Epic Sound
204 pages
English

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204 pages
English

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Description

Lavish musical soundtracks contributed a special grandeur to the new widescreen, stereophonic sound movie experience of postwar biblical epics such as Samson and Delilah, Ben-Hur, and Quo Vadis. In Epic Sound, Stephen C. Meyer shows how music was utilized for various effects, sometimes serving as a vehicle for narrative plot and at times complicating biblical and cinematic interpretation. In this way, the soundscapes of these films reflected the ideological and aesthetic tensions within the genre, and more generally, within postwar American society. By examining key biblical films, Meyer adeptly engages musicology with film studies to explore cinematic interpretations of the Bible during the 1940s through the 1960s.


Acknowledgements
Note to Readers
Introduction
1. A Biblical Story, for the Post-World-War II Generation?: Victor Young's Music for DeMille's Samson and Delilah
2. Turning Away from "Concocted Spectacle": Alfred Newman's Score for David and Bathsheba
3. Spectacle and Authenticity in Miklós Rózsa's Quo Vadis Score
4. Novel and Film, Music and Miracle: Alfred Newman's Score to The Robe
5. Spirit and Empire: Elmer Bernstein's Score to The Ten Commandments
6. The Law of Genre and the Music for Ben-Hur
7. King of Kings and the Problem of Repetition
8. Suoni nuovi, suoni antichi: The Soundscapes of Barabbas
9. Universality, Transcendence, and Collapse: Music and The Greatest Story Ever Told
Epilogue
Notes
Bibliography
Index

Sujets

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Publié par
Date de parution 27 novembre 2014
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9780253014597
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 1 Mo

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Epic Sound
STEPHEN C. MEYER
Epic Sound
Music in Postwar Hollywood Biblical Films
This book is a publication of
Indiana University Press Office of Scholarly Publishing Herman B Wells Library 350 1320 East 10th Street Bloomington, Indiana 47405 USA
iupress.indiana.edu
Telephone 800-842-6796 Fax 812-855-7931
2015 by Stephen C. Meyer
All rights reserved
No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. The Association of American University Presses Resolution on Permissions constitutes the only exception to this prohibition.
The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of the American National Standard for Information Sciences-Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI Z39.48-1992.
Manufactured in the United States of America
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Meyer, Stephen C., [date] author.
Epic sound : music in postwar Hollywood biblical films / Stephen C. Meyer.
pages cm
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-0-253-01443-6 (hardcover : alkaline paper) - ISBN 978-0-253-01451-1 (paperback : alkaline paper) - ISBN 978-0-253-01459-7 (ebook) 1. Motion picture music-History and criticism. 2. Bible films-United States. 3. Film composers. I. Title.
ML2075.M48 2015
781.5 420973-dc23
2014017905
1 2 3 4 5 20 19 18 17 16 15
For my sons, Gavin and Dylan, lovers of music and the moving image
Contents
Acknowledgments
Note to Readers
Introduction
1. A Biblical Story for the Post-World War II Generation? Victor Young s Music for DeMille s Samson and Delilah
2. Turning Away from Concocted Spectacle : Alfred Newman s Score for David and Bathsheba
3. Spectacle and Authenticity in Mikl s R zsa s Quo Vadis Score
4. Novel and Film, Music and Miracle: Alfred Newman s Score to The Robe
5. Spirit and Empire: Elmer Bernstein s Score to The Ten Commandments
6. The Law of Genre and the Music for Ben-Hur
7. King of Kings and the Problem of Repetition
8. Suoni Nuovi, Suoni Antichi: The Soundscapes of Barabbas
9. Universality, Transcendence, and Collapse: Music and The Greatest Story Ever Told
Epilogue
Notes
Bibliography
Index
Acknowledgments
I have developed the ideas for this book in dialogue with many friends and colleagues, and I am indebted to all of them. My starting point for this entire project was the Mikl s R zsa Papers in the Special Collections Research Center of Syracuse University, and I am grateful to the entire staff of this department for their cheerful professionalism and generous assistance. I also wish to acknowledge staff at other libraries and institutions: in particular, Warren Sherk of the Margaret Herrick Library at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences; Edward Comstock of the Cinematic Arts Library at the University of Southern California; and Anne Woodrum of the Robert D. Farber University Archives and Special Collections Department at Brandeis University. Without their help, I would not have been able to complete my work.
Some of the ideas in this book were first presented as conference papers: at the New York University Music and the Moving Image conferences from 2010, 2011, and 2013; the 2012 conference From Nineteenth-Century Stage Drama to Twenty-First-Century Film Scoring: Musicodramatic Practice and Knowledge Organization, sponsored by the Society for American Music and California State University, Long Beach; and at chapter meetings of the New York State-St. Lawrence Chapter of the American Musicological Society from 2012 and 2013. I benefitted greatly from the opportunity to share my work with these supportive communities of energetic scholars. In addition, I wish to thank many specific individuals for their help. Maurizio Corbella was extraordinarily generous with his work on electro-acoustical music in postwar Italy, and I also wish to thank Maurice Mengel for his help with the chapter on Barabbas . Bill Rosar gave many useful comments on early plans for this book, and I thank him for sharing some of his seemingly universal knowledge of film music with me. In addition to helping me discover the probable source for the main theme of Barabbas , Matthew Balensuela provided a sympathetic ear for the duration of this project. Closer to home, I wish to thank Johanna Keller for her thoughts on Barber s Adagio for Strings . I owe much to my colleagues in the Department of Art and Music Histories, who have helped to improve this book in countless ways and who have provided a wonderfully supportive work environment. In particular, I wish to thank Carol Babiracki, Theo Cateforis, Laurinda Dixon, and Amanda Winkler. Many ideas are the result of conversations with personal friends, on long bicycle rides and kayak trips, and over copious amounts of excellent food and wine: in particular I wish to thank David Brackett, Lisa Barg, Suzanne Mettler, Wayne Grove, Gail Hamner, and Dan Bingham. I also wish to thank Raina Polivka of Indiana University Press for her consistent enthusiasm and support. Lastly, I want to thank Jim Buhler, who read a draft of the entire manuscript with great care and attention. I owe much to his perceptive insights.
It is customary in acknowledgements such as these to thank one s family for their love and support, and I certainly do that here. But I have been doubly blessed in this regard. My brother, Donald Meyer, has read many of the individual chapters and offered extremely helpful comments gleaned from his work as a musicologist and a composer. Many of the ideas in this book came out of long conversations with him, on topics ranging from childhood family dynamics to Bernstein s use of the Mixolydian mode. My wife, Eileen Strempel, has given me tremendous support throughout the entire writing process. But she has been more than simply a loving partner to me and a wonderful mother to our children. She also read much of the manuscript and offered help and advice on matters great and small. I thank her not only for her love, but for her intellectual engagement with this project.
I will end by thanking my mother, Norma Meyer, who decades ago tried to help me through one of my many adolescent crises of faith by presenting me with her copy of Lloyd Douglas s The Robe . Everything I know about Christianity, she told me, I learned from this book. The crises of faith are still with me, but so is her copy of Douglas s novel, which I used in the preparation of this book. I honor this gift, along with all of her other gifts to me.

