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Overtones and Undertones: Reading Film Music

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ISBN-13: 978-0520085442
ISBN-10: 0520085442
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Overtones and Undertones: Reading Film Music + Film Music: A Neglected Art + A History of Film Music
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"What distinguishes this groundbreaking work is the thorouhness with which Brown develops his philosophical and theoretical framework to explain the effectiveness and theoretical framework to explain the effectiveness of music in film."--"Choice

From the Inside Flap

"Brown brings music theory to bear upon film theory, and the result is startling. . . . An extremely important work."—William Van Wert, Temple University

"Royal S. Brown has contributed a major resource on film music. Overtones and Undertones is an outstanding in-depth exploration of the relationship between music and motion picture."—Fred Karlin, composer

"Royal Brown's book on film music, Overtones and Undertones, is a remarkable document: an enormous amount of information assembled and made sense of by a fine intellect. Prof. Brown demonstrates that it is indeed possible for an academic—and a professor of Romance Languages at that—to deal intelligently with our esoteric art."—David Raksin,composer
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 396 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (October 18, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520085442
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520085442
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #655,876 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By FilmComposer on January 3, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is one of the most intellectual and in-depth books on specific films I've read. It's focus is mostly on older movies (The Sea Hawk, Double Indemnity), but also extensively explores French film, particularly, Jean-Luc Godard. The Interviews at the back of the book are with some of the greatest film composers, alive and dead, including: Miklos Rozsa, David Raksin, Bernard Herrmann, Mancini, John Barry and Howard Shore. A must for any film music fan or composer!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I purchased this book for a class and continued to read it independently. It details the American and foreign
film music of classic films and some little known gems. The author discusses the major melodic themes of the films as well
as some of the hidden melodic melodies that enhance the quality of the film.
A long list of film and their works composers is a useful guide.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on October 7, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm just getting started learning about film music with Royal and I've got to say that it has been very productive. I've learned a lot more in a few weeks than I expected I would. A must read for anyone who wants to start talking about film music like they know something.
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10 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Matheme on May 6, 2008
Format: Paperback
This book cannot be summed up. It is too disorganized for that. When arguments become intelligible in it, which is rare, they make "paper thin" an understatement. The first one is that most film music is tonal. A shocking, mind-blowing revelation, without a doubt. The only problem is that the author's explanations of what tonality is are too sophisticated for the initiated, let alone the reader without an academic education in music, who is, ironically enough, his intended audience. In a chapter on Bernard Herrmann, the thesis appears to be that his music for Hitchcock is "irrational." The way in which this reasoned out is astonishingly ridiculous. A minor triad with a major seventh is the defining sonority in many Herrmann scores for Hitchcock (e.g. Vertigo and Psycho). This chord is also common is "Jazz." Jazz is considered irrational, therefore this chord, and by extension all Hermann/Hitchcock music, is irrational. I know, I was totally convinced also. Then in the afterword, things become fully self-parodic. The author imagines a world in the not to distant future where people will be assembling their own movies cum soundtrack from scratch or something close to it, thanks to advances in editing technology and software. Of course, this has come true. But when he says that this will lead, or, at any rate, contribute to collapse of the bourgeois subject, he seriously "misunderestimates" the infinite adaptability of capitalism. It would be better to point to the way all those changes were blessings in the disguise for venture capitalists in the emerging markets of the digital age. "Interacting" with the product is hardly subversive (hello, video games?) nor is it particularly liberating (hello, video games?). Don't read this book, unless you want to understand film music less.
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