The Contemporary Hollywood Film Soundtrack

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  • Topic: Film, Sound film, Film score
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  • Published : February 14, 2010
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The Contemporary Hollywood Film Soundtrack: Professional Practices and Sonic Styles Since the 1970s


2 Abstract Since the 1970s, the soundtrack in Hollywood has come of age as a complex and sophisticated site of cinematic art. Greater combinations of sounds expressing a wider spectrum of tones, textures and volumes can be heard at the movies more than ever before, while behind the scenes, the number of personnel producing them has grown considerably. Moreover, this era has witnessed a proliferation of different artistic and professional approaches to sound. This thesis provides a detailed and wide-ranging picture of these developments and how they were ultimately affected by changes within the American film industry. Drawing on a range of accounts by contemporary sound practitioners and critics, the thesis explores sound production practices, focusing on the sound designer and composer, their creative choices, collaborative relationships - or “sound relations” - and the technologies they employ. The soundtrack is also examined in terms of “sonic style”: the ways in which sound effects, music and the voice function variously in the service of contemporary film narration and genre. It is argued that Hollywood sound production practices and styles have diversified to a high degree, particularly during the last three decades. Industrial realignments on the “New Hollywood” landscape in the 1970s and the integration of the independent and major sectors throughout the 1990s have introduced greater flexibility to mainstream filmmaking norms. These events have played key roles in the expansion of its different sonic styles and working practices in contemporary Hollywood. I take George Lucas and David Lynch, their respective sound design partners Ben Burtt and Alan Splet and composers John Williams and Angelo Badalamenti, and identify distinctions between their professional modus operandi and sonic styles to illustrate the growing diversification within the industry. Most importantly, these examples are used to demonstrate both the intricacy and variety that characterises the styles and crafts of the contemporary Hollywood soundtrack.

3 The Contemporary Hollywood Film Soundtrack: Professional Practices and Sonic Styles Since the 1970s.

Contents Acknowledgements Introduction One. Methodological and Conceptual Issues in the Study of the Film Soundtrack Two. Increased Diversity and Paradigms of Hollywood in the Post Studio Era Three. Sound Authorship and Contemporary Hollywood Four. Behind the Sonic Effect and Symphonic Score: Sound Practices in Contemporary Hollywood Five. Tracking Sound: Professional Practices and Technologies in the Studio Era Six. David Lynch, George Lucas and Key Collaborators in Sound Seven. Sound Relations: Studies of Production Practice in Contemporary Hollywood Eight. Stylish and Functional: Sound Analysis and Sonic Narration Nine. The 1970s: Experimental Nightmares and Blockbuster Fantasies Ten. The 1980s: New Adventures in Sci-Fi Eleven. The 1990s: From Suburbia to the Stars Twelve. Into the Sonic Millennium, 2000-2007 Conclusion. A Bird’s Eye View of the Contemporary Film Soundtrack Figures Filmography Bibliography

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4 Acknowledgments First and foremost, many thanks go to Helen Hanson whose guidance, encouragement and patience have been invaluable, and extended beyond the confines of this thesis. I would also like to thank Steve Neale, James Lyons, Nadine Wills and Stacey Gillis for helping to cultivate my fascination with the Hollywood cinema, and for kindly assisting me in securing funding for research along the way. Randy Thom and Steve Maslow deserve my gratitude for providing some useful insights (as well as some amusing anecdotes) about their sound work with David Lynch. I would like to acknowledge Gianluca Sergi for his advice, and whose work has proved crucial to my own project. I am also grateful to the...
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