Some aspects of research that appears in chapter 6 is based on a paper that I delivered at the 2012 conference From Nineteenth-Century Stage Drama to Twenty-First-Century Film Scoring: Musicodramatic Practice and Knowledge Organization and was subsequently published as Leitmotif : On the Application of a Word to Film Music, Journal of Film Music 5/1-2 (2012), 101-108.
Note to Readers
When timings appear in the text, they refer to the following commercially released DVDs of the films:
Samson and Delilah: ASIN B004A30XO6
David and Bathsheba: ASIN B000CNE0M4
Quo Vadis: ASIN B00005JN8Z
The Robe: ASIN B001NSLE5I
The Ten Commandments (50th Anniversary Collection): ASIN B000CNESNA
Ben-Hur: ASIN B000056BP4
King of Kings: ASIN B002AT8KBU
Barabbas: ASIN B00DMZCEI6
The Greatest Story Ever Told: ASIN B0002BO05S
Unless otherwise indicated, I am responsible for all transcriptions (both from the scores and from the film scripts) as well as for translations.
Epic Sound
Introduction
It could be that M-G-M s Quo Vadis will be the last of a cinematic species, the super super-colossal film, begins Bosley Crowther in his review of Mervyn LeRoy s 1951 blockbuster.
If so, it should stand as the monument to its unique and perishable type, to an item of commerce rendered chancy by narrowing markets and rising costs. For here, in this mammoth exhibition, upon which they say that M-G-M has spent close to $7,000,000 and which runs for just shy of three hours, is combined a perfection of spectacle and of hippodrome display with a luxuriance of made-to-order romance in a measure not previously seen. Here is a staggering combination of cinema brilliance and sheer banality, of visual excitement and verbal boredom, of historical pretentiousness and sex. 1
Crowther continues in a similar manner, analyzing specific scenes and focusing on the performances of the leading actors. Although he has some positive words for Leo Genn s portrayal of Petronius and for the authentic presence of Finlay Currie as St. Peter, the bulk of the review is sharply critical. We have a suspicion, he concludes, that this picture was not made for the overly sensitive or discriminate. It was made, we suspect, for those who like grandeur and noise-and no punctuation. It will probably be a vast success.
Known for his urbane sophistication, Crowther was one of the foremost film critics in postwar America. While his review certainly shows his trademark caustic wit, it also illuminates a theme that is central to the reception and interpretation of films such as Quo Vadis and other postwar biblical epics. By any measure, films of this type were enormously successful. Quo Vadis would be the second-highest-grossing film of 1952, and (according to Variety magazine) biblical epics would be the most popular type of movie in six of the ten years of the 1950s. Yet this popular success was not, for the most part, accompanied by critical praise. The faintly supercilious tone w

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