2018 Graduate Workshop

The planning committee for the 2018 SCSMT conference is excited to announce the 2018 Graduate student workshop, led by Scott Murphy (Professor of Music Theory, University of Kansas), entitled “Theorizing Categorically: Film Music and Beyond.” A detailed description of the workshop and a reading list can be found below. Any graduate student who would like to participate should send an e-mail expressing interest to the program chair (jyunek@kennesaw.edu) by Friday, February 25th, 2018 at 11:59pm EST.

2018 SCSMT Graduate Student Workshop
Theorizing Categorically: Film Music and Beyond
Scott Murphy (Professor of Music Theory, University of Kansas)

Many original musical scores for recent mainstream films and related media amalgamate a variety of stylistic idioms along the classical-popular continuum, subject to the demands of a commercial medium, public tastes, and societal trends. This medium also makes idiosyncratic demands of its musical underscore, such as its subordination to other elements of the cinematic soundtrack, its discontinuity, and, despite these limitations, the need for potentially powerful emotive elicitations and narrative associations. These distinctive aspects encourage the distillation of diverse stylistic borrowings into a smaller set of compact and recognizable conventions. Therefore, a study of film scoring practice especially invites a categorical approach to musical materials, whereby a convention in popular film music matches a default category more closely than it matches other contrasting categories.

This workshop introduces the participant to several extant categorical studies of music for multimedia, focusing in particular on categorical biases for chord progression, scale type, and uneven temporal divisions. Building on these models, the workshop explores strategies for forming categories for the participant’s own research. Just as the reviewed studies’ efficacies extend beyond film music styles into other repertoires, including chromatic tonal styles, modernist techniques, and popular song, so will the workshop promote the construction of categories for improving the understanding of styles beyond those particular to popular multimedia.

Required Reading/Viewing (in this order):

  • Huron, David. 2001. “What is a Musical Feature? Forte’s Analysis of Brahms’s Opus 51, No. 1, Revisited.” Music Theory Online 7/4.
  • Tymoczko, Dmitri. 2011. A Geometry of Music: Harmony and Counterpoint in the Extended Common Practice. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 28–40, 116–29.
  • Lehman, Frank. 2013. “Hollywood Cadences: Music and the Structure of Cinematic Expectation.” Music Theory Online 19/4.
  • Murphy, Scott. 2013. “Transformational Theory and the Analysis of Film Music.” In Oxford Handbook of Film Music Studies, ed. David Neumeyer, 471-99. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Murphy, Scott. 2016. “Cohn’s Platonic Model and the Regular Irregularities of Recent Popular Film Music.” Music Theory Online 22/3.
  • Heine, Erik. 2018. “Chromatic Mediants and Narrative Context in Film.” Music Analysis 37/1.
  • YouTube Compilation of Non-Diatonic Scales in Recent Popular Film [TBA].

Recommended Reading:

  • Murphy, Scott. 2006. “The Major Tritone Progression in Recent Hollywood Science Fiction Films.” Music Theory Online 12/2.
  • Murphy, Scott. 2014a. “Scoring Loss in Some Recent Popular Film and Television.” Music Theory Spectrum 36/2: 295–314.
  • Murphy, Scott. 2014b. “A Pop-Music Progression in Recent Popular Movies and Movie Trailers.” Music, Sound, and the Moving Image 8/2: 141–62.