Southern California Conferences for Undergraduate Research

Southern California Conferences for Undergraduate Research

The Use of Pre-existing Classical Music in Contemporary Film


Ginger Maneske


Stephen Cook, Associate Professor of Music, Whittier College

Film directors create, through the plasticity of film, by using special effects, specific camera angles, chosen actors, and (most important for this paper) precisely composed, selected, and engineered music to set the mood of the story. Why are some directors using classical composers to carry their stories rather than having music written specifically for their own film? I am analyzing if the directors chose certain music because of its historical significance to a given narrative, or if it is chosen more specifically for its given sound. The methodology employed in my research includes critical analysis of director’s interviews, existing research, historical context, and director’s notes, articulating the underlying intension of the film. In the recent film Melancholia, director Liers von Trier uses the entire “Tristan and Isolde” piece, by Wagner, to depict a woman’s psychological perspective about the world coming to an end before her eyes. In an earlier film The Pianist, the story of Władysław Szpilman and the Jews during WWII is well depicted through the use of Chopin through Szpilman’s performances. Through researching not only these composers and the history in their work, but also the directors and their creative process behind their film, we find that there is a connection between the music and the story of the movie. With a vision the directors had in the making of their film, the music had a great impact on the final product.

Presented by:

Ginger Maneske


Saturday, November 17, 2012


8:45 AM — 9:00 AM


Bell Tower 2582

Presentation Type:

Oral Presentation