A Summer of Books and Movies

In Faculty News, Musicology by Travis Shaver

What’s new with the musicology faculty?

Kate McQuiston has been listening to the movies. She says:

“Filmmakers and composers are coming up with new, provocative ways of using sound and music in their movies. I’ve had to invent some new words to describe these dynamic collisions and layers of sound and music in an effective way.

Take, for example, movies that use preexisting music, but also involve a composer’s newly written music that quotes or imitates the preexisting music. Films like Moonrise Kingdom and The Grand Budapest Hotel feature this approach in what I call “hybrid scores.” Hybrid scores lie in between the original score and preexisting music models. They play games of “name that tune” with the audience, and they can display dramatic transformations by reworking familiar songs right in front of your ears. In Moonrise Kingdom, Alexandre Desplat provides hybrid music based on works by Benjamin Britten to create a new but familiar musical world for the childrens’ adventures. The Grand Budapest Hotel, on the other hand, involves an entire toolbox of plucked sounds from folk and classical music for Desplat’s reworking and reinvention.”

Want to find out more? “Some Assembly Required: Hybrid Scores in Moonrise Kingdom and The Grand Budapest Hotel,” appears in The Routledge Companion to Screen Music and Sound, edited by Miguel Mera, Ronald Sadoff, and Ben Winters (New York: Routledge, 2017).

 

Abigail Fine has been digging around in German and Austrian archives. She says:

“When you start a new project, you are always confronted with moments when your expectations fail, and those moments are the most productive of all. Over the summer I looked at dozens of nineteenth-century friendship albums (or Stammbücher)—colorful collections of poems, pressed flowers, watercolors, musical canons, incipits from favorite songs, and so on. These miniature books symbolize the deepest nostalgia, intimate and personal repositories of memory—or so I thought, until I discovered that most authors after 1830 copied directly from compendia of “Poems for Albums,” a form of ready-made memory. As practices shifted in the nineteenth century, composers began to write musical miniatures called “Album Leaf”; and now that I understand how memory could be at once personal and mass-produced, these musical works can be heard through a more nuanced and contextual lens.

But what should we do with the quirkiest oddities that turn up in the archive? It’s true that most albums were copied wholesale from compendia, but a few remarkable books toy with convention. The owner of one album was apparently a glutton, as his friends rewrote famous album verses to revolve around beer, onions, and especially cheese. Yet another friend contributed a poem in mirror writing, perfectly tidy German Kurrentschrift written backwards. There is nothing like needing to ask an archivist for both a magnifying glass and a mirror!”