story with a wealth of fascinating and previously undisclosed tales. Burlingame devotes a chapter to each Bond film, providing the backstory for the music (including a reader-friendly analysis of each score) from the last-minute creation of the now-famous “James Bond Theme” in DR. NO to John Barry’s trend-setting early scores for such films as GOLDFINGER and THUNDERBALL. We learn how synthesizers, disco and modern electronica techniques played a role in subsequent scores, and how composer David Arnold reinvented the Bond sound for the 1990s and beyond. The book brims with behind-the-scenes anecdotes. Burlingame examines the decades-long controversy over authorship of the Bond theme; how Frank Sinatra almost sang the title song for MOONRAKER; and how top artists like Shirley Bassey, Tom Jones, Paul McCartney, Carly Simon, Duran Duran, Gladys Knight, Tina Turner, and Madonna turned Bond songs into chart-topping hits. The author shares the untold stories of how Eric Clapton played guitar for LICENCE TO KILL but saw his work shelved, and how Amy Winehouse very nearly co-wrote and sang the theme for QUANTUM OF SOLACE. New interviews with many Bond songwriters and composers, coupled with extensive research as well as fascinating and previously undiscovered details―temperamental artists, unexpected hits, and the convergence of great music and unforgettable imagery―make The Music of James Bond a must read for 007 buffs and all popular music fans.

This is a wonderfully good read. The author devotes a chapter to each Bond film (up to A Quantum of Solace), providing interesting information on each film and devoted part of each chapter to highlights from each score. The book is filled with black and white movie stills and promotional photographs. The book is an excellent resource for both the film music enthusiast and Bond movie fan. One problem with chronological books such as this is that they can become quickly out-of-date; a paperback edition was released in 2014 which updated Burlingame’s book with a chapter on SKYFALL.


by Jeff Bond

Published by Lone Eagle Publishing Co (1999), 220 pages

“The Music of Star Trek is a critical and historical overview of the music scored for Paramount’s Star Trek franchise, from the original ’60s series to the highly successful STAR TREK movies and the new television shows STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION, STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE and STAR TREK: VOYAGER. This comprises some of the finest and most memorable music ever written for television or film and has become a part of our American cultural heritage. This authorised book features in-depth discussion of the original ’60s TV scores and interviews with composers who worked on the show such as Fred Steiner, Alexander Courage, and Gerald Fried, plus a talk with producer Robert Justman about his role in shepherding the classic show’s music. Individual chapters address each of the STAR TREK motion pictures, with cue breakdowns and interviews with film composers Dennis McCarthy, Cliff Eidelman and Academy Award-winning composers Jerry Goldsmith and Leonard Rosenman. Finally, the music of the more recent Star Trek series is showcased, with interviews with all of the current series composers, including Dennis McCarthy, Jay Chattaway, Paul Baillargeon, David Bell and Don Davis. Supplemental material includes original composer sketches, cue sheets, and sheet music samples.”

Overall, this is an excellent book, full of interesting interviews and information and I’d recommend it to anyone interested in film and/or TV music, not just to those with an interest in all things STAR TREK. The book is way out of date now – the book highlights that it contains information on the most recent STAR TREK movie, STAR TREK: INSURRECTION (1998) – but, at the time, this was a great resource for everything concerning the music of STAR TREK. After the mammoth release from La-La Land Records of the complete music for the music from the original STAR TREK TV show and the expanded releases of STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN and STAR TREK III: THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK (both FSM/Retrograde Records), it’s still interesting to go back to Jeff Bond’s book when such wonders were not available. An expanded review of this book can be read HERE.


by Doug Adams

Published by Carpentier / Alfred Music Publishing (2010), 402 pages

Howard Shore’s Academy Award-winning score for THE LORD OF THE RINGS has been hailed as among the greatest film music ever written. Sweeping in scope, it is an interpretation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth as music — an operatic tapestry of cultures, histories, languages, and principles. The Music of the Lord of the Rings Films takes the reader on an unprecedented journey into the heart of this history-making opus with extensive music examples, original manuscript scores, a rarities CD, and fascinating glimpses into the creative process from the composer himself.

