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 songs 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. While most scholarship on film music of the period focuses on adaptations of Broadway musicals, this book 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 spectacle of song performance, the classical norms of storytelling, and the conventions of background orchestral scoring from the period of silent cinema. Written for film and music scholars alike as well as for general readers, Saying It With Songs illuminates the origins of the popular song score aesthetic of American cinema.
Acknowledgments Introduction Chapter 1. Singing a Song: The Culture and Conventions of Popular Music in the 1920s Chapter 2. Owning a Song: The Restructuring of Hollywood and Tin Pan Alley Chapter 3. Plugging a Song: The Discrete Charm of the Popular Song, From Broadway to Hollywood Chapter 4. Integrating a Song: The Threat to Narrative Plausibility Chapter 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 Bibliography Credits Index
Katherine Spring is Associate Professor in the Department of English and Film Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University.
Reviews for Saying It With Songs: Popular Music and the Coming of Sound to Hollywood Cinema
Combining archival research with impressive scholarship, Spring offers a stimulating, provocative, and often paradigm-shifting study of how popular music shaped the very definition of cinema in its transformation from a silent to a sound medium. Lucid and lively, a must-read for anyone interested in the convergence of film and popular song in Hollywood. --Kathryn Kalinak, author of Settling the Score: Music and the Classical Hollywood and Film Music: A Very Short Introduction Finally, a book that creatively covers popular song's contribution to the coming of sound. Katherine Spring's SAYING IT WITH SONGS is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand the connections between Hollywood and Tin Pan Alley. --Rick Altman, University of Iowa An engaging and thought-provoking exploration of heretofore largely uncharted territory- that transition between the coming of synchronized sound and the emergence of classical Hollywood practice. Combining archival research into the corporate and legal maneuverings of the studios as they move to take over music publishing with nicely articulated readings of films from the late 1920s and early 1930s, Saying It With Songs maps out the boom-and-bust cycle of early musicals and the reaction against them before musical and narrative conventions 'settle' around 1933. --Robynn Stilwell, Georgetown University Essential reading for historians of film and popular music. In it, the author combines impressive scholarship with conceptual clarity, making accessible to readers the complex changes that took place in the motion picture and music businesses resulting from the coming of sound. -he Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television