We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out more

E-book purchase
Choose a subscription

Downloaded copy on your device does not expire. Includes 4 years of Bookshelf Online.


Where applicable, tax will be added to the above price prior to payment.

E-book purchasing help


Hearing the Movies

Music and Sound in Film History

Second Edition

James Buhler and David Neumeyer

Publication Date - 01 April 2015

ISBN: 9780199987719

592 pages
7-1/2 x 9-1/4 inches

In Stock

A chronological and analytical history of film music and sound


Hearing the Movies, Second Edition, combines a historical and chronological approach to the study of film music and sound with an emphasis on building listening skills. Through engaging, accessible analyses and exercises, the book covers all aspects of the subject, including how a soundtrack is assembled to accompany the visual content, how music enhances the form and style of key film genres, and how technology has influenced the changing landscape of film music.

New to this Edition

  • Enhanced organization emphasizes the chronological history of film music and sound
  • Condensed Part I gives students an efficient introduction to critical listening to sound tracks
  • Timed viewing guides take students step-by-step through the ways sound, music, and visual imagery come together to make a compelling experience for the film audience
  • Discussion of films released since 2000, including the Batman franchise; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; The Bourne Ultimatum, (500) Days of Summer, Frozen, and Gravity
  • Timelines show all the works covered in the book and where they fall in film history
  • New companion website at www.oup.com/us/buhlerneumeyer offers resources to enhance students' understanding of the worlds of music and film, including Netflix links for viewing scenes covered in the text

About the Author(s)

James Buhler is Associate Professor of Music Theory at the University of Texas, Austin, and has written extensively on film sound.

David P. Neumeyer is the Marlene and Morton Meyerson Professor of Music and Professor of Music Theory at the University of Texas, Austin. He is the editor of The Oxford Handbook of Film Music Studies (2014), and co-editor, with James Buhler, of Music and Cinema (Wesleyan University Press).

Previous Publication Date(s)

April 2009


"This text is a great achievement and fills a large gap in textbooks for film music courses. There aren't any other textbooks that even approach its breadth and level of sophistication."-Matthew McDonald, Northeastern University

"It's really impressive in scope and style-a total rethinking of the approach to the film music course, with excellent illustrations and background research. Applause to everybody involved."-Donald Meyer, Lake Forest College

"I am very impressed with this book and its depth of coverage; it is by far the most thoughtful of the film music texts that I have encountered."-J. Drew Stephen, The University of Texas at San Antonio

