Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Rosar, William H. “The Dies Irae in Citizen Kane: Musical Hermeneutics Applied to Film Music.” In Film Music: Critical Approaches, ed. K. J. Donnelly, 103-16. New York: The Continuum International Publishing Group, 2001.

Rachmaninoff used the Dies Irae chant to create a five-note motif in Isle of the Dead, and the motif crafted by Bernard Herrmann for the title character in Citizen Kane is strikingly similar to that of Rachmaninoff. Two possible explanations for this semblance exist: the motif of Herrmann resembles that of Rachmaninoff because it is modeled on the Isle of the Dead, or the resemblance exists because the two motifs are modeled on a common source, the Dies Irae. When applying musical hermeneutics to film, it is necessary to consider the musical associations composers may make when viewing films as they prepare to compose a score. The application of musical hermeneutics to the Kane motif suggests that Herrmann modeled it on the motif of Rachmaninoff because when Herrmann first saw cinematic images of Xanadu he was reminded of the painting by Arnold Böcklin, The Island of the Dead, which had inspired Rachmaninoff’s symphonic poem. That Herrmann never attributes this motif to Rachmaninoff could be explained by his general silence on the issue of musical borrowing in his music or by the process of cryptomnesia, in which an artist or writer unintentionally borrows from a work he or she has forgotten.

Works: Orson Welles (director) and Bernard Herrmann (composer): score to Citizen Kane (104-13); Rachmaninoff: Isle of the Dead (104-13).

Sources: Anonymous: Dies Irae (104-13); Rachmaninoff: Isle of the Dead (104-13).

Index Classifications: 1900s, Film

Contributed by: Kate Altizer

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