Meaning and Interpretation of Music in Cinema

Meaning and Interpretation of Music in Cinema

David Neumeyer
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 08/17/2015
ISBN: 978-0-253-01651-5
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By exploring the relationship between music and the moving image in film narrative, David Neumeyer shows that film music is not conceptually separate from sound or dialogue, but that all three are manipulated and continually interact in the larger acoustical world of the sound track. In a medium in which the image has traditionally trumped sound, Neumeyer turns our attention to the voice as the mechanism through which narrative (dialog, speech) and sound (sound effects, music) come together. Complemented by music examples, illustrations, and contributions by James Buhler, Meaning and Interpretation of Music in Cinema is the capstone of Neumeyer’s 25-year project in the analysis and interpretation of music in film.

Author Bio

David Neumeyer is Marlene and Morton Meyerson Professor of Music in the Sarah and Ernest Butler School of Music, The University of Texas at Austin.

James Buhler is Associate Professor of Music Theory in the Sarah and Ernest Butler School of Music, The University of Texas at Austin.


“David Neumeyer’s lively engagement with an entire generation of multi-disciplinary scholars yields robust frameworks for understanding how music works in 'verbocentric' narrative film. Meaning and Interpretation of Music in Cinema is a work of great erudition, clarity, precision, and authority.”
 — Claudia Gorbman, author of Unheard Melodies: Narrative Film Music

“Neumeyer is a gifted writer who knows how to engage a reader from page to page.”
 — Julie Hubbert, author of Celluloid Symphonies: Texts and Contexts in Film Music History

“The book is cogently (even, at times, beautifully) written and is well supported by frame stills, figures, musical examples and analytical sketches. To benefit fully from the analyses, the book demands a level of literacy with music-theoretic concepts that suggests its intended readership is primarily music scholars and graduate students, rather than film or media scholars, though readers without musical training could still gain much from it.”
 — Music Analysis

“Neumeyer . . . expands his significant contribution to film music studies with this magisterial volume. . . . Essential.”
 — Choice

“Neumeyer introduces an eloquent and all inclusive film music theory that focuses on the spectator’s mental activities (revealed through systematic analysis) in constructing and enhancing meanings through music and sound in cinema.”
 — Music and Letters

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Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments
Part 1: Meaning and Interpretation
1. Music in the Vococentric Cinema
2. Tools for Analysis and Interpretation
Part 2: Music in the Mix: Casablanca
by David Neumeyer and James Buhler
3. Acoustic Stylization: The Film’s Sound World
4. Music and Utopia: A Reading of the Reunion Scene
5. The Reunion Scene’s Contexts
Part 3: Topics and Tropes: Two Preludes by Bach
6. Performers Onscreen
7. Underscore: Four Studies of the Prelude in C Major