Epic Sound

Epic Sound

Music in Postwar Hollywood Biblical Films
Stephen C. Meyer
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 11/27/2014
Format: Paperback 11 b&w illus., 57 music exx.
ISBN: 978-0-253-01451-1
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Lavish musical soundtracks contributed a special grandeur to the new widescreen, stereophonic sound movie experience of postwar biblical epics such as Samson and Delilah, Ben-Hur, and Quo Vadis. In Epic Sound, Stephen C. Meyer shows how music was utilized for various effects, sometimes serving as a vehicle for narrative plot and at times complicating biblical and cinematic interpretation. In this way, the soundscapes of these films reflected the ideological and aesthetic tensions within the genre, and more generally, within postwar American society. By examining key biblical films, Meyer adeptly engages musicology with film studies to explore cinematic interpretations of the Bible during the 1940s through the 1960s.

Author Bio

Stephen C. Meyer is Associate Professor in the Department of Art and Music Histories at Syracuse University. He is author of Carl Maria von Weber and the Search for a German Opera (IUP, 2003).


“An ambitious and fascinating book.”
 — James Buhler, The University of Texas at Austin

“Meyer’s clear and articulate study promises to be a welcome addition to the reading list of anyone interested not just in film but in mid-century music history.”
 — Journal of the Society for American Music

“Epic Sound is a major contribution to the field of film music studies and ought to be widely read by musicologists with an interest in film. Really, it ought to be read by film scholars as well: although the depth of Meyer’s engagement with the music is felt on almost every page, this is also a powerfully sustained exploration of the biblical epic as a film genre. ”
 — American Music

“This is a well-researched and thorough book examining what the author finds to be a unique facet of film music of the late 1940s and early 1950s – its use, sometimes to glorious excess, in the biblical epics of postwar Hollywood.”
 — Soundtrax

“Stephen C. Meyer provides detailed, historically grounded research into the music of post-Second World War biblical epics. 4/1/16”
 — Music, Sound and the Moving Image

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Table of Contents

Note to Readers
1. A Biblical Story, for the Post-World-War II Generation?: Victor Young's Music for DeMille’s Samson and Delilah
2. Turning Away from "Concocted Spectacle": Alfred Newman's Score for David and Bathsheba
3. Spectacle and Authenticity in Miklós Rózsa's Quo Vadis Score
4. Novel and Film, Music and Miracle: Alfred Newman's Score to The Robe
5. Spirit and Empire: Elmer Bernstein's Score to The Ten Commandments
6. The Law of Genre and the Music for Ben-Hur
7. King of Kings and the Problem of Repetition
8. Suoni nuovi, suoni antichi: The Soundscapes of Barabbas
9. Universality, Transcendence, and Collapse: Music and The Greatest Story Ever Told

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