Howard Shore’s music for the trilogy of films of THE LORD OF THE RINGS is one of the most monumental achievements in film music history. The number of themes and motifs the composer has come up with and how he weaves them into the music for the films is a huge undertaking. And to have Doug Adams’ analysis and breakdown of these themes, motifs and ideas is an a part with Shore’s musical achievements. The book is a lavish mix of expert analysis, musical examples, colour stills from the films and illustrations (the latter by Alan Lee and John Howe). It’s an effort that I have yet to fully devour over 10 years later. The book also includes a CD of previously unreleased music and demos.


by Conrado Xalabarder

Published by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (2013), 172 pages

“The composer who does not propose solutions is one who simply follows instructions”. (Conrado Xalabarder) The Music Script in Film deals with the use of music in films, its effects on the audience (both emotionally and rationally) and emphasizes how to write a comprehensible musical discourse in a structured and orderly manner. It is not written only for composers, but also for film directors (to whom it may facilitate in decision making) and any person interested in films. This book is not about musicology, industry business nor recording, it is about cinematography. It explains the elements that make up film music so that they may be understood not only by musicians but by anyone. Everything dealt with here is taken from what great film composers have used in the course of long decades and that is still pertinent in cinema today. The Music Script in Film fills a gap not covered to date in the field of music for film, a topic of growing interest. Written to be both entertaining and educational, the book aims to interest a broad audience—not only composers and students of music but also film directors, those studying film and movie fans in general. Translated to English by Australian author and novelist Gloria Montero.

The Music in Film delves deep into the link between film music and the emotional reaction it evokes in the viewer/listener. It’s an interesting viewpoint and the writer is to be congratulated for approaching the subject from a point of view different to the many of the books on film music. I was disappointed with parts of the book where several of the discussions were difficult to follow because of the the translation from Spanish: it was hard to follow the train of thought of the writer. But other from this The Music Script in Film is worth tracking down.


edited by David Neumeyer

Published by Oxford University Press (2015), 684 pages

Music has been an integral part of film exhibition from its beginnings in the late nineteenth century. With the arrival of sound film in the late 1920s, music became part of a complex multimedia text. Although industry, fan-oriented, and scholarly literatures on film music have existed from early on, and music was frequently among the topics discussed and disputed, only in the past thirty years has sustained scholarly attention gone to music in visual media, beginning with the feature film. The Oxford Handbook of Film Music Studies charts that interdisciplinary activity in its primary areas of inquiry: history, genre and medium, analysis and criticism, and interpretation. The handbook provides an overview to the field on a large scale. Chapters in Part I range from the relations of music and the soundtrack to opera and film, textual representation of film sound, and film music as studied by cognitive scientists. Part II addresses genre and medium with chapters focusing on cartoons and animated films, the film musical, music in arcade and early video games, and the interplay of film, music, and recording over the past half century. The chapters in Part III offer case studies in interpretation along with extended critical surveys of theoretical models of gender, sexuality, and subjectivity as they impinge on music and sound. The three chapters on analysis in Part IV are diverse: one systematically models harmonies used in recent films, a second looks at issues of music and film temporality, and a third focuses on television. Chapters on history (Part V) cover topics including musical antecedents in nineteenth-century theater, the complex issues in sychronization of music in performance of early (silent) films, international practices in early film exhibition, and the symphony orchestra in film.

This is a hefty book in several respects. As well as being physically a heavyweight, it’s also a book that I am sure is a textbook for some film studies class. It features a number of essays that cover subjects such as approaches to analysis, and interpretative theory and I struggle to follow a lot of what’s written. I do think though that perseverance pays off sometimes when passages arise that I can actually follow. There’s not much in the way of musical examples or stills from movies: it’s very much a book of dense text and dense discussions.


by Michael Schelle

Published by Silman-James Press (2000), 430 pages

A collection of lively, in-depth conversations with contemporary film composers of every style, background, and position in Hollywood’s hierarchy, offering a cross-section of current thoughts about the process of film composing, styles of film music, and working within today’s entertainment industry.

