The Evolution of Film Music

A six-session study of film music from the earliest simple film reels with live music, to the sprawling scores of modern cinema.

Session 1: Music for a New Visual Age
Exploring the music of the silent age – live scores that were performed by real musicians. We will look at a number of resources that pianists and orchestras would have used to accompany the earliest cinema films, and listen to some modern takes on early films (Dracula scored by Philip Glass, Metropolis scored by Georgia Moroder, Melies’ Le Voyage dans la Lune scored by French band Air).

Session 2: The Movie Symphonics
Composers such as William Walton, Erich Korngold, Aaron Copland and Dmitri Shostakovich wrote highly successful film scores – we listen and discuss how these pioneers combined their expertise of writing in the classical form with the new media of film.

Session 3: On the Shoulders of Giants – Max Steiner, Bernard Herrmann, Alfred Newman
The 1940s and 1950s saw a coming-of-age for the movie industry – a golden age of cinema. Much of this success was due to the stunning scores of composers such as Max Steiner (King Kong) and Alfred Newman (How the West was won). Bernard Herrmann’s impact on cinema is enormous and we will spend half the session exploring his output with Alfred Hitchcock on films such as Vertigo, Psycho and North by Northwest.

Session 4: A New Approach
The 1960s and 1970s saw a change in film scores, with lighter jazz-influenced music putting its finger on the pulse of modern culture. We will listen to and discuss scores by Andre Previn, Henry Mancini and Duke Ellington, among others. We will also discuss music influenced by the nascent avant-garde movement with scores such as Jerry Goldsmith’s astonishing score for Planet of the Apes, and minimalist scores such as those produced by Philip Glass (The Hours).

Session 5: John Williams – A Symphonic Master
Beginning with his immense score for Star Wars in 1977 which returned the orchestra to its rightful place at the director’s side, John Williams has for 50 years set the tone for immaculate and bombastic music. In his 80s, Williams is still scoring today. We will explore his scores for Jaws, Star Wars, Superman, Schindler’s List, Harry Potter and many more.

Session 6: Innovating on screen
A journey through the output of some of the more innovative and creative composers working in cinema – including Ennio Morricone (The Good, The Bad and The Ugly), Thomas Newman (American Beauty, Finding Nemo), Hans Zimmer (Gladiator, Inception, The Lion King), Jonny Greenwood (There Will Be Blood), Trent Reznor (The Social Network).

Course Details

This course finished on 15 February 2019