Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Provost, Sarah. “The Dance Hall, Nazi Germany, and Hell: Accruing Meaning through Filmic Uses of Benny Goodman’s ‘Sing Sing Sing.’” Music and the Moving Image 10, no. 2 (Summer 2017): 33-45.

Popular songs can accrue meaning through their place in films. Although the concept of filmic leitmotivs is generally reserved for classical music, it can also apply to uses of popular music. In the case of Benny Goodman’s Sing Sing Sing, the filmic and cross-filmic leitmotivs associate the song not only with the Swing Era in general but also with a feeling of danger and wildness. Neither of these associations comes from the song alone; despite its popularity, the song came at the end of the Swing Era and was not a part of that period’s heyday, and there was no original connotation of danger for the song. The inclusion of Sing Sing Sing began in films with diegetic music, such as its use in dance and concert settings in Hollywood Hotel (1937) and The Benny Goodman Story (1956). These instances help to set up the aural connotation of the music with the essence of the Swing Era. Later uses did not need to be diegetic to evoke these images of the Swing Era, since associations with the music had already entered audience consciousness, and led to mimicked allusions to the song in other films. Later usages with Nazis in Swing Kids (1993) and Hell in Deconstructing Harry (1997) further cement the music’s “dangerous” connotation.

Works: Busby Berkeley (director): Hollywood Hotel (35); Valentine Davies (director): The Benny Goodman Story (36-38); Shinobu Yaguchi (director): Swing Girls (38-39); Thomas Carter (director): Swing Kids (40-41); Michel Hazanavicius (director): The Artist (41); Charles Russell (director): The Mask (41); Anthony Hickox (director): Waxwork (41); Patrice Leconte (director): La Fille sur le Pont (41); Woody Allen (director): New York Stories (41-42), Manhattan Murder Mystery (41-42), Deconstructing Harry (41-43).

Sources: Benny Goodman: Sing Sing Sing (33-43).

Index Classifications: 1900s, 2000s, Jazz, Film

Contributed by: Emily Baumgart

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Musical Borrowing and Reworking - - 2024
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