The author teases from his interviewees interesting insights into all aspects of the film music business, not just the composing process. What makes this set of interviews interesting is the quality of the questions which allow each composer to provide in-depth and lengthy answers. It’s clear that the interviewer had a rapport with all his subjects and that makes for a most enjoyable collection.


by Larry M. Timm

Published by Pearson Education (2002), 346 pages

The Soul of Cinema is the first film music appreciation textbook ever written. This text explains the various functions of music in film and clearly describes the roles of producers, directors, and practically everyone else in cinema, and shows how they each relate to the composer and the musical score for a given film. The Soul of Cinema traces the evolution of film music from 1895 to the present, covering many of the representative film scores, film composers, and styles and trends along the journey. Some features include – each major composer is highlighted with a biography, a photo, a listing of the individual’s recognisable compositional style, and other pertinent information; there are interviews with film composers, music editors, orchestrators, film music agents, studio musicians, music copyists, music contractors, and others within the business; and there is an extensive section on women film composers and contractors. Filling a void in the literature on film music appreciation, this volume provides a consolidation of relevant film music with information about film composers and their scores. The volume also features well-illustrated information about each film with a text that clearly illustrates a well-rounded and in-depth look at film music.

This was one of the earliest film music books I bought and I found it to be a wonderful resource for information related to film music. Lavishly filled with photos and musical examples, the book touches on numerous movies from throughout the history of film making, with each section featuring a brief summary of the film and its music. The book is littered with informative film composer biographies.


by K.J. Donnelly

Published by British Film Institute Publishing (2005), 192 pages

This book is a major new study – dealing with notions of film music as a device that desires to control its audience, using a most powerful thing: emotion. The author emphasises the manipulative and ephemeral character of film music dealing not only with traditional orchestral film music, but also looks at film music’s colonisation of television, and discusses pop music in relation to films, and the historical dimensions to ability to possess audiences that have so many important cultural and aesthetic effects. It challenges the dominant but limited conception of film music as restricted to film by looking at its use in television and influence in the world of pop music and the traditional restriction of analysis to ‘valued’ film music, either from ‘name’ composers’ or from the ‘golden era’ of Classical Hollywood. Focusing on areas as diverse as horror, pop music in film, ethnic signposting, television drama and the soundtrack without a film- this is an original study which expands the range of writing on the subject.

I found this book very difficult to follow and, by the end of it, I wasn’t really sure what the ideas and hypotheses the writer was trying to convey. The chapters cover all the usual areas for discussion when it comes to film and TV music particularly horror film music and television drama music but there’s also other areas covered that appeared interesting: “Soundtracks Without Films” – a discussion on filmic classical music and the concept album; the use of pop music in film.


by Stephan Eicke

Published by McFarland (2019), 220 pages

Do you want to pick up a light saber whenever you hear John Williams’ STAR WARS theme? Do you get the urge to ride into the desert and face down steely-eyed desperados to the refrain of Ennio Morricone’s THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY? Does Hans Zimmer’s PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN score have you suddenly talking like Jack Sparrow? From the Westerns of the 1960s to 21st century blockbusters, composers for both film and television have faced new challenges and opportunities-evermore elaborate sound design, temp tracks, test audiences and working with companies that invest in film score recordings all have led to creative sparks, as well as frustrations. Drawing on exclusive interviews with more than 40 notable composers, this book gives an in-depth analysis of the industry and reveals the creative process behind the work of such artists as Klaus Badelt, Mychael Danna, Abel Korzeniowski, Walter Murchm, Rachel Portman, Alan Silvestri, Randy Thom and others.