Table of Contents

    PART I. The Sound Track and Film Narrative: Basic Terms and Concepts
    Introduction to Part I
    1. The Sound Track and Narrative
    Basics: Image Track, Sound Track, Narrative
    Sound Track Components and Narrative
    -- Speech
    -- Sound Effects
    -- Music
    Example for Sound Track Components and Narrative (1): Sleepless in Seattle, Second Botched Meeting
    Example for Sound Track Components and Narrative (2): Good Will Hunting, Boston Common Scene
    Hearing the Sound Track as Music: Masking
    Experimenting with Music and Image: The Commutation Test
    2. The Musicality of the Sound Track: Concepts and Terminology
    Music and Sound
    -- Tempo
    -- Rhythm and Meter
    -- Volume
    -- Filters and "Distortion"
    -- Pitch
    -- Orchestration
    -- Timbre and Sound
    -- Density and Liveliness
    -- Monophony
    -- Homophony
    -- Melody and Accompaniment
    -- Polyphony
    -- A-Melodic (Accompaniment without Melody)
    -- Texture and Foreground/Background Functions
    Example for Sound Track Analysis Using Musical Terms: Atonement, Main Title Sequence and First Scene
    3. Music, Sound, Space, and Time: Concepts and Terminology
    Space (1): Diegetic/Nondiegetic Music and Narrative
    -- Example for Diegetic and Nondiegetic Music: Glory, Boston Party Scene
    Space (2): Onscreen/Offscreen Sound and Music
    -- Offscreen Sound 62
    -- Onscreen/Offscreen Sound Interaction: The Apartment
    -- Ambiguity of Offscreen Sound: Underdetermination of Sound
    -- Point-of-View Sound
    Space (3): Offscreen Sound and Music in Relation to the Diegesis
    -- Voice-over
    -- Audio Dissolve
    -- Mickey-Mousing: Music as Effects "Sweetener"
    -- The Acousmêtre (Acoustical Being)
    Time (1): Transitions Between Scenes
    -- Sound Advance
    -- Sound Lag
    -- Sound Link and Sound Match
    Time (2): Synchronization ("Playing with the Film")
    Time (3): Counterpoint ("Playing against the Film")
    Writing Task #1: How to Write a Synopsis
    A Note on Writing about the Sound Track
    PART II. Music and the Sound Track: From the Beginning to 1975
    Introduction to Part II
    4. From 1895 to 1929: Music and Sound in Early Film
    The Early Years
    The Nickelodeon
    -- "Playing the Picture"
    -- Special Scores
    The Picture Palace
    -- Stratification of Exhibition
    -- The Show
    -- Music and Sound Production in the Picture Palace
    -- Fitting the Picture
    -- Special Scores in the 1920s
    -- Road Shows
    -- Music on the Set
    Characteristic Music Practices in the Later Silent Era
    -- Theme, Motif, and Motive
    -- The Leitmotif
    -- Musical Topics
    ---- Location and Stereotype
    Analysis: Silent Film with Historically Appropriate Music: Lady Windermere's Fan (1925)
    A Note on the Music for Silent Film Releases to VHS and DVD
    5. From 1926 to 1932: The Transition to Sound Film
    Issues of Technology and Economics
    -- Sound Research in the 1920s
    -- Sound Film and the Standardization of Exhibition
    -- Sound and the Feature Film, 1927: The Jazz Singer
    -- The Transition from Silent to Sound Film
    -- Types of Early Sound Film
    -- Musicals in Early Sound Film
    -- Production Phases
    -- Music Department
    -- Sound Department
    Mastering the Sound Track and Elements of Style
    -- Sound Track Components and the Principle of Clarity
    -- Foreground and Background
    -- Scoring Practices
    -- Characteristic Music Placements
    -- Establishing Sequence
    -- End Credits
    -- Performance Scene
    -- Montage or Fantasy Scene
    -- Dialogue Scene
    -- Action Scene
    -- Love Scene
    6. The Broadway Melody, Gold Diggers of 1933, and Le Million: Runtime Segmentation and Scene Analysis
    Music in Film Form
    -- Runtime Segmentation
    Formal Screening Notes
    -- Dialogue
    -- Music
    -- Effects
    -- General Comments
    -- Transitions
    Scene Analysis
    -- Sync Points and Audiovisual Phrasing
    -- Dress Rehearsal Scene from The Broadway Melody
    -- "My Forgotten Man," from Gold Diggers of 1933
    Writing a Scene Analysis Paper
    -- Scene Analysis Sample: Leaving the Opera House, Le Million
    7. From 1932 to 1950: Music and the Sound Track in the Classical Studio Era
    Issues of Technology and Economics
    -- Improvements in Recording Technology
    -- Rerecording
    -- Sound in the Theaters of the 1930s and 1940s
    -- The Great Depression and the Consolidation of Genres
    -- Production Phases
    -- Music Department
    -- Sound Department
    The Sound Track in the Studio Era and Elements of Style
    -- The Classical System
    -- Background(ed) Music and the Sound Track
    -- Scoring Practices
    ---- Musical Topics in the Underscore: The Opening of Rebecca
    --Critiques of Hollywood Underscoring Practices
    The Sound Track in the Studio Era and Elements of Film Form
    -- Establishing Sequence
    ---- Three Films from 1933 Starring Katharine Hepburn
    ---- Street Scene and a Theme as Series or Genre Marker
    ---- Meet Me in St. Louis, Titles and Opening Scene
    -- End Credit Music
    ---- Three Films from 1933 Starring Katharine Hepburn
    ---- Films from 1939, End Credits
    -- Performance Scene
    ---- To Have and Have Not, "Am I Blue?"
    ---- Casablanca, Music during the First Act
