Film music analysis from one musical cue

For the assignment, you will write a 2-3 page analysis of one musical cue (double spaced, 12 pt Times News Roman font, with 1 in margins). This means you will analyze the music for one scene of a film – do not try to do a longer section, or you will not be able to address it in enough depth within the page limit. Your analysis can be presented as a written essay, a podcast, or a video essay.

This cue must not:

  • Be one we cover in the course (check this against the syllabus and the textbook). It also may not be from a series covered in class or the textbook (this is because such series often have consistent musical themes).
  • Be one for which you’ve found an existing analysis online or in print.
  • Come from a different medium (i.e. it should not be from television or any medium besides film).

Your analysis must:

  • Make a claimabout the music of the scene – which functions of film music does the scene fulfill?
  • Describe the musicin detail – which instruments do you hear? Is a leitmotif used? Is the music diegetic or nondiegetic?
  • Explain why this is important/how the music is effective

If you’re unsure about how to get started, I recommend repeated watching, and starting your notes by listing what you hear, without trying to analyze it. Identify as many aspects of the music as you can – this might mean style, the kind or size of group performing the music, whether there are words, whether it sounds like something you’ve heard before, or any number of other observations. These observations will be the raw material for your analysis and the claim you want to make.

This is not a music major course, so while I expect you to use the terminology we’ve learned in the course, I do not expect you to transcribe/write down melodies or do extensive formal musical analysis.

 

If presenting as written essay: your analysis should follow basic essay structure, giving an introduction (where you make your claim), thematically organized paragraphs backing up that claim, and a conclusion tying it all together.

If presenting as a podcast: your analysis should follow the same basic outline, but also make use of the audio medium. For examples, you might explore the Song Exploder and Soundtrack Show podcasts.

If presenting as a video essay: your analysis should follow the same basic outline, but also make use of the video medium. For examples, you might explore Every Frame a Painting, or other video essay series.

 

Regardless of your chosen format, your analysis will be graded on:

Content (40% of grade): must address the scene’s music with appropriate terminology, detail, and reference to film scoring practices learned in class.

Critical Thinking (40% of grade): must make an original claim about the music’s function and synthesize observations to support claim.

Communication (20% of grade): must be organized clearly and logically, with a thesis statement in the introduction, and a conclusion.

 

Here are some slides that also explain the assignment, with some tips: 355 analysis.pdf

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