Saying It With Songs Popular Music and the Coming of Sound to Hollywood Cinema

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2013-11-01
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press

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Hollywood's conversion from silent to synchronized sound film production not only instigated the convergence of the film and music industries but also gave rise to an extraordinary period of songs in American cinema. Saying It With Songs considers how the increasing interdependence of Hollywood studios and Tin Pan Alley music publishing firms influenced the commercial and narrative functions of popular songs. While most scholarship on film music of the period focuses on adaptations of Broadway musicals, this book examines the functions of songs in a variety of non-musical genres, including melodramas, romantic comedies, Westerns, prison dramas, and action-adventure films, and shows how filmmakers tested and refined their approach to songs in order to reconcile the spectacle of song performance, the classical norms of storytelling, and the conventions of background orchestral scoring from the period of silent cinema. Written for film and music scholars alike as well as for general readers, Saying It With Songs illuminates the origins of the popular song score aesthetic of American cinema.

Author Biography

Katherine Spring is Associate Professor in the Department of English and Film Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario. Her articles on film music have appeared in Cinema Journal, Film History, and Music and the Moving Image. The recipient of a development grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, she is presently undertaking a study of film music in contemporary Hong Kong and Hollywood cinemas.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Singing a Song: The Culture and Conventions of Popular Music in the 1920s
Chapter 2. Owning a Song: The Restructuring of Hollywood and Tin Pan Alley
Chapter 3. Plugging a Song: The Discrete Charm of the Popular Song, From Broadway to Hollywood
Chapter 4. Integrating a Song: The Threat to Narrative Plausibility
Chapter 5. Curtailing a Song: Toward the Classical Background Score
Conclusion: The Fate of the Motion Picture Song
Appendix 1: Confirmatory License Issued by Music Publishers Protective Association (1929)
Appendix 2: "Tieups of Film and Music" as Reported by Variety
Appendix 3: Timeline of Relationships Between Film and Music Companies
Appendix 4: Agreement between Al Dubin, The Vitaphone Corp., and Music Publishers Holding Corporation
Appendix 5: Summary of Agreement between Vitaphone Corporation, M. Witmark & Sons, and Ray Perkins

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