    ---- Laura, Performances and Underscore
    -- Montage or Fantasy Scene
    ---- Gone with the Wind, Montage Sequence in the Prologue to Part 2
    -- Dialogue Scene
    ---- Rebecca, Terrace Scene
    -- Action Scene
    -- Love Scene
    8. Mildred Pierce: Writing About Film Sound and Music
    Screening Report: Overview and Procedure
    Other Approaches to Mildred Pierce
    Concluding Comments
    9. From 1950 to 1975: The Stereo Sound Track and the Post-Classical Era
    Issues of High Fidelity and Stereo Sound
    -- Legal and Economic Challenges to the Industry
    -- Widescreen and Stereo Formats
    -- Magnetic Tape in Production and Postproduction
    -- Issues of Stereo
    ---- Analysis: The Robe
    -- Stereo and Space
    -- Silence
    -- Production Phases
    -- Music Department
    -- Sound Department
    Stereo Sound, Magnetic Tape, and Elements of Style
    -- Issues of Aesthetics
    -- Scoring Practices
    ---- Main Theme from High Noon
    -- Popular Song and the Underscore
    ---- Soundtrack Albums
    -- Importance of Recordings
    ---- Relation to the Musical
    ---- Scoring with Recordings
    10. Music and Film Form in the Post-Classical Era
    Hollywood Studio Films 1: The Sound of Music
    -- Overture and Title Sequence
    -- "The Laendler" (1): as Dance
    -- "The Laendler" (2): as Love Scene
    -- The Sound of Music and Grease, Two Larger Performance Numbers
    -- The Sound of Music, End Credits
    Hollywood Studio Films 2: The Graduate
    Battle Scenes from Four War Films
    -- War Films in the Transition and Studio Era
    -- D-Day the Sixth of June
    -- The Longest Day
    -- A Bridge Too Far
    -- Conclusions
    Nonconventional Hollywood Film: Psycho
    Japanese Film, Hollywood Style: Rashômon
    Reciprocal Influence: Yojimbo and Per un Pugno di Dollari (A Fistful of Dollars)
    Writing a Compare-Contrast Paper
    PART III. Music and the Sound Track: 1975 to the Present
    Introduction to Part III
    11. From 1975 to 2000: The New Hollywood, Dolby Stereo and the Emergence of Sound Design
    Issues of Technology and Economics
    -- The New Hollywood and Saturation Booking
    -- Sound in the Multiplex
    -- Dolby Stereo in the Theaters
    -- Home Video and the Limitations of Television
    -- Cross-Marketing and Promotion
    -- Production Phases
    -- Music Department
    -- Sound Department
    Sound Design and Elements of Style
    -- Issues of Aesthetics: Sound Design
    -- Aesthetics and the Stereo Field
    -- Scoring Practices
    -- The Minimalist Underscore
    -- Music Video Style
    -- The Rise of Rap
    12. Music and Film Form in The New Hollywood
    Mainstream Dramatic Film: Out of Africa
    -- Prologue and Title Sequence
    -- "On Safari": The Second Dinner
    -- Final Scene and End Credits
    Mainstream Romantic Comedy: When Harry Met Sally
    Battle Scenes from Five War Films: Apocalypse Now, Platoon, Gallipoli, Glory, and Saving Private Ryan
    -- Apocalypse Now
    -- Platoon
    -- Gallipoli
    -- Two Combat Scenes from Glory
    -- Two Combat Scenes from Saving Private Ryan
    -- Conclusions
    Action Films and Opening Prologues: Bond Films, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and The Matrix
    -- Bond Films
    -- Raiders of the Lost Ark
    -- Terminator 2: Judgment Day
    -- The Matrix
    -- Conclusions
    A French Film, La Cage aux Folles, Remade in America as The Birdcage
    Using Scene Comparison to Construct a Historical Argument
    13. Music and Film Sound Since 2000
    Introduction: The Digital Era
    Issues of Technology and Economics
    -- Digital Sound
    -- Digital Sound Formats
    -- The Multiplex Palace
    -- Video, DVD, and Television Technologies
    -- Franchises, Branding, and Convergent Media
    -- Production Phases
    -- Music Department
    ---- Music Production
    ---- Music Postproduction
    -- Sound Department
    ---- Sound Production
    ---- Sound Postproduction
    ---- Dialogue
    ---- Foley Effects
    ---- Sound Effects
    Digital Sound and Elements of Style
    -- Issues of Aesthetics
    -- Scoring Practices
    ---- Instrumentation
    ---- New Trends in Action Films
    ---- Compilation Scores and Popular Music
    14. Music and Film Form Since 2000
    Mainstream Dramatic Film: The Hours
    Action Films Today
    -- Wo Hu Cang Long (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), Theft of the Sword
    -- Batman, Shootout at the Axis Chemical Plant, and Batman Begins, Initiation to the League of Shadows
    -- Casino Royale, Prologue
    -- The Bourne Ultimatum, Waterloo Station
    -- Joheunnom Nabbeunnom Isanghannom (The Good, the Bad, the Weird), Three Action Sequences
    -- Gravity
    -- Conclusions
    Two Versions of a Jane Austen Novel: Bridget Jones's Diary and Pride & Prejudice
    15. Writing about Film Music: Interpretation
    Review of Previous Steps Using Catch Me If You Can
    -- 1. Synopsis
    -- 1a. Runtime Segmentation
    -- 2. General Description and Evaluation of the Sound Track Elements and Their Balance
    -- 3. Conclusion
    Note on the Compare/Contrast Paper
    Developing a Reading (1): Finding a Thesis
    -- Thesis Options for Catch Me If You Can
    -- Examples from the Published Literature
    Developing a Reading (2): Reading against the Grain
    -- Example: Casablanca against the Grain