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Price: $32.95

Paperback 240 pp.
28 illustrations, 6.125" x 9.25"



Publication date:
October 2013

Imprint: OUP US

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Saying It With Songs

Popular Music and the Coming of Sound to Hollywood Cinema

Katherine Spring

Series : Oxford Music/Media Series

In the late 1920s, 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 song use 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 in a variety of film genres. Whereas most scholarship on film music of the period focuses on adaptations of Broadway musicals, Saying It With Songs 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 tension produced by three competing forces: the spectacle of song performance, the classical norms of storytelling, and the established conventions of background orchestral scoring inherited from the period of silent cinema.

By 1931, a so-called "song glut" led the studios to curtail their use of popular music in favor of a growing alternative - the classical film score - but popular songs continued to fulfill critical functions of narration in Hollywood films of subsequent decades. Written in language accessible to film and music scholars as well as general readers, Saying It With Songs illuminates the seminal origins of the popular song score aesthetic of American cinema.

Readership : Saying It With Songs is suitable to scholars, university- and college-level students, and critics of film studies, musicology, and media studies. Intelligent readers with a special interest in film music should also be considered a target audience.

1. Singing a Song: The Culture and Conventions of Popular Music in the 1920s
2. Owning a Song: The Restructuring of Hollywood and Tin Pan Alley
3. Plugging a Song: The Discrete Charm of the Popular Song, From Broadway to Hollywood
4. Integrating a Song: The Threat to Narrative Plausibility
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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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.

Making Sense - Margot Northey and Joan McKibbin
Seeing Through Music - Peter Franklin
Film Music: A Very Short Introduction - Kathryn Kalinak
The Songs of Hollywood - Philip Furia and Laurie Patterson
The Hollywood Film Music Reader - Edited by Mervyn Cooke
Tin Pan Opera - Larry Hamberlin
The Sounds of the Silents in Britain - Edited by Julie Brown and Annette Davison
Irving Berlin - Charles Hamm
A Song in the Dark - Richard Barrios

Special Features

  • Offers a comprehensive history of a groundbreaking period of Hollywood film music.
  • Is one of the first detailed studies of the origins of media convergence.
  • Presents close analyses of Hollywood's earliest sound films from a range of genres.
  • Draws on rarely seen archival materials that reflect the practices of Hollywood film music during the coming of sound.
  • Is written in language accessible to scholars of Film Studies and Musicology.