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May 1994


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Krin Gabbard <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 18 May 1994 22:45:53 -0400
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
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               State University of New York at Stony Brook
                       Stony Brook, NY 10025
                                            Krin Gabbard
                                            Associate Professor
                                            Comparative Literature
                                            212 749-1631
                                            18-May-1994 10:45pm EDT
TO:    Remote Addressee                     ( [log in to unmask] )
Subject: Extradiegetic jazz, continued
I thank Gloria Monti, Abigail Feder and Peter Feng for taking the
time to respond to my request for discussion on extradiegetic
jazz in movies prior to the 1950s.  By extradiegetic, I mean
music that is usually written by a Hollywood composer,
acknowledged in the opening credits, and that is, as Claudia
Gorbman has written, "invisible" and "inaudible"--in other words,
the music is not intended to interfere with the narrative but
rather subliminally to "anchor" the images with familiar musical
codes.  I am looking for the moment(s) when something we can
reasonably call "jazz" enters into Hollywood's reservoir of
acceptable codes.  My goal is to write a kind of pre-history of
jazz on the soundtrack so that I can contextualize more recent
films in which the jazz score is less "inaudible."  I am
especially interested in the extraordinary scores that Duke
Ellington wrote for films such as _Anatomy of Murder_ (accurately
described by Abigail), _Paris Blues_ and _Assault on a Queen_,
not to mention the music for Spike Lee's films, first by Bill Lee
and more recently by Terence Blanchard.
In this sense, Spike Lee's films continue to be especially
provocative, resonating somewhere between an avant-garde,
Brechtian aesthetic and classical Hollywood.  Although he has
prominently used rap in his films, his music is usually rather
conservative and conforms to standard Hollywood practice.  (Yes,
he turns up the volume on the extradiegetic music now and then,
but so did Mike Nichols when he used Simon and Garfunkel records
for the soudntrack of _The Graduate_.) Lee's His controversial
use of Coltrane's "A Love Supreme" in _Mo' Better Blues_, for
example, almost succeeded in reducing that music to
"invisibility" and "inaudibility."  Compare Lee's use of jazz on
the soundtrack to an overtly avant-garde director like Shirley
Clarke using Dizzy Gillespie's group throughout her _The Cool
World_ (1963).
Krin Gabbard
SUNY Stony Brook