An interesting book on the struggles experienced by film composers in the industry today. The author had managed to extract some frank comments from the composers which helps distinguish The Struggle Behind the Soundtrack from other composer interview books. Eicke’s book deserves to be read by a wider audience and not just be limited to those who have an interest in film.


by Gergely Hubai

Published by Silman-James Press (2016), 476 pages

A film is nearly finished and ready to make its way into theatres, when one or more of its prime movers — producer, director, studio brass — decides that it just does not ‘feel right and hits the brakes. What can be done quickly to alter the movie’s complexion? The most obvious option is to change the last element added to the film — its music! So, often regardless of whether the film actually needs a new score, a new composer is hired at the last minute to replace the previous composer’s heartfelt work. Film scores are rejected and replaced for every conceivable reason — style, quality, a test-audience’s reaction, a composer’s name recognition, the picture’s re-editing. Sometimes the change improves a film; often it does not. Either way, such replacements are more common than most moviegoers imagine, and no composer, from the novice to the most famous and respected, is immune. In this book (which takes its title from the film TORN CURTAIN, whose famous score replacement put an end to the long and fruitful collaboration between director Alfred Hitchcock and composer Bernard Herrmann), film historian Gergely Hubai recounts the often strange and surprising stories behind 300 rejected and replaced scores dating from the 1930s through the 2000s. In these behind-the-scenes tales, dedication collides with miscommunication, musical geniuses clash with the tone-deaf, commercialism brawls with artistic purity, and a lot of hard work goes unrewarded. The movies discussed range from the most popular to the all-but-forgotten, and from high art to lowbrow fare; they even include a handful of TV shows and a videogame.

Replacing original film scores with replacement music is something that happens all the time and Hubai’s book is a treasure chest of information on numerous examples of film music being replaced. Citing examples from the early thirties right up to 2008, the composer takes individual films and documents the process of scoring and replacement in an interesting and well-written way. Well researched, the book feels like a tome full of gossip (sometimes Hollywood is not too keen on publicising or explaining the reasons behind why film music is replaced).


by Russell Lack

Published by Quartet Books (1997), 368 pages

Twenty Four Frames Under is a history of film music combined with an examination of music’s emotional impact on the film audience. Russell Lack traces the development of film music aesthetics as well as differing traditions of accompaniment, describing the evolution of music recording alongside film technology. He combines insights from the fields of musicology, philosophy and psychology with his description of films from many different countries and genres, from 1896 to the present day.

I found this book to be a very difficult one to get through. Although it’s subject matter is film music, from what I remember, the discussions are centred around what I would term as ‘arthouse movies’ and tend to be films I haven’t seen. Perhaps my own limited experience with a lot of the films discussed meant that I found it difficult to understand many of the concepts that Lack is proposing in this book. Its focus on more philosophical or psychological aspects didn’t help. Reading this book wasn’t really an enjoyable experience.


edited by Felicity Wilcox

Published by Routledge (2021), 240 pages

Women’s Music for the Screen: Diverse Narratives in Sound shines a long-overdue light on the works and lives of female-identifying screen composers. Bringing together composer profiles, exclusive interview excerpts, and industry case studies, this volume showcases their achievements and reflects on the systemic gender biases women have faced in an industry that has long excluded them. Across 16 essays, an international array of contributors present a wealth of research data, biographical content, and musical analysis of film, television, and video game scores to understand how the industry excludes women, the consequences of these deficits, and why such inequities persist – and to document women’s rich contributions to screen music in diverse styles and genres. The chapters amplify the voices of women composers including Bebe Barron, Delia Derbyshire, Wendy Carlos, Anne Dudley, Rachel Portman, Hildur Guðnadóttir, Mica Levi, Winifred Phillips, and more. From the mid-twentieth century to the present, and from classic Hollywood scores to pioneering electronic music, these are the stories and achievements of the women who have managed to forge successful careers in a male-dominated arena. Suitable for researchers, educators, and students alike, Women’s Music for the Screen urges the screen music industry to consider these sounds and stories in a way it hasn’t before: as voices that more accurately reflect the world we all share.

[Personal comment to follow.]

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