Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Cormack, Mike. "The Pleasures of Ambiguity: Using Classical Music in Film." In Changing Tunes: The Use of Pre-existing Music in Film, ed. Phil Powrie and Robynn Stilwell, 19-30. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006.

The recontextualization of pre-existing classical music within film brings complexity and ambiguity to film. Four reasons for this ambiguity are as follows: the music's original meaning may be indeterminate; the process of extracting and recontextualizing music increases ambiguity; audiences understand music in different ways; and awareness that the music was not originally written for the film creates distance between the music and straightforward interpretation. Since Rachmaninov's Second Piano Concerto is pre-existing but does not have an agreed upon meaning, it can be understood in film through several different codes and interpretations (including conventional cinematic musical codes), making it more complex than newly composed scores. In Détective, the disjunction between the visual film and the short well-known classical music excerpts does not allow the use of cinematic musical codes, but it does produce complexity.

Works: Martin Scorsese (director): Sound track to Raging Bull (21-23, 28); David Lean (director) and Noel Coward (writer/producer): Sound track to Brief Encounter (23-26, 28-29); Jean-Luc Godard (director): Sound track to Détective (26-29).

Sources: Pietro Mascagni: Cavalleria rusticana (21-23); Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No. 2 in C-sharp Minor (24-26); Schubert: Symphony No. 8 in B minor (Unfinished) (27); Wagner: Rienzi (27).

Index Classifications: 1900s, Film

Contributed by: Karen Anton Stafford

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