Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Leeper, Jill. “Crossing Musical Borders: The Soundtrack for Touch of Evil.” In Soundtrack Available: Essays on Film and Popular Music, edited by Pamela Robertson Wojcik and Arthur Knight, 226-43. Durham: Duke University Press, 2001.

Henry Mancini’s score for Touch of Evil (1958) is innovative for its new approach to diegetic cues rather than continuous background music, and for its use of jazz and rock idioms. The music does work as a suturing effect (connecting the audience to the setting) but rather destabilizes the perception of time and place and emphasizes contradictions and incongruity within the film through its hybrid nature. Jazz is itself a hybrid genre of West African and European music; Mancini’s genres of choice for this film were also a hybrid of Afro-Cuban and cool jazz, as well as mariachi. These musics were chosen to signal an emphasis on race within the film, particularly with different cultural motifs associated with different characters, regardless of the actual race of the actors. Though some critics, particularly jazz musicians, found Mancini’s score to be “faux jazz,” it was still pioneering for the time, introducing popular music sounds into what was previously pseudo-classical and Romantic era music. Different versions of the film further problematize Mancini’s score. The most recent version from 1998 cuts his theme entirely, removing most of his influence from the movie, in an attempt to follow director Orson Welles’s desire to limit the film to only diegetic music.

Works: Orson Welles (director): Touch of Evil (226-40).

Index Classifications: 1900s, Jazz, Film

Contributed by: Emily Baumgart

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Musical Borrowing and Reworking - - 2024
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