From popular music to the film score: innovation, interrogation, corporeality

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Walsh, Caitríona
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University College Cork
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This thesis explores innovation in contemporary film scoring practice, specifically as it relates to the sonic output of composers and musicians with a background in popular music. In so doing, it investigates significant and distinctive work in this intriguing domain of artistic endeavour, and parses out compelling aspects of the film music and sound contributions of figures like Hans Zimmer, Thomas Bangalter from Daft Punk, Jonny Greenwood from Radiohead, and Mica Levi from Good Sad Happy Bad. Innovation is the keystone of the thesis, and is borne out in its content in multiple ways, in keeping with central themes of interrogation and corporeality. It encapsulates instances where on-screen music and sound are unusually foregrounded, where previously established auditory techniques are taken to heightened extremes, where hierarchies of dialogue, effects, and music are upended, where instrumental techniques are applied in atypical ways, and where cutting-edge digital technologies are used to creative and progressive impact. Drawing from the overarching themes of specific chapters, the core concept of innovation is likewise manifested through music and sound that interrogate audio-viewers out of mindless receptivity, and through audio-visual styles that encourage us to engage actively and corporeally with what is seen, heard, and felt on a visceral, embodied level. In the soundtracks examined over the course of the thesis this is achieved by diverse musical means, from beehive string swarms and menacing microtonal tunings to portentous percussive heartbeats, and from inventive sound design praxes to galaxy-bending hyperorchestrated sonorities. Shared among the cited examples of film music and sound in films like Interstellar (Christopher Nolan, 2014), Under the Skin (Jonathan Glazer, 2013), Enter the Void (Gaspar Noé, 2009), and There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007), is their success in thwarting some of the most pervasive and uninspiring soundtrack clichés found in the mainstream, facilitating more profoundly meaningful and affective experiences
Eros , Thanatos , Film soundtrack , Sound design , Musical innovation , Popular music , The body
Walsh, C. 2018. From popular music to the film score: innovation, interrogation, corporeality. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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