Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] McQuinn, Julie. “Listening Again to Barber’s Adagio for Strings as Film Music.” American Music 27 (Winter 2009): 461-99.

Scholars cannot assume that Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings has a stable meaning in film and must examine the multiplicity of meanings and ambiguities created by its use in film. In four films the Adagio transgresses boundaries of filmic diegesis and narrative into ambiguous meanings and spaces. The audience is required to contend with the Adagio in Oliver Stone’s Platoon because it stands out not only from the brutality of the film but also from the composed score and the diegesis of the movie. André Téchiné’s Les roseaux sauvages uses the Adagio with subtlety and restraint at dramatic moments of external rupture among characters, and the piece also functions as an indication of the internal world of the characters, or metadiegesis. In George Miller’s Lorenzo’s Oil the Adagio is one piece among many borrowed classical compositions used in the film, and it is the only one that represents hopelessness and deep anguish. The soundscape established in David Lynch’s The Elephant Man, composed of both underscoring by John Morris and diegetic sound, is violent, and the single instance of the Adagio in the film occurs during the ending sequence involving the diseased protagonist’s resignation and suicide. The Adagio is a mindscreen reflecting the metadiegesis of the protagonist and its connection to forces in the universe beyond human control.

Works: Oliver Stone (director): soundtrack to Platoon (461, 464-74, 493); David Lynch (director): soundtrack to The Elephant Man (461, 464-65, 480-81, 486-93); Jean-Pierre Jeunet (director): soundtrack to Amélie (464); Liam Lynch (director): soundtrack to Tenacious D (464); Andy Ackerman (director): soundtrack to Seinfeld (464-65); André Téchiné (director): soundtrack to Les roseaux sauvages (464-66, 474-80, 493); George Miller (director): soundtrack to Lorenzo’s Oil (465, 480-86, 492-93).

Sources: Samuel Barber: Adagio for Strings, Op. 11.

Index Classifications: 1900s, Film

Contributed by: Kate Altizer

Except where otherwise noted, this website is subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
Musical Borrowing and Reworking - - 2024
Creative Commons Attribution License