Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Decker, Todd. “The Filmmaker as DJ: Martin Scorsese’s Compiled Score for Casino (1995).” Journal of Musicology 34 (Spring 2017): 281-317.

Martin Scorsese’s directing and editing work in his 1995 film Casino, with its compiled score firmly integrated into the film’s structure, can be understood as music composition in the manner of a sample-based DJ. The film is scored for 129 minutes of its 178-minute runtime and contains eighty-three discreet musical cues drawn from sixty-one cleared tracks. The enormity of this musical project was aided by Scorsese utilizing digital editing tools for the first time, allowing the soundtrack and film footage to be manipulated simultaneously. Although Scorsese claimed to strictly select period-appropriate music in a 1996 interview, the actual compiled score is drawn broadly from music of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, at odds with the film’s stated timeline of 1973-1983 and suggesting no musical chronology. Instead of establishing the film’s setting, the score dictates the pace and tone of the edit. Scorsese frequently cues contrasting tracks back-to-back, sonically supporting the film’s constructed dialectic between the glittery appearance of Las Vegas and the dark reality of its mob rule. Scorsese uses voice-over narration to move the plot along throughout the film, and several musical cues take on the narrative function. To achieve this effect, Scorsese meticulously edited the dialogue, film, and soundtrack to allow the score to “speak” for the characters. Musical style also serves to delineate the two narratives of Casino. Rock music scores the violent mob scenes, and classic pop scores the marriage in decline. Despite the volume and variety of music in the film, the characters are portrayed as decidedly un-musical and rarely if ever engage with music in a meaningful way. There is also no clear correlation between the music scoring a character and the style of music that character might be expected to listen to or enjoy diegetically. Instead, the musical cues and their construction into a compiled score reflect Scorsese’s voice as a curator and composer, reflecting his personal taste in music and making Casino a profoundly musical film.

Works: Martin Scorsese: compiled score to Casino (287-312)

Sources: J. S. Bach: St. Matthew Passion, BWV 244 (292); Paulo Citarella and Louis Prima (songwriters), Louis Prima (performer): Angelina / Zooma Zooma (292, 295-97); Al Bell (songwriter), The Staple Sisters (performers): I’ll Take You There (292, 294); Stanley Adams and Maria Grever (songwriters), Dinah Washington (performer): What A Difference a Day Makes (294, 304); Irving Gordon (songwriter), Dinah Washington (performer): Unforgettable (304); Charles Tobias (songwriter), Jerry Vale (performer): Love Me the Way I Love You (294); Elsa Byrd and Paul Winley (songwriters), The Paragons (performers): Let’s Start All Over Again (294); Mick Jagger and Keith Richards (songwriters), The Rolling Stones (performers): Sweet Virginia (294), (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction (302-3), Can’t You Hear Me Knocking (310); Edgar De Lange, Will Hudson, Irving Mills, and Morris Stoloff: Moonglow (296-27); Billy Page (songwriter), Ramsey Lewis (performer): The In-Crowd (297-98, 300); Billy Page (songwriter), Dobie Gray (performer): The In-Crowd (297-98); Gene McDaniels (songwriter), Les McCann and Eddie Harris (performers): Compared to What (298); Willie Dixon (songwriter), Muddy Waters (performer): Hoochie Coochie Man (298-302); Ginger Baker (songwriter), Cream (performers): Toad (302); Georges Delerue: Theme de Camille (302, 307); Ned Washington and Victor Young (songwriters), Ray Charles (performer): Stella by Starlight (305-7); Jimmie Crane and Al Jacobs: Hurt (307); Traditional, The Animals (performers): The House of the Rising Sun (309-10); Willie Dixon (songwriter), Jeff Beck (performer): I Ain’t Superstitious (310-12)

Index Classifications: 1900s, Film

Contributed by: Matthew Van Vleet

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Musical Borrowing and Reworking - - 2024
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