Film Music: A Very Short Introduction

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Film music is as old as cinema itself. Years before synchronized sound became the norm, projected moving images were shown to musical accompaniment, whether performed by a lone piano player or a hundred-piece orchestra. Today film music has become its own industry, indispensable to the marketability of movies around the world.

Film Music: A Very Short Introduction is a compact, lucid, and thoroughly engaging overview written by one of the leading authorities on the subject. After opening with a fascinating analysis of the music from a key sequence in Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs, Kathryn Kalinak introduces readers not only to important composers and musical styles but also to modern theoretical concepts about how and why film music works. Throughout the book she embraces a global perspective, examining film music in Asia and the Middle East as well as in Europe and the United States. Key collaborations between directors and composers–Alfred Hitchcock and Bernard Herrmann, Akira Kurosawa and Fumio Hayasaka, Federico Fellini and Nino Rota, to name only a few–come under scrutiny, as do the oft-neglected practices of the silent film era. She also explores differences between original film scores and compilation soundtracks that cull music from pre-existing sources.

As Kalinak points out, film music can do many things, from establishing mood and setting to clarifying plot points and creating emotions that are only dimly realized in the images. This book illuminates the many ways it accomplishes those tasks and will have its readers thinking a bit more deeply and critically the next time they sit in a darkened movie theater and music suddenly swells as the action unfolds onscreen.

About the Series: Combining authority with wit, accessibility, and style, Very Short Introductions offer an introduction to some of life's most interesting topics. Written by experts for the newcomer, they demonstrate the finest contemporary thinking about the central problems and issues in hundreds of key topics, from philosophy to Freud, quantum theory to Islam.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (March 11, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195370872
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195370874
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 0.5 x 4.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5 ounces

Customer Reviews

Kalinak Strikes a Salient Chord with Her Analysis of Film Music

 on November 12, 2014
By Thomas C.
Ms. Kalinak writes with a very clear and comfortable approach to a difficult subject. Discussing scenes and imagery is far easier than trying to have readers remember musical passages fraught with variations in tone, timbre, tempo, and rhythm. Yet she chooses her examples carefully as she elaborates and explains segments that should be easy to recall, such as “Stuck in the Middle with You” from RESERVOIR DOGS and Herrmann’s brilliant scoring in the shower scene of PSYCHO. The book is compact and succinct, a very worthwhile investment for an overview of music’s influence on film imagery.

Four Stars

 on August 28, 2017
By Zachary B.
Small book

nice and short (as it’s supposed to be)

2 people found this helpful.
 on October 13, 2012
By Greg Michaels
This book does a great job of summarizing the history of film music and various technological advances since the days of Edison. It is succinct and to the point; perfect for someone who knows virtually nothing about the history or is looking at quickly brushing up on their knowledge.

Five Stars

 on January 4, 2016
By J. Cheung

Five Stars

 on August 17, 2015
By bergenminx
Superb, quick and concise.


 on March 15, 2015
By b.t. moose
Very helpful from beginning to end.

Excellent for what it is

13 people found this helpful.
 on June 29, 2010
By Telstar
The first quarter of the book is a very well done explanation of different approaches to film theory and music. There are then historical sections, and a final section on film music as both craft and art.

Excellent book!

 on September 20, 2017
By Ronald Foster
Excellent book! This is the second year I will use Kalinak’s book as a required text for my film music class, The Music of the Movies: Cultural Perspectives. Her ability to connect film music and culture is engaging and enlightening. Bravo!

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