Tuesday, November 29, 2011

More Thoughts on Classical Music in Film

After reading some of my colleagues' thoughts on film music, I wanted to add more thoughts regarding the inclusion of classical music in films. In Healing the Rift, Hewett postulates that perhaps we are returning to a Baroque philosophy on the inseparability of music with words and images (245), and that music has been transformed from a social to a solitary experience (246).
But is it really a negative that it is increasingly more common for music to be linked to words and images? Would not the association of classical music with a film bring the music into a larger shared experience and out of a completely autonomous existence?

Hewett remarks that much of the current philosophy of art music is that it "exists above history" (251). One could argue that the inclusion of classical music in films gives the music a certain historical and cultural association, even if that association is with a fictitious work. When classical music is included in a film, it gains a "place" in history and shared experience. Perhaps it may be used in a way that is symptomatic of tendencies towards expressivity or evocativeness. But it is not merely a personal experience, summoned by the listener, as Hewett describes.

Also, while classical music in films may lose some of its independent identity, it does gain a social function, rather than existing in a separate autonomous realm. Some may view this as a negative. But perhaps the reverence of the autonomous realm is already disappearing from the current perception of classical music. In a time when classical music performance is frequently accompanied by the use of technology for a visual experience, the "image" of the performer, and the tendency towards "boundary-crossing" performance, the close association of music with words and images is inevitable. Therefore, whether one chooses to view the inclusion of classical music in films as a negative or a positive, it is not a significantly different presentation from that found among the current trends of classical music performance.

Hewett, Ivan. Healing the Rift. New York: Continuum, 2003.

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